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Hey all, finally got a chance to add a new set of pics.  These are from Bariloche, Argentina which is considered Argentina’s playground.  The scenery was great, but by this time I was finished with Patagonia (even though Bariloche is part of the Lake District) and outdoor activities.  After this, it was on to Mendoza and wine tasting!  As for my current travels, I made my way through Dublin and Ireland for New Year’s.  I’m currently in London after visiting northern England.  On to Paris this week.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24363966@N05/sets/72157612729434976/ or click on the Flickr link to the right.

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Hey everyone, I’ve posted a lot of pics from my first week in Buenos Aires on my Flickr account.  You can see the set at : http://www.flickr.com/photos/24363966@N05/sets/72157609565509830/ or by clicking on the Flickr widget on the right side of this page.

Cathedral of Cuzco

Cathedral of Cuzco

Cusco is the historical and cultural capital of Peru.  Also considered the capital of the Inca civilization, the
city is 11,000 feet above sea level.  It can be spelled Cusco or Cuzco (or Qusqu in the local Quechua language). I found it to be a charming, but exhausting city to walk around.  The altitude also made it cold, with temperatures around 30 degrees at night, and 60 during the day.
I decided not to rough it and flew to Cuzco from Lima instead of taking the 26 hour bus ride.  When I got off the plane I could notice the difference in altitude immediately.  Simple things like walking up steps were tougher because it was hard to breath.  It was so tiring one day I took three naps.  Most people have a hard time with the altitude.  I talked to one person who still did not feel better after six weeks of staying in Cuzco.

Mainly, for most travelers Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas.  However, it is also located near the Sacred Valley, which has a lot of other Inca sites that are worth visiting.  I did not get a
chance to see them because I spent most of my time being frustrated in my efforts to get to Machu Picchu.
First, I needed to buy train tickets to Aguas Calientes, the tourist town that has sprung up next to Machu Picchu.

The Peru Rail website was not co-operating.  So I decided to go to the railway station to buy tickets, but are the tickets located in the same station that the train leaves from?  Of course not.  Tickets can be purchased at the other train station at the opposite side of town. That station’s train goes to Puno and Lake Titicaca.
So, on my second day in Cusco I decide to take a walk to the train station.  It was not far, but there was a
torrential downpour happening.  Not really a big deal.  I know I have to take the weather as it comes.  What I
didn’t realize though, was that the town was on strike (for what I don’t know) and the railway station was closed.   So then I walked back to my hostel in the rain, huffing and puffing uphill.
I got a first hand glimpse of Latin American life and Latin American time.  The people of Peru and Bolivia are
constantly striking or building roadblocks and it is just a part of life that has to be dealt with.  What I found
out later on was that the strike was organized for one day and one day only, so I knew I could try again at the train station the next day.  The strikers did not seem violent or aggressive and the absence of taxis in the city made the air quite pleasant.
While walking back to my hostel I passed by a travel agency called Liz’s Explorers.  I had heard good things about them on other Peru travel blogs so I decided to check them out.  I went in and asked them if they could get train tickets.  Amazingly, on the day of the strike, they were able to sell me a return trip train ticket (at no extra cost or commission) and I had the ticket in hand by 6 o’clock.  I still had to book a hostel in Aguas Calientes, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem.  All in all it was a learning experience and I think I handled it well and with patience.  I was glad it worked out thought, because I was ready to see Machu Picchu and then get down to a lower altitude.
One thing I noticed in Cuzco, and in most of the places I visited in South America so far, is that there are tons of wild dogs roaming the streets.  Some roam in packs, other alone while some dangerously try to bite car tires as cars drive by at 30 mph.  They aren’t dangerous, but they will follow you around hoping for food.

I did find my Cusco experience to be much better than Lima.  I was feeling better, except for the altitude, but I was also getting into the swing of long-term travel.  I started making friends and seeing some amazing places.  It gave me the perfect mindset for visiting Machu Picchu.