With the brief internet breaks I´m using, it´s easier to just send a message to everyone rather than respond personally. Don´t take offence, and please keep writing back, great to hear from home.
Anywho, here we are in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incan Empire. I´m sure those Incas would be rolling their collective eyes at the amount of panhandling / harrassing going on here! It´s nuts. I mean, I don´t mind getting a restaurant suggestion, but getting swarmed by 5 different people at once yelling about their menus to me just gets to be too much! But, given that over 60% of this city´s population of >300,000 has only tourism as their income, I guess I don´t blame them.
So we´ve spent several days now at high altitudes (right now, i´m sitting at 3462m above sea level!). We went direct from Lima to Puno, which is on Lake Titicaca (and over 4000m up!). That caused me a bit of a problem on the first night, which resulted in my going to bed around 8:30. Luckily, the one good night sleep fixed me up. Well, that and the coca and mint tea that I was sucking back!
We spent 2 days in this region, with one of the nights being spent on and island called Amantani, living like the locals. Whew, what a unique (read intense) experience. Our family of 9 lived in 2 little shacks (about 7ft x 14ft), the third shack was for us. We were treated like family, which meant zero privacy, with fairly frequent ´visits´ by some of the children. On this island, we also hike up to the top, which sits at about 4180m. That´s almost as high as our Inka trail will take us (4198m). We also got a chance to dress in the traditional clothes of the island inhabitants, and attend a fiesta, with local live music (wouldn´t buy the CD), and lots of bailar (dancing).
After these adventures, we took a bus trip to Cusco, which took most of the day, since we visited several historic sites along the way. We also passed over a mountain pass, which was the highest point we´ll be in the whole trip at 4320m (i think).
We´ve also had a day tour of Cusco today, and will tomorrow go on the Sacred Valley tour, followed the day after by our start on the Inka trail.
My closing remarks for this message goes a bit like this. Forget eating Guinea Pigs, hiking at high altitude, risking cab rides etc. Nope, the most extreme thing I think you can do is plunk your ass in a barber chair in a foreign country, and ask a complete stranger for an afeitarse (shave). That´s what I did today. Yup, lathered up, and a man I don´t know holding a straight razor to my jugular while looking at someone else and conversing! Shit, now that´s scary. IN the end, it was a gratifying experience that I´d recommend for the approx. 4 CDN dollars I paid. Beats doing it myself, since I didn´t pack a razor and Jody was starting to complain. Anyway, that´s it for now. See you all later!