A Pack o’ Alpaca

Another early start this morning (5.30am) after an excellent night’s sleep.  When we go back to work it will seem like a veritable lie-in getting up at 7.00am!   🙂

We had another few hours to spend on the bus again today, but at least once we arrive in Cuzco we’ll be there for four days.

To be honest, if it’s a comfortable, modern bus then I don’t really mind the long journey if we have plenty of stops along the way.  In 2004 we went through the Canadian Rockies, from Calgary all the way to Vancouver, by coach but we stopped every couple of hours for ‘mini excursions’ so the journey wasn’t too long and boring.

Today we travelled for quite a bit through the rural parts of the country and we saw many little farms and lots of alpaca and llama grazing on the land.  There were also several ramshackle shanty-towns made of breeze-blocks, bricks, corrugated metal and whatever else the residents could lay their hands on.  Tattered garments were hung out to dry on washing lines strung between the buildings, and stray children and dogs running around added to the general air of dilapidation.

At lunchtime we stopped at a restaurant which offered a ‘serve yourself’ buffet once again.  Trevor and Stephen still had dodgy guts and had absolutely no appetite; they just had some bottled water.  I had a selection of salad vegetables and some meats, along with a glass of Cusqueña which I really enjoyed, having got over the worst of my altitude sickness.  We joked that we should have bought a whole lot of those magic red and white capsules for 2.50 soles each, and sold them on the bus for three soles as people wouldn’t have minded paying that if it made them better, lol  🙂

Alison filled her plate twice; she was the only one out of the four of us who wasn’t ill at all.  There was some home-made milky rice pudding as one of the desserts; I had some (it was delicious) and Trevor and Stephen managed a small portion each.

Off we went again, passing the time on the bus looking out of the window, napping, reading, talking with our fellow passengers and eventually we came to another rest stop which had a large shop attached, selling everything from coffee to pharmaceutical items to leather goods to alpaca knits.

The alpaca sweaters and cardigans were incredibly cheap, only about 55-60 soles which is less than 15 quid.  In Britain you’d be lucky to get a good quality alpaca jumper for under 200 quid – I’d checked before we came away.  I spotted some gorgeous shawls and wraps at the back of the shop and went to have a look.

I ended up buying the most gorgeous, softest, pale grey wrap, with an ornate hand-crocheted fringe at each end.  It was quite thick and was so soft and comforting.  It was only 80 soles (less than 20 pounds) – what a complete bargain.  I intend to wear it as an evening wrap with a long dress on our next cruise, but it would look just as good worn as a shawl over a coat.  I kept getting it out of its bag and holding its softness against my face.   🙂

As we continued on our way, we managed to drop around 1,000 feet in altitude and the mountainous, winding roads and landscape smoothed out a bit.  When we reached the outskirts of Cuzco (at around 11,200 feet), the bus made a stop for half an hour or so to allow us to visit the Basílica Cathedral.

As we approached the steps of the cathedral, we noticed a white lorry which was decorated with flowers; it looked as though it was going to be used as a wedding vehicle, albeit an unusual one.  We then noticed the red carpet leading into the cathedral and a lot of well-dressed people hanging around outside; a wedding!

We waited for a few minutes and then the bride and groom appeared, preceded by flower girls who sprinkled rose petals along the red carpet in front of the bride.  The bride was absolutely gorgeous and the groom very handsome; they looked a lovely couple.  They walked the length of the carpet then the groom helped his new wife into the cab of the white lorry.  Some of the guests tied lots of tin cans at the back of the vehicle, then off they went to cheering and waving, some of it from our party.

We arrived at our hotel, the José Antonio Cuzco, around teatime.  The hotel looked to be in a decent location; there was a pleasant park with a water feature over the road, as well as a large handicrafts market and some shops and banks nearby.  It was also only about a 20 minute walk into the main square.

We checked into the hotel and were given a large, pleasant room on the second floor which had a couple of single beds, a table and chairs, large bathroom and adequate storage space.  Our window overlooked a courtyard out of the back.  The hotel had a nice, low key bar and lounge which held traces of the evocative smell of incense.

Another couple of coach parties had checked into the hotel, and there were a lot of Americans as well as us British.  We decided to go to the dining room early to be sure of getting a table as it looked as if it was going to be busy.  Once again we only enjoyed a light meal with mineral water; it’s funny how our appetites had diminished.

Tomorrow we would be able to have a lie-in and get up and do whatever we wanted.  🙂  There was an optional full-day excursion which we had fully intended going on before we came away on holiday.  However, because we were still recovering from our various ailments and we were quite tired, we decided to skip the tour and spend a quiet day exploring the area on our own.


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