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Day 7: Machu Picchu to Cusco

Sunday, May 13, 2001. Cloudy 65°

Once again we were up at 4:30 AM to catch the 6:10 train back to Ollantaytambo and Cusco. We thought we were going to be a special car hook up to the local train. Turned out it was backpacker's car. Backpacks were in all the overhead racks with straps handing down everywhere. Talk about a commercial for Land's End or REI. Unfortunately every one of them needed a good night's sleep and a bath -- badly. We were amazed at some of their tales of traveling all over South America. One guy was disappointed that the Machu Picchu ruins had not been fully restored while another was disappointed that the jungle had been cleared away. What were they expecting? None used guides. We just can't imagine seeing the ruins without the aid of a guide. Otherwise, all you are seeing are big vistas and small rooms.

Originally we had talked about taking a helicopter back to Cusco, but decided it was too expensive. Luckily, we decided not to because it was raining cats and dogs and we wouldn't have seen anything. In the end, it may have been cheaper as we shopped until we dropped along the way. Instead we went back to Cusco by train and bus and stopped to see Chinchero and its wonderful open-air market. Here, many of the highland people come down from the mountains with a colorful variety of potatoes to barter for fruits and vegetables grown by the lowland people. It was fascinating collage of colors in the tapestries and textiles, smells of fresh spices (oregano, cilantro, mint, dill, parsley, basil), flowers, and handicrafts.

Open Air Market in Chinchero, PeruUnlike earlier markets, Chinchero's was in large open field with a split rail fence around it. At first, few vendors approached us. But, as we went back to the bus to deposit our goodies, two women were particularly aggressive selling their jewelry. At one point, an official looking man tried to take away one of the women's merchandise. Seems that market required the vendors to buy permits and operate inside the fence. He quickly assembled a town meeting that included both men and women (in their dark green fedora hats and plenty of petticoats). The matter was swiftly resolved when she bought the necessary permit. After that, all the vendors stayed inside the fence. Just as we were leaving, Randy spotted a white alpaca coat. Before we knew it, Linda also had one. Chris would have bought one if she could have found the right size. But not to worry, the vendor promised that her sister would show up at the hotel with a coat. And she did. We also learned that Lanny was the great bargainer. He found an Andean cross he liked. The first offer was for $40. He counter-offered $10. He ended up paying $11.00.

The trip took us through a very large valley with larger terraces and fields. Very beautiful. Several places along the way, the women encountered the lack of clean “baños publicos” (or public restrooms) and held their breath for two minutes while they straddled over a hole with both feet firmly planted in the concrete foot imprints.

We arrived in Cusco just in time for some last minute shopping. Joe was finally able to find the perfect silver condor for his bird collection. At one point, we were besieged by a small boy wanting to sell us postcards. When we refused, he started to cry. Lana and Joe then did their best imitation of a cry-baby. The little boy immediately started to laugh. We found a local telephone exchange so we called home for Mother's Day. After determining that we were Norte Americanos, she wanted to know if we were calling our mothers. Cost: $3.00.

Dinner at Tunupa Restaurant in Cusco, PeruThat night, Marco, Juan, and Wilner took us to another Peruvian restaurant, called Tunupa. The buffet was wonderful. Marco also had the ladies draw slips of paper for a beautiful set of earrings with Nazca Lines in honor of Mother's Day. Ironically, it was Lana, who isn't a mother, who pulled the paper saying, “Si” on it. She proudly wore them throughout the rest of the trip. The entertainment was not the traditional Peruvian band and for the first time, there was a woman in the band. Some of us were tired and went back to the hotel for yet another early wakeup call while other stayed for the music and the dancing girls.
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