Cusco – another ‘alternatives’ hostel

Posted: August 18, 2011 in Peru

Cusco, or Qosq’o in the Quechua/local lanuage, used to be the the captial city of the Inca Empire and remained  a key city after the Spanish Conquistadors, although now the city is ruled and run soley for tourists, not suprising as the city receives 1.5 million visitors a year! It really is throbbing with travellers from the US, Europe, Japan, China and neighbouring coutries in South America. The hoards of sun burnt, hiking boot wearing, back pack carrying and camera poised foreigners can be alittle overwhelming at times, but there are SO many cafes, gift shops, restaurants, local fabric and craft markets the city does well in swallowing up crowds. It is very easy to find quite streets, indigenous vendors and ancient runs, walls and buildings.

I did a really nice city walk early in the morning, with quite a useful map pointing out al the key buildings of interest before stopping for a ham omelette and orange/passion fruit smoothie, I really have to say that the smoothies and juices they serve here are amazing (most priced fro 50p to 1.50.)

Many believe that the city was planned in the shape of a puma, the second sacred animal, representing earthly power. Machu Picchu on the other hand, in the shape of a condor, representing Heaven.

I might take a moment to mention some things I have noticed about back packers whilst volunteering/travelling here  in South America…

It is as though this twenty something, globe trotting junkie, new age, spiritual breed need to redefine themselves, as they once did as teenagers. Most seem to want to show their individuality and independence whilst remain loosley linked socially and experientially with fellow travellers. This often comes across in conversation over a beer or meal, when they are exchanging travel stories from recent epic adventures. On the one hand they listen with apparent interest, acknowledging and commending their fellow travellers on the value and validity of their tales from the road, whilst attempting to trump them by asserting how they did something similar, by no means the same of course, but implying superiority. Often taking key details or highlights they would be fool hardy to try and frown upon, e.g. Machu Picchu (here they have to concede that they were also a complete photo snapping, dollar rich sell out tourist, but there is an agreement that in some cases it is acceptable to if the experience is worth it) but then add their individual experience and choices that made it different, e.g living in a converted cow shed with a family for 24 hours, trekking along an ancient Incan route not known by anyone in the west (honestly), living solely off local food/beverages (stick insects, spider eggs, beetles, wild seeds, leaves, purified llama milk, etc.)

On this “personal journey of discovery” it can often means different things for different people, but from what I have observed…

For girls this generally means, growing dreads/shaving sections of their head, not shaving their airpits, buying over sized ethnic trousers that hang off them showning their pants, facebooking everyday to tell their friends about how they are growing in independance and understanding of themselves (while emailing their mum and dad for daily updates!) and getting a authentic indiginous tattoo (that obviously has some significant, prophetic or spiritual meaning just for them.)

For boys this generally means, growing a dreds and/or a beard (or trying to), learning to play Inca pan pipes (badly), carrying round a guitar or indigenous bongo bongo drum over their shoulder, sitting alone on rocks to get away from the tourists and meditate on stuff (not that they would normally consider such a thing back in Wolverhampton council estate or semi in leafty Twickenham) and facebooking everyday to tell their friends who they have had sex with and how drunk/intoxicated they have been getting, while emailing their mum and dad to send money due to some farsical episode in which they were conned into handing over vast amounts of money for to a tour operator that suddenly went bust and did not give them a refund…. better than them being honest and saying they spent all their money getting themselves and some astute girls, that saw them coming, pissed!

At the end of this travelling episode who knows what happens to them, how many have really “changed” and how many actually go home, get an office job, get a car, mortgage, bills and children and become the once a year, dollar rich, photo happy, middle age, 4 star hotel traveller they currently seem to reject,  belittle and deride, while sat knocking back jagerbooms, 1 pound litre beers and trying in vain to attractive like minded/attractive potential one night stands in a late night bar in Cusco?

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