Saturday, April 5, 2008


Cusco is a former Inca centre and current adventure activity centre in the Andes. Most people come for the trek to the old Inca site of Machu Picchu, which is why we wanted to avoid that site. Instead, we opted for a trek to Choquequirao -- at least as interesting and beautiful as MP, but it gets only about 80 to 100 tourists a day, versus 2000 for MP. It is recommended that you acclimatize for a day first, since Cusco itself is already at 3300m (11,000ft) altitude.

Folks, if you want to go on any of the treks or tours around here, don´t book them ahead of time. There are dozes of websites that advertise Choquequirao treks, all with prices ranging between $350 - $550. Upon arrival, the guy who booked us into a $35 hotel (which was just as good as the $200 hotel at Lima airport) quoted a special price of $235 for the trek. When walking around the village there are countless little tourist travel shops that have all the tours. You can´t miss them, because they´ll come right up to you on the sidewalk to sell their tours to you. Most places quoted $190 for the trek, so we got one to do it for $180 for us.

Local economy has it that a quoted price in dollars can be paid either with credit card, in which case they add 8% (our tour operator figured that $180 + 8% = $212, and later $195.54 -- sometimes that math education does come in handy), or in Peruvian Nuevo Sols, in which case they charge a rate of 3 Sols per dollar; the actual bank rate is about 2.7. Some places also let you pay in dollars directly, but if a dollar bill is slightly torn then they won´t accept it.

While walking around we also noticed that most places advertise a host of other activities, from rafting to bungee jumping -- and also mountain bike tours. Since we were going to acclimatize for a whole day before starting the Choquequirao trek, we thought it would be fun to take a bike tour. After all, they say you have to avoid strenuous exercise while you acclimatize. So we´re going on a mountain bike tour of three sites.

Other things to note in Cusco: The local dialect apparently replaces a P or T at the end of a word with an F. The bike trail goes ¨uf¨ quite a bit, and we might want to bring a ¨raincoaf¨. I heard them do it in Spanish as well. Also, besides adventure tours there is an additional industry in Cusco: massages. I was offered a 1 hour massage for 20 Soles numerous times. That´s $7 (or 5 Euros), folks! I think I may need one after the bike tour...

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