It’s a lot harder to keep up to date with things at home when you’re travelling.

For a start, I have no idea if my room has been converted into a gym yet, I don’t know if the Coral betting shop on the corner of Westmoreland Road has finally been turned into a Wetherspoons, and I couldn’t tell you if my Mum still goes to yoga classes twice a week.

One thing that I have managed to keep up with, however, is the football, and what I can tell you is that Crystal Palace have just won their second league game since I flew to South America.

That’s 2 (two) wins in 3 (THREE) months, but it still hasn’t stopped me religiously refreshing Twitter on sketchy Wi-Fi every Saturday morning in the hope that 6’6″ Wayne Hennessey hasn’t been lobbed four times from twenty yards again.

The latest dose of disappointment came in Cusco, as Palace stumbled to a 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester City, and now that my little football rant is over, I can tell you a thing or two about the ancient capital of the Incas.

For a start, looking down on the city from up in the hills makes you realise just how small Cusco is, and its population of 435,000 means it barely qualifies as one of Peru’s top ten biggest cities.

But I’ve always been assured that size doesn’t matter, and what Cusco lacks in magnitude it more than makes up for in charm, and walking down the steep cobbled streets leads you past Inca walls, ancient churches, and a beautifully preserved colonial plaza that’s riddled with an array of cool restaurants and bars.

However, the main draw of Cusco is its rich history, and the first remnants of the Incas can be found right in the heart of the city, where its very own Christ the Redeemer stands in front of Saksaywaman – the historic capital of the Inca Empire.

But most people come to Cusco for one reason, and it’s not the thoroughly underwhelming chocolate factory which doesn’t have the high glass ceilings and bubble works like the one in Mel Stuart’s movie.

Indeed, if anyone tells you that Machu Picchu isn’t one of the reasons they have come to South America, you should immediately turn around and tell them that they’re a liar.

Ever since I started planning this trip, the entire journey felt like it was revolving around finding the lost Inca citadel which attracts thousands of visitors everyday.

Just the mere story behind the settlement is enough to get the mind ticking, given that Machu Picchu was only discovered in 1911, after the Incas planted excessive amounts of vegetation to hide it from Spanish invaders in the 16th century.

And there are several ways to make it to the peak, whether it’s via the Inca trail, the Salkantay trek, or the alternative route of mountain biking, rafting and zip-lining your way through the jungle.

One thing that’s unavoidable, however, is climbing over 2,000 steps to reach the summit of Machu Picchu, and at 2,430m above sea level it really makes you feel like you’ve earned seeing one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Inevitably when I reached the top it was absolutely zipping down with rain, and it made me question whether I’d committed sins against South America to be cursed with overcast skies for both the Bolivian Salt Flats and Machu Picchu.

Once the clouds started to rise, however, it makes you realise what an expertly crafted archeological site the settlement is, and it truly serves as an illustration of some of the earliest human intelligence given that I’d have advised the Incas to build their home at the bottom of the mountain rather than bother climbing all the way up to the top.

And even though the sky wasn’t clear enough for the perfect Instagram photo, it was inspiring to be in a place that I, and probably many others, had been fantasising about for years.

It was another one of those moments on this trip where you have to pinch yourself only to realise that you’re now part of the postcard picture that you’ve been staring into through a computer screen, almost in a similar way that I was pinching myself last night as Benteke nodded in Palace’s second.

Machu Picchu and a Palace win – two real wonders of the world.

Next stop, the sand dunes of Huacachina. Until then.


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