Rising damp

Day 92 - Cuzco

After a dinner of chicken, rice and marmalade, a night's sleep made possible by barbiturates, a breakfast of dry crackers and 25 hours of solid bus travel we had arrived in the Inca heartland. If there are two things that Cuzco has in abundance it is tourists and rain. They pour into and onto the city daily, though given that it was low season there was fewer of the former and rather more of the latter. Ankle-deep torrents ran down the cobbled streets and cars drove great bow-waves over pedestrians and open shopfronts alike. Despite that and the heavy foreign presence,  of which we were hardly in a position to complain about, the place was a pretty, pleasant place to spend a couple of days. I declined the chance to have my picture taken with an alpaca (similar to a llama) for 5 Peruvian soles and instead elected to pay an extra 5 to have one slapped between a couple of pieces of bread with fries on the side, tasty.  We also enjoyed some admirably authentic fish and chips and took in an Irish pub which, at 3300 metres, claims to be the world's highest.But neither food not drink had drawn us to Cuzco, instead its proximity to one of the wonders of this planet gave the place its magnetic pull. We were aiming higher still.
Truly the bus journey of the trip so far. The road wound up and between snow-capped peaks, moss crawled over rocks and waterfalls gushed from every crevice. Fir trees punctuated slopes dominated by short, hardy grasses. If I could compare it to anything it would be the Scottish Highlands, it was scenery you could not tear your eyes away from.  Patchwork fields in the foothills had given way to this wet, inhospitable land shivering in the clouds. And yet still humans had pushed roads through steep mountain sides, still basic dwellings scattered the altitudinous plains. I have never before seen water gush with such angry ferocity as it carved its way to the ocean far away. Heavy with silt the rivers bucked and spat over their stony beds. Frugality drove us along this circuitous route through valley and over sharp promontory, via bus, car and train to a little town called Agua Calientes sat in the shadow of a human endeavour that puts the aforementioned modern engineering to shame.

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