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Cat’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 10 Feb 2011

Location: Cusco, Peru

MapI woke up to snow.

At first, I had a minor panic attack. Was it all a dream? Was I still in Toronto?
And then we hit a bump and I realized, no, I WAS in Peru. I`m not a morning person...

We were really high up in the Andes, and as we drove the sun rose and the snow disappeared. I saw a herd of llamas grazing in the snow covered mountains, and saw a lot of square rock formations that may have been the remains of farms, but there was nothing else around for kilometres, so I`m not actually sure what they were.

We left the snow capped peaks behind, and began one of our many descents into the fog laden valleys. At one point to the front and to my right all I could see was fog. I prayed our driver was alert and, more importantly, awake! We travelled down the side of the mountain on switchbacks, turning 180 degrees every few kilometres as we zig-zagged further and further down. Eventually the fog cleared to reveal one of the most beautiful settings I have ever seen. A river wound it`s lazy way through the base of the valley, mountains of varying heights rose up from the depths like great green goliaths. I had no idea where we were, but was so awed by my surroundings I could have cared less.

I`m sure by this point my seat mates were tired of my constant picture taking, but that didn`t stop me! Throughout the rest of the day we descended into valleys and climbed mountain sides, passing through tiny villages and large towns. We passed older men and women in traditional Peruvian garb, with large packs of sticks or babies slung over their backs, and younger people dressed in sweaters and jeans. There is a definite divide between young and old here, and it was nice to see people wearing these outfits not to please tourists or make money, but because they chose to.
We passed pigs and donkeys and horses grazing along the road side, people on bikes, people in cars, people walking, people working, people talking. This was no dead highway meant to ferry people from one part of the country to the other. On this road lives were lived.

As I mentioned earlier, they made it very clear that we were to use the toilets purely for urination. As a result, we never got off the bus. In fact, the only time we stopped was when we switched drivers, which was every four hours on whatever stretch of highway we happened to be at the time. The change took about a minute, and then we were off! By midday of the second day of busing, someone clearly needed to use a bathroom for something more, so we stopped in a little village. I got out to stretch my legs and thought ¨maybe it would be nice to use a bathroom that wasn`t moving¨ and wandered over to the bathrooms. I was all set to go until I realized the bathroom attendents were ¨cleaning¨ out the stalls after each use by throwing a bucket of water into the stall. I decided right then that peeing on a moving vehicle was highly underrated.

A few hours later we arrived in a city - I didn`t catch the name, but about half our bus departed. It was another few hours before we reached Cusco, and on the way we passed 8 firefighters helping one other firefighter descend into a gully, multiple houses where it was laundry day, dogs, horses eating cacti, and waving children. And then? Cusco: the big city with the small town heart.