After stocking up with a full breakfast we finishing packing our bags and then decided to have a wander outside the hotel before check-out at 10am. It was probably a mistake as Cusco is full of markets selling all kinds of goods, principally to the tourists. All very bright and appealing to those who have local currency in pocket and little time left to make use of it. So it was without intention that further items were bought, and on return to the hotel, suitcases had to be opened and repacked!
At 10am exactly we checked out of our room and left our suitcases in the lobby under the watchful eyes of the porters. We headed off to spend the next couple of hours in the Plaza of the night before. On the way we passed the Avianca Cusco office, so we popped in and got them to check us onto our flight, chose our seats and printed out our boarding cards for all three flights. It took less than 10 minutes and would save us a few minutes at the airport.
Carrying on towards the Plaza we stopped and photographed a worker’s demonstration with patriotic flags waving, flanked on both sides by heavily armed police in riot gear. The Peruvians love a good demonstration and they can occasionally get out of hand. Apparently it is a national pastime.
Moving on we reached our destination to the sound of drums and loudspeakers, but to our surprise it was a completely different affair. The whole square was full of military, fully armed and in best uniform. Whole sections of the military were represented, including the various forces of the police. All lined up and listening to speeches from the main rostrum situated in front of the Cathedral. We took our time doing a complete circle of the square (thus proving you can circle a square!) photographing the goings on without understanding anything of what we were looking at. It could have been a special day, a regular thing or just a show of strength, we had no idea. However, by the time we had got to the centre of the proceedings, which was where all the speeches were coming from and the dignitaries were sat under a small canopy, Sue and I worked our way to just a couple of metres behind the obviously most important person of today’s affair. Recognising the start of the Catholic Mass (the sins of doing supply in a Catholic school) as then, I now switched off and my mind began to wander. Where was the security? True, there was plenty of bodies carrying guns of all shapes and sizes but no one challenged or searched us as we entered the Plaza AND we were both carrying very full rucksacks. Perhaps, the terrorists have changed the way we now think? How tragic and sad.
It was as we left the proceedings down a side street, we learned that the person we had got so close to, was the president of Peru himself.
We returned to the hotel and had a cup of coca tea each. Some advice for anybody wishing to visit Peru; if offered the tea or the dry leaves to chew, do so. Altitude is not to be ignored, everything becomes difficult for us softies from sea-level, coca goes some way to alleviating its effect.
Our transfer to the airport arrived half an hour early (as has every transfer on this tour), luckily we were all ready and prepared to leave.
Our flight to Lima, left half an hour late as the aircraft had to change a tyre, with the knock-on effect that our connection time to Bogata had been reduced to just an hour. Not a problem, we caught our flight and it left on time. The same was true for our connection to Heathrow, though we had 2 hours 50 minutes to wait before we flew.
Avianca feed you quite regularly on their flights, and by now we were getting quite stuffed and were only participating in this routine gorging session to pass the time.
In the light of recent events, security at Heathrow had increased significantly, armed police were there in numbers checking passports as we left the aircraft. Unusually for Heathrow, our suitcases beat us to the baggage reclaim belt so it wasn’t long before we were stood at the bus stop to find we had just missed one and had 40 minutes to wait for the next. It was an omen of things to come!
We had parked at the EasyHotel twenty minutes from the airport and unlike other car parks, on leaving your car, you take your keys with you. The last time I saw my car keys was at Cusco airport and they were in a zipped side pocket of my rucksack. Now to my horror, the zip was open and the keys gone. The rucksack had been placed in the overhead locker of each aircraft we had flown on and I guess as it was pushed in or taken out or moved continuously by other passengers accessing their bags inflight, the zip had been dragged open and the keys fallen out. What to do?
First I rang my car rescue service, they were extremely sorry but they couldn’t help as the car was not broken or the keys weren’t inside the vehicle. Next I rang Jamie to see if he could get the spare key from home and bring it, and like the treasure he is, that is what happened. However, due to an accident on the M1 (typical!!!) this took quite a long time . Enough time for Sue and I to have a meal at a local pub before Jamie swept into the car park with a smile on his face and my spare key. So, instead of arriving home at an expected time of 8pm, we eventually got home after 11pm and therefore too late to vote in the General Election.
Not a satisfying way to finish a wonderful holiday, but looking on the bright side, the cost of replacement keys is covered up to 1000 pounds on my card protection policy. On the dark side, we now have a hung Parliament which will no doubt inflict quite a few years of intensive politicking as self-interest and senseless point scoring will dominate our news and lives. I feel quite a few foreign excursions coming on to escape.