Monday, 2 February 2009

Choose wisely... a crappy tour guide in Cusco

Today I got my first full day of Spanish classes, and my head is spinning with the multitude of new vocabulary I am supposed to memorize tonight.  I can hardly think straight, but what I can remember is that I have no memory...

They take their Spanish immersion seriously here at Amauta, so I find myself stammering along while I try to communicate.   A dictionary slows the process down substantially.

It is cold here when the sun is not shining.  I sit happily in this heated internet cafe, as my room at the casa is freezing.  The classes are also held in unheated rooms so this is the first chance at warm I have had all day.   It has been cloudy and rainy since this morning.

Yesterday was totally different. There are no classes on the weekends, so a new student and I contracted a day long hike to two local sights, Moray and the Salt Flats.

The first clue that things were not going to go as promised was when our tour guide showed up to pick us up - without a vehicle.   Many blocks later, he found us a cab to take us to the starting point of our hike.  What he said was a one hour hike to Moray was two, and he couldn't be bothered to tour Moray with us.  Moray is an archaeological site consisting of four "rings" of terraces believed to be an experimental area where the climate for growing crops changes as you go up and down.

Our "guide" stayed parked in the shade by the entrance while Ann and I made our way down the terraces to explore.  We met a lovely lady named June who, along with her husband, was in the process of writing a book about the ruins and their history.  They have already written a well received guide book about Manchu Picchu apparently.  Moray is an incredible place, and standing in the centre of the lowest circle we could hear ourselves as though we were talking through speakers.  When we finally managed to crawl (really) up and out of the terraces our "guide" had arranged for a ride to the salt flats trail.  When the person doing the driving demanded more money, and we would not give it, we got dumped off for an extra hour or so of walking.

Now it wouldn't have really been a big deal, except we had run out of water and there was no food.  Perfect.  And of course it was the first full day of hot sun I have had here. Two and a half hours later we straggled into a cute little town in the middle of a fiesta and then went to the side of the road to flag down a car to the bus station.  This after we skirted around the salt flats, after politely being asked to leave as the "guide" decided going inside was a waste of time and money. 

Whatever.  It looked interesting.  The pools of different coloured waters being dried in the sun to collect the natural salts left behind.  Ancient apparently, and still in use today.

It was a long ride home with a crazy driver, because once again our intrepid guide had flagged down a car to return us to Cusco, rather than pay for a bus.  I arrived dehydrated and hungry. Not a happy camper.  I am still feeling less than stellar, thirsty, and quite honestly, snarky.

So, lesson learned... choose carefully.

I am going to have to rearrange my schedule a bit, because the tours to the Manu Biosphere Reserved Zone have apparently evaporated with the summer rains.  I am looking into heading to Iquitos in the north east of the country, where a bit of rain (understatement) will not close down the Jungle to tourists.

I am off for a hot bowl of soup and to do my "homework".

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