Posted at 22:59:46, 3/10/2004
Thursday 30th September 2004, 10pm, Marina's House, Cusco
I had my penultimate Spanish lesson today. I learn't continuous present, reflexive verbs and one of the future tenses - it seems I'm trying to cram in what took about two years of lessons to learn in French in one week of Spanish!
Hopefully Lorna, Marcus, Sharon, Lucas and I are trekking through the Lares valley tomorrow. Lorna was sick in the early hours of Wednesday morning (the first time she's thrown up in over 10 years!). She seems pretty much better now, but there's a chance her and I will have to bail out of the trek tomorrow.
Lorna found out a bit more from her teacher about what happened at the temple on Tuesday. Apparently the Coca growers are protesting because the government is refusing (under pressure from the US) to buy any more coca leaves for legal uses. Because the roads are so bad and part of the Quillabamba-Cusco railway has not been repaired after getting destroyed by a landslide, they can't afford to transport any other crops, such as fruit and veg., so coca leaves are their only source of income. Apparently the tourists didn't call the police; the police fired tear gas because its such an important temple and tourist spot and the protesters ran away. The only injuries to the tourists were caused by the tear gas fired by the police!
Anyway, 6am start tomorrow so I'd best go to bed...
Saturday 2nd October 2004, 7am, Lares Valley
The 6am start yesterday morning was hard work, plus a bit manic because the organiser made the meeting time half an hour earlier. We got a minibus, winding up the roads out of Cusco and over into Urubamba. From Urubamba we drove up a dirt track for about 1/2 hour (getting a flat tyre on the way!) to the start of the trail.
The walking was mainly gentle uphill for about 7 hours, through lush vegetation and steep sided valleys with impressive (and dripping wet!) rock architecture. We had gentle drizzle for most of the day, breaking into full-on rain at lunchtime and just before we reached the campsite. The last couple of hours were hard work for everyone (even the horses carrying our baggage seemed out of breath!) as we approached 4700m.
Getting 5 people in my tent to play cards warmed it up nicely for the rest of the night! This morning the rain has stopped and the sun is trying to shine, so hopefully not as wet as yesterday!
Saturday 2nd October 2004, 7pm, Hot springs, Lares
Mmmm... hot springs and drizzle, reminds me of India!
We trekked up from our damp campsite fairly early. In fact, the only annoying thing so far is that we didn't know when we were supposed to be setting off until one of the Excel teachers started shouting that we were late at 7:30am... when most of the tents were still up!
It got much better as we headed up for the pass at 4900m, the night at altitude making the walking much easier than the day before. There was quite a lot of snow on the side we walked up, the hard icy type rather than the horrible slog of powder. The view from the pass was excellent and we could then relax for the rest of the day as it was all downhill!
We passed a sacred lake on the way down. The headmistress of the school told us a story about another time she did this trek. She was annoyed because one of the pupils was being rude to a porter so she stayed back to wash her feet in the lake. As soon as she put her feet in she felt hands pushing her into the water, she got very scared, grabbed her shoes and ran back to the rest of the group. The head porter told her that she shouldn't have gone into the lake when she was angry.
We stopped for lunch in a small village and the mother of one of the porters brought us hot potatoes and fried eggs, while two little local girls watched us eat! Now we're just above Lares by some hot Sulphur springs. We've just spent about two hours in the hot springs, talking about US politics with Sy, a cool guy from Colorado who's met John Cleese a couple of times!
Sunday 3rd October 2004, 2:30pm, Marina's house, Cusco
Back in Cusco now after the Lares trek and going through the familiar routine of sorting damp kit after a weekend away. Last night we had a nice meal of stewed chicken and rice by the light of a gas latern, followed by silly games with the Excel teachers.
We drove down an incredible unmetalled road from Lares to Calco this morning. It wound down the sides of hude valleys with massive drops down the the bottom, with occasional steep terraces of farmland. We stopped at an Alpaca farm (a smaller relations of the Llama). A cheeky baby Alpaca kept trying to chew the driver's jeans and it gave us the opportunity to feel how soft their wool is. I was tempted by a beautiful, traditionally woven scarf made of incredibly soft baby Alpaca wool, but was less tempted by the US$50 price tag!
Last day at school tomorrow and we have to find a hostel to stay in while we sort out the next trek.
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