Recap

As I while away some time at the airport waiting for my British Airways flight home, some statistics.

In the last month I have taken eleven flights (twelve if you count the Ushuaia flyover),

I have travelled over 20,000 miles.

I have crossed the Andes seven times.

Lost count of the number of beers, bottles of water and cocktails but heh whose counting.

 

Belmond Monasterio Hotel

A few of the large monastery buildings in Cusco have been changed into hotels but none with as much elan as the Belmond. Firstly it is ideally located halfway between the Plaza San Blas and the main square, Plaza des Armas. Secondly it is a site of architectural interest and finally, it comes with the luxury for which the the Belmomd group is known.

Belmond is the rebadged name of the Orient Express group famous for itsbluxury hotels, trains, and restaurants. The hotel is listedbas a sire of major architectural interest in Peru, akin to a Grade 1 listed building in the UK.

As one expects in these places the service was excellent as I was invited to take a seat next to the log fire. Soon my Pisco sour arrived and I sat back to enjoy as I started to feel the beneficial effects of my massage.

imageAfter my drink in the bar I wandered into the cloistered courtyard to see the reason why this is of architectural importance.

 

 

A church and a massage

Our final quad bike stop before heading back to base was a church. There was no sign of life here and it was a relatively new structure but the location was perfect to pick out the Andes in the background.

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After the bikes had been put to bed we clambered into out non seatbelted taxi for the drive back to Cusco. Driver and guide in the front and three of us in the back. Whether it was the higher altitude, the sun, or the adrenaline lag, the two Aussies were soon fast asleep. I wanted to but couldn’t get comfortable enough to follow them.

Instead of being taken back to my hotel we were deposited at the Plaza des Armas. My back was aching, my arms were sore from the quad biking, and I had to contemplate the uphill struggle to my hotel.

When I arrived in Cusco I was a bit under the weather and felt that it was all too touristy, which of course it is supposed to be. Every doorway  around the Plaza and to my hotel stands someday persuading you to enter a craft shop, a restaurant or have a massage. I guess every time I walked back from the Plaza to my hotel I would be approached 10-20 times for a massage. In another place one might consider this to be rather dodgy with the looks of the masseuse more important than her massaging skills. That morning I had met an older guy and his wife from Hawaii and he told me that they were excellent masseuses which he had visited the day before.

So I decided to go for it. The young masseuse led me through a bazaar and into the massage rooms. She didn’t speak English so boss lady came in to negotiate. She pushing me to the high end with special coca cream, me setting a lower price. In the end I settled for a discounted Swedish full body deep tissue massage which would take an hour and fifteen minutes. It was a great, if painful massage, which cost £11!!

 

Salt mines of Maras

Our quad bike leader took us down some steep and rutted terrain and we passed sheep and cattle being hered up the narrow tracks as the video will later testify. We then went totally off piste and scorched through upon fields until we arrived at a precipice where brakes and neural were quickly applied.

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We then walked down a narrow on a cliff until the sakt mines far below us came into view. The scale is difficult to imagine. In the photo you can see the patchwork if the pits below, a road runs down the side of the mountain opposite, and the snow capped Andes can be see further back.

Salt has been mined here since pre Incan times. Water runs through the rocks and becomes very salty. It is collected in a vast series of evaporating pits where the salt is then mined. Here is an amzing blog pic by Misha Zavoico of the pits closer up.

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Inca ruins of Moray

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At 3500mtrs and 50kms from Cusco is the site of Moray which was our first stop on the quad bikes. This amazing structure is breathtaking and again I am sure the photos will not do the place justice.

Apparently, it is believed that this may have been an Incan agricultural research station. Its irrigation system and differing levels provided microclimates where different conditions for growing crops could be tested.

Quad-biking in the Sacred Valley

I was hardly going to go trekking at altitude, after only being here for a day, but I did want to venture into the Sacred Valley and see some of the key sights.

Rather than take a whole day bus tour I opted for quad-biking in the area. I have previous with quad bikes both ending with minor injuries so I was going to try to take it easy. I was picked up for the 1.25 hour, hairy, drive out of Cusco, without a seatbelt, and joined by two Aussie students. This was good news as it meant we had the guide just for the three of us.

DCIM100GOPROKitted up and having had an explanation about the working of the quad we were off, led by the guide on a motorbike. The bike came in handy later.

The two lads went off keeping up with the leader but I was more timid. Like at skiing, the fast ones wait for the slow to catch up at junctions and then set off again.This was not just tracking along roads but a lot of the time on rutted paths and across open Andean fields.DCIM100GOPRO

The weather was good to us and the sites we visited and the scenery was spectacular.

My quad bike experience, however, didn’t go without a hitch. I got perched on a bank and and nearly tipped it over on top of me. The next problem was that the gung ho’s were so far in front that I didn’t see them turn off. This is where the motor bike came in handy as after several minutes the leader came tearing up from behind and told me to turn around. Finally, I hit a rut on one of the paths and shot off the trail, luckily at a place without a drop. However the bank was steep and I couldn’t get back on track so had to wait for motor bike man to return to look for me. Any way it was all OK in the end and a marvellous experience.

Unfortunately as I near the end if my trip I have run out of memory on the ipad so the videos I have will be posted on my return.

One of the best days

You will have to wait for the details for today as too much to download and too little time. Suffice to say it was a great day. Packed a lot in.

  • drive out to the Sacred Valley
  • quad bike riding
  • massage
  • cocktail at the Belmond Monasterio Hotel
  • Dinner at Pachapapa on the San Blas plaza where they are still venerating

In the meantime here are more uniforms and a llama.

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