Good Lord, it doesn't take long for a holiday to feel like a dim and distant memory does it? I'm only 2 days through my second week at work after returning from Peru and already I'm back to being overworked, sleep deficient with my 11am latte ritual has been re-established after being usurped by chamomile tea last week during those halcyon days when I was still optimistic about retaining that well rested feeling for a few weeks longer. What a naive fool I was!!
I had my weekly meeting with my manager, Ryan, this morning and since I've been going on about it for long enough I decided it was about time I vocalized my potential interest in any opportunities that may arise in San Francisco over the next 12 months, which got him quite excited at the idea of my leading a department out there. Um...steady on...I'm after more of a work life balance and I'm sure that running a department wouldn't exactly fit into that ambition, but we'll see. Senior types seem to making it something of a priority to get the west coast practice up to scratch, and there's a job advertised to for the practice lead - I was trying to coax Miles into applying as he doesn't seem to be having a great time of it at the moment, but he's having none of it - so I think my request was well timed, however I made it clear that I am not interested in rushing into anything. It feels good to get the ball rolling, but I'll have to see how the land lies with whoever gets hired to run the west coast division since I'd likely end up reporting into that person if I moved out there and who knows, they might hire an arse. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.
Anyhow, back to more Peru chat. After the arse numbing 7 hour journey from Puno we arrived in Cusco just before 3pm and by 3.30pm we were checked into our hotel, the Cusco Plaza II, by which I was pleasantly surprised since I was ready for the worst after some of the negative reviews on TripAdvisor, but it seemed okay, basic but fine like most of the hotels we stayed in on our Peru trip and it was well located a short walk from the main square.
After strict instructions to be back in the hotel lobby by 6pm for the Inca Trail orientation with our trail guide, Efraim, we set out to explore the Cusco.
Cusco is an incredibly pretty city with a population of about 400,000. It also appears to over-index on women working in the manicure/pedicure/massage business, because you can't go anywhere without being solicited about your interest in such a service. It drives you mad after a while!!
We took a tour of the cathedral, which is well worth the S./25 admission, however they unfortunately have a very strict no photography policy, so sadly I don't have any photos to share.
The cathedral was completed in 1654 and, like much of Cusco the cathedral, was built on Inca foundations, or to be more precise, on the foundations of Kiswarkanchar, the Inca palace of Viracocha, who was king of Cusco about a century before the Conquistadors discovered the city.
The Incas worshiped many animals they considered to be sacred and went so far as to design some of their cities in the shape of some of these animals with Cusco apparently designed in the shape of a crouching puma signifying the city's importance as a center of worship. Ornamental lamp posts adorned with puma faces can be found around the main square.
You can see the original Inca bricks at the base of many of the buildings around Cusco.
We made it back to the hotel with 10 minutes to spare before our Inca Trail orientation. In total there would be 11 of us doing the trail together, Jamie, Sarah, Melissa and I, plus 7 members of the other multi-national group we came across when we visited Amantani.
The orientation started well with Efraim, our guide, letting us know that we'd take it easy. The fastest porter may well have completed the whole 46km in a mere 3hours 45minutes - 2004 porters race - but we would walk 12km on the first day, 12km on the second, 16km on day 3 and a mere 6km on day 4. "Piece of cake," said Efraim.
He reassured us that we would be taking frequent breaks and that the longest we would walk without coming across a bathroom would be 4hours. I didn't plan to eat much on the trail to minimize my need for bathroom breaks as much as possible.
I was feeling pretty good about the trail, my fears had abated as Efraim spoke. "I can do this," I thought, "it will be fine." Sure the bathrooms may well be 'nasty' on occasion, but I'd get through it, I'd be fine. That is, until he started talking about how on the 3rd day we'd descend 1000metres in altitude and that it wouldn't be easy. Phrases like 'ankle breakers' and 'knee killers' were casually tossed around to my horror.
What the hell was I doing?
Suddenly Melissa and I both felt really scared of the days ahead and it was with butterflies zooming around my stomach that I picked up my duffel for the trail - we were allowed to pack 6kilos only which the porters would carry, anything more would have to be carried by ourselves in our daypacks - and put my name down to hire a walking stick!!
Ashen faced our group headed out for dinner at Nuna Raymi restaurant before returning to the hotel to pack our duffels, weeding out unnecessary fleeces and toiletries so as to make the 6kilo weight for the next day in Ollantaytambo and the following 4 days on the trail. Eeeek!!!