Right before lunch we had our faces painted and were given our Quechuan (the native Peruvian Incans) names; mine was Puma which was lucky because it meant I had a chance of remembering it. Everyone else had to battle with multi-syllable mouthfuls that sounded like they were speaking through the remnants of a small rodent. Which we soon were, because lunch was the traditional Peruvian meal of Cuy.
|Oh yeah, monkey house had turkeys. Aren't they ridiculous?|
What is Cuy, I hear you (maybe) say? Guinea Pig. Just like the one you used to play with as a kid, in the backyard at home. I had been looking forward to trying the little rat bastards for a while at this stage, and was delighted to discover that we could choose which of the furry little delights we wanted to consume. Our guide recommended picking the fattest looking one as they were meant to be the tastiest. Our first choice wasn’t allowed because it was pregnant but the cook couldn’t see a problem with our second option. Let’s call her Madeline. Grabbing her by the back feet and the head, she pulled gently until Madeline’s cute little neck snapped and she breathed her last.
The lady was surprised to see Madeline still moving when she put her onto the table (in fact, she moved enough to fall right off). It turns out that Maddy was actually pregnant as well, effectively turning us into monstrous animal-baby killers. If hell exists and I wasn’t already on the list, I must be now. To be completely honest, it dropped the tone of the experience a fair bit. Bad times. Still, there was no point in letting poor Madeline go to waste so she was expertly plucked and gutted by our cook, who then impaled her with a skewer and barbequed her to secret Peruvian recipe specifications.
The result wasn’t all that good. There wasn’t all that much meat for a start, and what there was tended towards really fatty or really chewy. The flavour wasn’t anything to write home about either (although I suppose that’s what I’m doing right now). Having said that, if you get the chance to munch a Guinea pig (without forever scarring a small child by eating their pet) then I think you should take it.
Once we had gotten the Cuy down us we were back to the hiking. It was a fairly long day on foot overall and by the end of it some members of the group were pretty done with the whole thing. We were on the actual Inca Trail in the afternoon and it was stunning. There were some good high narrow sections to keep us on our toes. We also stopped at a point with a great view and Towny and I expressed ourselves with the physical form. I think the results are quite poignant.
|Cheers Towny for the awesome photo and for letting me play grab-ass with you in the far left part of the shot.|
|A good spot to really ponder life's big issues.|
Fortunately at the end of the day there was a little treat waiting for us across a river (which we crossed in a little basket on a wire which was pulled over by a little old man – I took a turn and pulled some people across for him). At the end of our trek we got to splash around in some hot pools for a while, and I had been carrying a treat for us for the last two days: a fine bottle of Appleton’s rum.
|It's the team!|
Our poor rum never even got the chance to encourage us to make bad decisions. While we were lurking in the hot pools some tosspot Englishman managed to knock over the bottle, smashing it. He achieved this despite the fact that it was tucked away under a lounger - quite a feat. To say I was gutted would be understating the issue. Apart from the fact that I love a good rum, I had lugged the bloody thing a long way (it weighed about a good chunk of my total bag) and now I wouldn’t get to enjoy the rewards for my toils.
|Dodgy as river crossing mechanism|
It turned out the English dude wasn’t so bad and replaced our rum on the spot, although with a lesser bottle (luckily they were selling booze at the pool, you’ve gotta love South America). It was remarkably pleasant sitting in some hot pools drinking rum, and we all got a bit tipsy which was good as it encouraged us to keep drinking through dinner and then go out to a sub-par nightclub in the middle of nowhere. I had a bit of a bad one, got too drunk for anyones good, had a bust time and lost my wallet with my one credit card in it.
Therefore I was less than pleased with life the next day when I woke up. I had effectively lost any access to cash that I had. This is the one thing you don’t want to happen to you while you are travelling. They always say you should travel with more than one credit card and I thought I had just found out why, the hard way. But I’m a lucky bastard sometimes and this was one such occasion.
We went out to our next activity, ziplining. I was still pretty raw about the wallet thing so it was thrilling to find out that a gringo in one of the other tour groups had found someone’s wallet last night, at the very bar I was in no less! They were leaving as we arrived but we were going to the same place for lunch so I was hopefully to be reunited with my leathery friend and his plastic cashflow treats in the near future.
With that off my mind I could get to grips with ziplining hungover. The worst part was the walk up the hill to the first line, it definitely got me into the pain cave with the heat and the steepness. I’m also reasonably afraid of heights so ziplining was a bit out of my comfort zone but after the first line I settled down a bit. It’s mighty good fun. I also bent the rules a bit and managed to convince the operator it was a good idea to let me go sin ropa for one of the lines. Another little highlight was seeing Michelle Rodriguez there, as she was with another tour group about to get amongst it as we were leaving. Neat.
|Spot the bollock. Photo courtesy of Eric (he's very courteous when he doesn't know about it).|
Lunch saw me reunited with my wallet and very grateful for it. It was a very lucky escape for me there and I vowed not to hit the piss with my credit card ever again (I’ve since failed on that goal). The afternoon hike was a bit grim for me as it was flat and along a railway track. That’s barely hiking as far as I’m concerned and certainly not my idea of a good time. After a few hours we arrived in Agua Calientes (which means hot water, who calls a town that?), the nearest settlement to Machu Picchu. We had a pretty relaxed and early night as we were getting up stupidly early the next morning to visit the ruins themselves.