Yes, yes, you've guessed it, another update from Alistair and Lisa is here, ALREADY!
Lisa here, from another internet stall in CUSCO, the ex-inca capital! It's a very cool city, very Euro with tiled roofs everywhere, and less evidence of poverty, i think that the people are better off here. I won't get into the whole cusco thing yet, i'll let alistair describe it, as it is his second time here...
So, back to where we left off, in COPACABANA. Yesterday we had a little time to kill in the morning before we had to take the bus back to Puno and then Cusco (very long). So, we decided to do a little exploring, and headed to the other side of town, where we came across a very interesting thing. For those of you who are catholics (or lapsed catholics) you may recall the 'STATIONS OF THE CROSS'. Well, there is a hill on one side of Copacabana, and there are 14 stations of the Passion of Christ, each represented by a monument with a cross and a picture depicting the given station (i.e. Jesus falls for the first time, etc), that people would leave rocks on, and say a prayer in front of. I thought that this was a very neat thing, since it was a very steep hill, and I could see how it would be a very spiritual way to relive the last hours of Christ's life. Anyhow, the very weird thing was the other stuff going on on this hill. About half way up there were little tables where everyone could burn their own incense or sell things (a skull pencil holder anyone?) or, spray some recently-blessed beer around. I don't like being sprayed by beer, by the way, even if it is holy. The top of the hill was even crazier! There were various monuments to Mary, and, depictions of what I think were 'The Sorrowful Mysteries' of Mary's life (correct me if I'm wrong). The crazy part was the massive amount of selling things that was happening. It was chaotic. Many toy cars and dollhouses, and dollhouse items (mini packets of soap) as well as snacks and religious paraphanalia were for sale. It kind of took away from the reverence of the wholething, but not to some people who were very into their pilgramage up the mountain (a lot of people were there, and it's nowhere near holy week!). People here are very very Catholic (in sort of a fanatical way) and very very into Mary (how many different virgens are necessary, really). Anyhow, I will restrict my commentary to that...
Alistair here... So we left Copacabana in the early afternoon destined for Cuzco on one of the many local/tourist buses. Little did we know that it would be one of the most, umm, interesting and eventful bus rides we've ever had. During the first leg of the journey we crossed the Peruvian border and skirted alongside Lake Titicaca to Puno. In Puno we had a two minutes to switch buses for the second leg to Cuzco. Early on in the trip I managed to get myself in the middle a nasty argument between two young Italians and an older British woman. They were discussing who could put their seats back and how far and I just couldn't resist getting involved (the Italians were losers on top of it all). Nothing got settled, but no fists were thrown either!
A good chunk of the trip from Puno to Cuzco was through the altiplano (high altitude plains) and we were treated to an incredible lightning storm. The lightning was igniting dozens of small fires in the fields along side the road. It was so close that they were burning right on the edge of the road! When you drive the plains during the day you can see hundreds of mini burn marks. We were sort of wondering what they were, and now we know!
If lightning and Italians weren't enough, about an hour out from Cuzco the bus was stopped by the "Fiscal Police". We were boarded by two officers and they proceeded to search the entire bus, under the seats, above in the trays and behind old Peruvian women. They found a bag of something they didn't like under my seat, as well as behind an old lady sitting near us. They dragged the poor lady punching and yelling off of the bus. I have no idea what happened outside but they pulled a bag of something or other off of the roof, argued a bit and then the lady came back on the bus with her bag and we were on our way!
Today Lisa and I did the city tour of Cuzco. Cuzco is a very european feeling city, narrow cobbled streets, tiled roofs etc... It was at one point the Incan capital, and then Pizarro and the spanish arrived and converted everything. One of the most interesting things is that the spanish used much of the Incan foundations for their buildings. The catholic churches and convents were literally built right on top of the Incan temples. The stonework that the incans used is incredible and it really adds something to the streets and buildings.
Surrounding the city there are also numerous Incan ruins that we visited on a whirlwind trip today. Again, the stonework of the ruins is incredible. Each rock fits snugly with its neighbours, and absolutely no mortar is used. They have some very intricate temples, with multi levels using exisiting caves and other natural features.
Anyways, tomorrow we are off to South America's most famous attraction, Machu Pichu. We will be there for a couple of days. Next update soon!
Posted by Alistair Howard at December 13, 2004 06:13 AM
Hi Lisa: If I recall correctly, sometime around Christmas there is a huge religious festival in which everyone buys miniatures of all sorts of objects - I am not sure if they "sacrifice" them by burning them or have them blessed - I wonder if that is what they were selling on the Stations of the Cross.
Posted by: Anita at December 13, 2004 07:58 AM
Yay to Macchu Pichu! Make sure you get up to the ruins as early as you can so you can actually take a few photos sin touristas. I was just reading the part on Cuzco/Macchu Pichu in The Motorcycle Diaries and it really brought me back.... That photo of you two is SO CUTE!
Posted by: Sandra at December 13, 2004 09:02 AM
Love the photo of you two!!
Posted by: Sarah at December 14, 2004 10:50 AM
Ah yes, the Inca walls everywhere. Lisa, you would make a great Inca! Can't wait to see the pics from Macchu Picchu!
Posted by: Jeanine at December 16, 2004 08:04 AM