1.7 El Cristo Blanco
*cough. cough.* I´m sick.
I think that one of los neños charmingly gave me their cough and now it has mutated into some kind of megavirus, leaving me exhausted and disgusting. Whoever said travelling was glamorous?
The day before this megavirus struck, the three of us went to the Plasa, had a look around, pointed to the highest hill, and said “let´s trek to there.” The monument we were pointing at was El Christo Blanco, a mini version of the famous monument in Rio. From the Plasa, it seems to watch over the entire city, and at night it is illuminated.
It is right next to Saqsayhuaman, an ancient Inca temple above Cuzco. Since you need to pay 130 soles just to get in (and at this point we´re thinking twice about paying 2 soles for bottled water) we decided to walk as far up as we could, and then turn back when it became neccesary to pay.
The trek was difficult. Doable, but difficult, and, whether it is the altitude, the steep steps, or the baking heat, we were all struggling to catch our breath by the time we got to the top. It was genuinely a lovely trek though, very beautiful, with natural waterfalls, and little old ladies with llamas on strings, dressed in traditional costume. Personally, these charming llama herders were a bit of a mixed blessing. While very authentic and Peruvian, when an old lady can skip merrily up a mountain, with a llama, and casually overtake you while you are bent double, dragging your feet, trying not to have a full on asthma attack, it doesn´t exactly do wonders for one´s self esteem.
Halfway up to Saqsayhuaman, we came across a gate and a wizened old Peruvian man asking us for our tickets. We looked at him guiltily and explained that we didn´t have them and, frankly, we hadn´t known that the route would be quite this well patrolled. He smiled and nodded “Ah, Cristo Blanco, si?” We tried to patiently explain to him that no, we wanted to go to Saqsayhuaman, when, still nodding his head persuasively, he opened the gate and ushered us through saying “ah yes, Cristo Blanco, no ticket neccesite for Cristo Blanco, si?” We looked at each other and then joined in nodding. “Ah yes, only Cristo Blanco, that´s right…”
So we did manage to see the Inca temple after all, thanks to that old man, who happily turned a blind eye, and, as we scampered up the road to Saqsayhuaman, called out, with a wink “Enjoy Cristo Blanco!”
The inca stonework itself is just so impressive! Huge blocks of stone built up to make these incredible fortresses, it´s definitely something worth seeing. We skirted around the edge of Saqsay, but there were a few more vigilant ticket controls, so we swerved off on to another ascent and headed up to El Cristo Blanco after all. This last bit was even harder, but we made it. A victory made even more sweet by the sight of three girls pulling up in a taxi just as we took the final step of the ascent. Oh how we judged them.
The Cristo Blanco itself is so impressive, with the most amazing view of Cusco. Once the megavirus has subsided, we want to do a few more treks in preparation for the Inka trail. I don´t want to be like that one asthmatic kid in PE class who slows everyone down. (Or at least, I don´t still want to be that one asthmatic kid in PE class who slows everyone down…)
Meanwhile, we are still seeing our neños every day and exploring Cusco. I really feel settled here, and while, for me, England will always be my home, there is something very special about this city. As the first place that I officially travelled, completely independently, at seventeen, Peru is a country that will definitely leave an impression on me.
MTG, PV x