Despite its obvious assets, Cuzco seems to exist solely for tourism. I was offered more massages in one day in Peru than in two months in Thailand. The Fantastic Mr Fox and I took to making bets about how many people would ty to flog us something on and given walk between two points. After acclimatising, we took his party of Britishers (Richie Starr and the dual-headed Salamander) and began the en masse pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.
I won’t bore you with travelogue details, but suffice to say: epic mountains littered with ancient ruins, massive uphills, views that were worth it, over-population, and varying levels of gastric complaint. The actual walk isn’t massively onerous, but the chunky Inca steps beat seven shades of shit out of your feet. The thing that got us through was Richie’s scouser accent (think Ringo, and make sure to pronounce every U as in ‘put’ rather than ‘putt’). “Would you like me to play the drums, then?” he’d say for our amusement. It’s impossible to spell the pronunciation adequately. “The way you say it, it should have a double O,” I venture. “No,” he says, not without reason, “that’d be droooms.”
“Bugger!” we say. “That monkey’s eating a muffin with butter on it. He’s got a whole tub of butter on me drums. There’s an unkempt sunburnt jungle monkey eating muffins with butter all over me drums!” Our Canadamerican trekking comrade Scott is suitably bemused. “You guys are freaking funny. But I don’t understand half of what you’re talking about.”
After four days of suffering, the endpoint of the trek is a bit of an anti-climax, like marrying your Catholic sweetheart after five years of courtship only to learn that he’s impotent. The site itself is a spectable, clinging ludicrously to a sheer mountaintop, but the crowds make the whole process like negotiating a bar queue at Big Day Out. No wonder the place is slipping down the hillside at the rate of one centimetre a month. The best part was actually the third day, when Mr Fox, Richie and I got a high mountain trail to ourselves for good couple of hours. The views were the best of the whole trip, and throughout was the amazement of just how the hell these guys built this flat road of stones for kilometres on end on a 70 degree granite slope, in such a way that it has lasted 600 years or more. All the other people somehow disappeared, and we floated along this ghostly road, though cloud trails and hanging alpine forest, shaking our heads at the unlikeliness of it all.