From here to God knows where.

Never make plans you cannot change in South America.

What a great way to start the week. A trip from Cusco to see the Sacred Valley of the Inca’s. What a day it was. I have always loved history. To me, it is better than any fiction.

The Inca Empire lasted around 500 years. The peak of the empire was realised just over 100 years before the Spanish arrived.

One of the main reasons the Inca’s made their strongholds in the mountains was for security against attack from their enemies.

The empire was mainly agricultural and there was no such thing as money. Everyone had to work, and all shared from the food produced. Were the Inca’s communists?

The arrival of the Spanish brought a quick end to the empire. They could not cope with the modern warfare conducted by Spanish invaders. There was no such thing as a horse in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans.

Hola you have been Gringoed

It is a problem for many travellers worldwide, but in South America, it is an art. There is the normal price for everything and the Gringo price.

Most times, it is very subtle. It might be just a few Euro, but you can feel it. Most things are cheap here, but I must admit it does bug me.

People who have lived in South America for a long time have told me it does not matter how long they are here. They will still be Gringoed. I think Ireland is fairer. Everyone gets ripped off. Locals and tourists.

It is Wednesday a day before I go to Machu Pichu and I have my first bug. I am sure it is just a bit of traveller’s diarrhoea. Very common in South America.

I have been eating in local markets for the most part. I don’t think you can avoid getting a bug in South America even if you eat in restaurants.

I don’t care how bad I am tomorrow. I will go to Machu Pichu even if I have to crawl.

Cusco is my favourite place so far on my travels. Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire, and history is everywhere. The local indigenous people are very friendly.

As it is near one of the worlds most-visited tourist sites Machu Pichu it is full of people trying to sell all kinds of stuff. It can be a bit annoying, but it is always done with a smile.

I have been offered Peru’s infamous export daily. Cocaine can be purchased in the main square as easy as a chocolate bar.

On Thursday morning, I woke up not feeling a whole lot better. I made my way down to the pickup point for the tour to Machu Picchu. I have to say I am very impressed by how they do tourism here in Peru. Very professional.

A Six-hour bus journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back. Lunch on the way. A night in a hotel. Dinner that night. Entrance to Machu Picchu and a tour guide. All for ninety Euro.

Aguas Calientes is the town nearest to Machu Picchu. For the last 11km to Aguas Calientes, there is no road. You have two choices. Take a train for thirty dollars or walk. I along with most people, I walked along the train tracks.

I don’t know about the train but the walk was spectacular. After two and a half hours I arrived in Aguas Calientes and met the group for dinner that night.

I was a bit worried as I went to sleep that night. November to April is the rainy season in this area. I had met people who had got washed out in Machu Picchu earlier that week.

At 0430 the next morning I woke up to some of the most torrential rain I had ever heard.

I made my way to meet the tour guide for the bus to the site. Twenty four dollars return. I was not going to walk up the hill in that weather.

I could bearly see the mountain once we reached the entrance.

Thankfully as the morning went on the weather cleared up.

Machu Picchu was not as significant to the Inca’s as Cusco, and less than one thousand people lived there. They were mostly the most educated people.

The Incas were the most developed people in the Americas at the time. Their empire stretched from Chile to Columbia.

This was no easy feat as the wheel had never been discovered in this part of the world before the arrival of the Spanish.

What is even more amazing, the empire was controlled without any written language. They used what is known as the Quipu system. A mix of colours and knots to communicate.

The Inca also developed a road system to pass messages by runners throughout the empire.

One of the saddest things about Machu Picchu is that after the defeat by the Spanish the population left by what is known as the Inca Trail. They never returned.

The Spanish knew about Machu Picchu but were never able to find it. This was just as well as they would have destroyed it looking for gold. That is what happened all over South America.

Machu Picchu remained deserted until it was rediscovered by North American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911.

Despite the weather, I loved every second of my visit to Machu Picchu. It was a dream come through and the highlight of my trip to South America so far.

I made my way back along the railway line to the meetup location in the pouring rain.

A great two-day trip and all for ninety euro. I keep saying travel to some of the most amazing places in the world does not have to be expensive.

I am even more convinced as today I listened to Irish radio and an avert for an Irish hotel. Two days over Christmas for just 599 euro per person sharing. Is it just me or have we lost the plot in Ireland?

On the way back, the bus broke down. We were lucky to stop in front of a fine selection of fruits. A replacement bus appeared within forty minutes.

I might be crazy but I am not stupid.

I want to see Bolivia, but all is not well there. I have been watching all days on the current political situation across the border from Peru. The President of Bolivia Evo Morales was forced to resign by the army last week.

It is widely acknowledged that left-wing Morales who had been President for 16 years, had committed fraud in the recent election. Morales had been the first Indigenous person to have won the presidency.

Morales had done a lot of good things for the indigenous people, and living standards rose during his 16 years in power. Like a lot of politicians, he overstayed his time and became less democratic.

The new President, Jeanine Anez does not inspire confidence. She has pledged to pacify the county as she sat in front of a bible and crucifix.

She also said she would unify the country as she announced her new cabinet which did not include one indigenous person. 48% of Bolivia’s population is indigenous.

I had spent almost a month stuck in Ecuador during the riots in October. To be honest, I found it a bit exciting. Not because I am a thrill seeker. I felt I was witnessing history.

I think Ecuador and Bolivia are different. In Ecuador, it was the people v the president. In Bolivia, it is 52% v 48%. A recipe for civil war.

In Machu Picchu, I spoke to a French guy whose taxi was attacked with sticks as he made his way to the border. A Spanish lady where I am staying works and lives in Bolivia left a few days ago. Please don’t go there she said to me.

I have to change my plans. If you travel to South America, you need to be able to change plans. I was looking at going to my final destination Argentina via northern Chile.

It has been the first time I did not have an excitement about a destination. Chile is known to be one of the most expensive counties in South America. So far, I have stayed on track with my budget. Expensive hotels and buses would put a hole in my funds.

I was 99% decided to take the Chile route, and then a light went off in my head. Why not go to one of the least visited countries in South America.

Paraguay is not on many peoples list of places to see. I think that is why I got excited. It has a weird history. The war of the triple alliance was a disaster for Paraguay. Some reports say 90% of the male population died during the war. 

There is an Irish connection. Eliza Lynch from Charleville in Co Cork was the mistress of the President of Paraguay. She was known as the most vilified woman in South America’s history. It was said she turned the President into a bloodthirsty dictator.

Today she is thought as a national hero in Paraguay. I am not sure. I always thought those Charleville women were trouble. I am looking forward to learning more.

This week’s videos come from a week of history.

A visit to the Inca Sacred Valley.

My visit to Machu Picchu.

Join me on my journey. 

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Comments (2):

  1. Joe Grennell

    November 18, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    It is you Pat. You can not compare hotel prices between Ireland and Peru without taking into consideration that Ireland is in the EU and Peru is in South America. Living standards. But I’ll bet you if you look hard enough you’ll find hotels in South America for 599 a night. Who stays there? The rich , Pat. It’s called exploitation. So leave Ireland alone, your blog is not bad, actually I’m enjoying it.

    • PATRICK O Neill

      November 18, 2019 at 6:58 pm

      Fair point Joe. I actually worked in the hotel industry. I used to work for a 5-star hotel group. Part of my job was setting prices and I set them high when I could so its all about setting a price that people will pay. These days I stay in hostels so I can travel longer. I actually like it as you get to meet people from all over the world. Thanks for your comment and I take your point on board.


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