September 24-25, 2015
The first time I wrote this it got deleted (not saved due to shitty internet) so this this time around the article will be much shorter...sorry!
After arriving from our overnight bus via excluciva we checked into our nice hotel. I had booked a room using my Orbitz points. Our first day was supposed to be a relaxing one but it ended up being more stressful than either of us would have preferred. We spend quite a few hours researching the different tours offered and were overwhelmed by the choices and our dependance on negotiating to get a good price.
Immediately after arriving in the city we realized how lively Cusco was. There were natives all over working on their handicrafts around Parque de Armas. Although to take their photos it was encouraged to tip. There were so many tour booths/stalls/shops that I couldn't believe my eyes. 1 in every 2 (maybe 3) establishments in this city were tour agencies...all pushing the same 5 or 6 tours.
Sylvie I researched the one-day (11-hr) Sacred Valley tour and the 5-day salkantay trek. This trek is rated by National Geographic as being one of the top 25 treks in the world. We'll be hiking over 60km, sleeping in 3 tents, 1 hostel in the town just outside of Machu Picchu, ascending up to 16k feet, trekking through a jungle, hiking to a glacier lake, swimming in hot springs, and spending our entire last day in Machu Picchu.
We negotiated the Sacred Valley tour down from 70 to 40 soles and the 5-day trek from over $600 to just over $400. I was able to save $20 from my bootleg Student ID card. I 'created' a fake admissions letter for Sylvie and attempted to get her a student ID but they also requested proof of payment. I'll work on this and have student ID cards for us by December.
We went to a few markets in Cusco. The first (a much smaller one) only had crafts. We each bought a pair of gloves for the trek, Sylvie also bought a scarf.
The second market was known as Mercado de San Pedro and it was huge. There was an indoor portion, but the surroundings were equally as busy. They sold crafts, produce, meat, dairy, and plants. Sylvie got a little sick from the smell of raw meat. We bought some snacks for our Sacred Valley tour and for our 5-day trek. We made our own trail mix using various nuts, dried gooseberries, and chocolate covered peanuts (raisons for Sylvie...yuck!)
We walked around the market and took a video of the vendors, make sure you check out the video below. The inside of the market was just as crazy, though the prices outside were much better. We paid $0.42/lb for mandarin oranges inside, but outside they were only $0.28/lb. We were getting a bit tired and headed back to our hostel after a long day of shopping and negotiating tour packages/prices.
I tried to go to three banks to get out cash using a copy of my ATM card but that wouldn't work. I called my bank and they wouldn't do a international money transfer. Most places here except only cash and when they take credit card they often charge %5-%10 more. I ended up paying $25 to use my credit card to book the tour. I weighed the cost to take out cash vs. cash advance, via all other options. Given my cash back rewards the$25 fee was the most agreeable. I just completed a western union transfer, sending money to myself. I'll be able to pick up the money when we return from our 5-day trek. It only cost me 1.3%. Sylvie's ATM fees are $3 + 1.8% per transaction. Very pricey given we can only get out up to $200 per transaction. My Ally bank charged me a flat 1% fee.
Sylvie Gets Ill...AGAIN
We were planning on resting in our room before going out for a nice relaxing dinner, but Sylvie got ill shortly after returning. She developed the chills, got nauseous (threw-up several times), and got a severe headache. I nursed her back to health though. I gave her 3 Advil, wrapped her in an ungodly number of blankets, boiled water and made her coca tea (don't worry mom I made sure she drank slowly and steadily as to not upset her stomach). She was worried and I sat by her comforting while doing what I do best...researching. I was looking into alternative diagnoses, nearby emergency rooms (in case the need arose), treatment alternatives, etc. I was asking Sylvie a litany of questions to help figure out what was wrong. We ruled out food-poisoning. She hadn't gotten any unusual bites recently and has stayed current on her anti-malaria. The only logical explanation was altitude sickness. Even though we've been at high altitude before altitude sickness is known to occur randomly and is exacerbated by increased activity and dehydration. Given the fact we hadn't drank much that day and walked over 12k steps (6 miles) the diagnosis of altitude sickness fit the best. Altitude sickness can be defined as moderate or severe. Notice how there is not mild, that is because it should never be ignored. Her extreme headache was a little worrisome for me as an increase in cranial pressures can occur in altitude sickness. She rated her headache an 8 (out of 10) and said it was the worst she's ever had. I wanted to wait 45 minutes after she took the prescription strength (600mg) NSAID Advil. Yes, don't worry I made her eat something and she didn't throw-up for 45 minutes after taking the pills so I imagine she got most of it. After an hour her headache was a 5 (out of 10) and her chills were gone. I felt relieved and knew she was on the mend. If the headache didn't respond to the NSAIDS we would have likely had a long night in the ER.
After I made sure Sylvie was feeling better I went out to pick us up some food. I went to a grocery store and bought a full rotisserie chicken and and order of fries...all for $6.50. This was the best meal yet.
Sylvie woke up this morning and felt 100% better (maybe 90%). She's really a trooper and we're lucky to have each other. I stayed up for a few more hours eating the rest of the chicken. I can say that I, of the first time, ate an entire chicken (Sylvie only had a few bites). I spent a few hours researching potential hostels in Cusco for our return and transport to Puno. In the morning I spent an 1.5 hours booking bus tickets. Online booking systems are in Spanish, outdated, and are time intensive. After loosing my booking twice I was relived to have finally settled our transport to our next destination...Puno...a city on Lake Titicaca.