A traditional folk band
The day after Macchu Picchu, we all had a free day in Cusco. I probably should have spent the day exploring the city's ruins and museums, but I was a little citied-out by then and decided to go white water rafting, which I'd never done before. So, on a sunny Tuesday morning I found myself on a minibus with Phil (funny English guy), Erik and Bastiaan (quirky Dutch father and his 15-year old son) - all part of the tour - and a bunch of young Spanish-speaking but Aryan-looking kids. I spent most of the 2-hour trip trying to write up a briefing paper as part of an interview I'd had the night before with a government department back in Australia.
Erik puts Peruvian wine to the test
But I think we were all worrying that we'd be rafting with a group of 7-year olds.
Thankfully, there were other (older) people at base camp. Everyone stood in front of the piles of equipment and as our names were called out, we were given our wetsuits, jackets, helmets and life vests. Due to the number of tiny people in the group, I had to take a medium-sized wetsuit which was, of course, way too big. I comforted myself with the fact that everyone looks pretty ridiculous in that sort of getup (almost as bad as on that mining tour in Potosi).
The older group were taken upriver first. One of the guides went through all the moves, then we split up into three groups. Phil and I ended up with two other English guys and our Brazilian guide, Carlos. The first couple of kilometres were for practice, which was good, because according to our guide, we were crap (although Phil said that they always tell you you suck, so you work better as a team.
Me, Liz, Steve and Julio, our guide.
Actually to be honest, one of the English guys really sucked and had trouble timing his strokes and remembering his right and left). Anyway, the river hosted second and third grade rapids and we managed them without too much trouble. At one point, Phil and the crap English guy fell in but managed to get back in the boat without us going in too. There was a trainee kayaker (one of the guys who stays behind a raft to help people if they fall in) but he kept going under and we had to rescue his kayak twice, before the guides decided he would be better off just sitting inside a raft with the others. At one particular rapid, our guide made us raft against it for ages, as a sort of 'fun' strengthening exercise which got us all soaked and tired.
The 10-minute drive up the river took over 2 hours to raft down.
Other Steve and his girls.
It was a lot of fun, although tiring, and my feet (which were in open toed sandals) were so cold that I couldn't walk properly when I got out of the raft. However, 15 minutes in the sauna at base camp were enough to thaw me out. We were served a hearty lunch of soup and bread, fried chicken, rice and salad and tea before waiting for the little kids to finish up to catch the bus home with us. Bastiaan decided to teach me some Dutch (Rotterdam Dutch, which is much harsher and gutteral than southern Dutch, he assured me), so next time you hear me cough, I may well be asking "How are you?" in Dutch.
We didn't have a whole lot of time to do anything before meeting up with everyone on the tour and going to a nice place by the main plaza for dinner. I had alpaca for the second time, washed down by lots of wine.
Bastiaan and Steve; Phil, Ann, Julio and Liz
We were suitably impressed by the live Andean folk music band and bought their CD. Then we shifted to the nearby bar Mama Africa, which played western rock songs and the like, and even had a chess set. I won a game against Phil but it wasn't exactly fair as we were both drunk, I had help from Bastiaan and some German guy who beat him in an earlier game, and Tash was 'distracting' Phil (they looked so cosy later that night, I moved all my stuff out of our room back at the hotel and crashed in the spare bed of another room). It turned out to be a hilarious night; on our way back to the hotel, we stopped to play some soccer in the main plaza against some local guys. When we regrouped in the morning, bleary-eyed at 7am in the hotel lobby, we found out that Erik had woken up in a strange woman's house (he's divorced so his son was okay about it) but he was adamant that they hadn't had sex because all his clothes were still on when he woke up! - and Liz, a travel agent from LA, had gotten lucky with a local guy and hadn't gone home. Needless to say, the bus ride to Puno
was abnormally quiet as everyone nursed various stages of their hangovers...
...and that was my experience of Cusco.