I got scammed. Blitzkrieg hustled. But I grew up in a third world country, so I’m aware of all the scams directed towards tourists. I take extreme precautions in my travels, and rarely if ever fall victim to any scams. Never try not to look like an ignorant tourist, so I rarely get targeted. I lie low and blend in. Don’t wear a fanny pack. Don’t stand out in the crowd like Kim Kardashian in a room full of Nobel Laureates. Maybe all the years living in the United States has dulled my senses because
I got scammed
I wanted to explore the Inca ruin, Sacsayhuaman (pronounced Sexy Woman), in Cusco before I embark on my Macchu Picchu trek. It piqued my interested because most travelers I’ve talked to in Cusco has never even heard of it. Sacsayhuaman is the most prominent archeological find in Peru, and nobody’s heard of it?
I had to explore it
I will say this here now for your reference and benefit. You can buy a tourist ticket or “boleto turistico” general for $130 soles that will allow you entry into multiple archeological sites. Namely, Sacsayhuaman, Q´enqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chincheros, and several other ruins whose names I can’t pronounce. The ticket costs around $45 U.S.
Just so you’re aware. Peru and Bolivia are full of hustlers, scammers, hawkers, and peddlers from all shapes, sizes, and ages. They are aggressive and persistent to where they are annoying. Upon arriving at the entrance, a dude holding brochures for horseback riding through the ruins approached me. For 70 Soles, I can explore Sacsayhuaman on horseback!
I shook my head in disagreement and avoided eye contact. This guy followed me all the way to the ticket booth yelling that the horses are the best way to explore the ruins. Some signs say no horses are allowed on the trail, what does he take me for? A sucker? I asked one of the ranger’s how much the entrance ticket costs, said was 130 soles, that’s like 40 bucks man.
Damn the horses
Curious, I talked to the hawker again asking why the prices are lower on horseback than just hiking the trail. I also asked how I can explore the ruins if no horses were allowed. His English was superb. He reasoned that the trail runs along just outside the ruins but close and that you can get off the horse and walk over if you wanted to. He also said that you can see more ruins not part of Sacsayhuaman by horseback and that by the time you’re done with the tour you can walk over to Sacsayhuaman.
Well, aren’t they going to charge me the ticket to get in any way? I asked. He reasoned that they only cost at the entrance (where we’re at) and that you can go to the back entrance and not have to pay. Wow what I deal, I said. Fifteen bucks for a horse ride and see other ruins plus Sacsayhuaman? It’s on!
Damn the hawkers
The hawker introduced himself as Ignacio and that he owned a ranch next to a village in Sacsayhuaman. His horses and guide, Alonso, is waiting there for the next sucker, I mean, me to start the tour. He hailed a taxi; he yelled something at the driver in Spanish and then motioned me to go with him.
We arrive at his ranch, and we went to the back of his house where the horses are. He introduced me to a bunch of other peddlers who are selling many trinkets. I was introduced to my horse, Allegre, and Alonso my guide. I took out $100 Soles to pay for the tour, and it happens he had no change. Oh, there are merchants here so they must have changed. Nope, they don’t either. But, oh look! A stone necklace happens to be selling for $30 Soles each. I guess I’ll settle for that like change, funny how that worked out (sarcasm).
After a quick safety briefing (don’t fall off the horse) I got on the saddle. I know nothing about horses. For all that I know Allegre was a donkey or a mule (but don’t tell him I said that). He wasn’t a big stud by any means, but I’ve never been on a horse. I wasn’t in control, Alonso was, but I can’t help feeling a little rush of excitement.
Damn the beaten trail
The trail was rocky and narrow. It was shared with other riders and often caused the horses to jerk and react when having to pass one another in the opposite direction. There were also times when I thought Allegre would gallop away into in the horizon without me in control. It was exciting, but we had to stop for the first ruins where I would have to explore by foot.
The ruin was a cave of sorts that the Inca used at one point. For what purpose, I don’t know. You can see some elaborate stonework/masonry on display at the site. I ran up and down the ruins looking for anything of interest. That got boring after about fifteen minutes. I wanted to get back on the horse and gallop through the wind!
The next stop, err ruins, was about 2 kilometers away. That means I would get to spend more time with my boy, Allegre! Visions of dual wielding revolvers as a gunslingin’ outlaw enveloped my imagination. Riding off into the sunset after a victorious showdown with the main villain at the town square and then getting the girl at the end. Yeehaw! It all seemed like a dream in a movie set.
All about the ruins
Unfortunately, hints of reality creep up to keep things in check. I am sharing the trail with random stray dogs that would randomly pass Allegre and dump a load on the path. The old west this was not. This is South America where the dogs roam free and drop their weight anywhere.
We arrived at the next Ruins, Q’enqo. In Quechua (the native tongue), Q’enqo means labyrinth which the temple. It was once used as a place of sacrifice. I spent another 15 minutes exploring the ruins when Alonso motioned me to get back on the horse. I guess that was it, about 1.5 hours worth of riding and exploration.
We made our way back towards Sacsayhuaman where Alonso and Allegre and I parted ways. Admittedly, I had a great time on that horse ride. I even learned how to gallop, and at one point I had Allegre at 15 mph, woohoo! I hiked towards Sacsayhuaman in high spirits ready to explore the ruins that were my primary purpose being up there.
The complex is sitting at an altitude of about 12,000 ft. Built at in the 1400s, it has perplexed the Spaniards and modern visitors how the Inca cut megalithic stones with such precision without advanced tools. The enormous stone blocks are cut with laser precision to fit in place. Not even the rocks in Macchu Picchu can match the smoothness of the cuts in Sacsayhuaman.
Sacsayhuaman is laid out in the pattern of a Puma, something to do with the three levels of Inca spiritual life: Condor – above the earth; Puma – on the planet; Snake – below the planet. This pattern can be seen on a map available from the tourist office in Cusco.
Getting better views of the sprawling city of Cusco as I explored the complex higher, I climbed up and down laser cut stone stairs lost in thoughts about how a culture without metal tools could carry out such feats. I walked towards the center of the complex to see where the Inca had quarried the megalithic stones when I heard somebody say “Boleto, por favor?”
Shit. No ticket
I got fucking played. Scammed. I nodded my head in response and played like an ignorant tourist. I then proceeded towards the ticket booth to buy the full ticket. Scammed. Swindled. Simple as that. Just tattoo the word idiot on my forehead. Oh wait, I had a great time, it was only $15! Whatever! I would pay over $100 for the same experience in the U.S. Ha ha ha! Who had the last laugh? I had the last laugh!
EXPLORE SACSAYHUAMAN, BUT DON’T GET SCAMMED (UNLESS YOU WANT TO)!
- Get the Boleto Turistico ahead of time. You can use this ticket to visit a bunch of ruins in the Cusco area except Macchu Picchu. You can buy it at the entrance.
- Get a map at the entrance or the tourist office in Cusco.
- You can take a city tour which will set you back between $12 to $25 and includes guide and transportation. But you still have to buy the ticket to get inside Sacsayhuaman.
- Sacsayhuaman is not very far from the Plaza de Armas. It should be reachable by foot. See the map below.
- You could take a taxi or combi if you don’t want to walk.