The Tourist Capital of Peru
01.05.2015 - 07.05.2015 20 °C
Cusco, what a beautiful place you are. One week has not been enough and I can see why people stay. There is just something in the air here, maybe it's the altitude or the beautiful surroundings? There's no way of pinpointing exactly what it is that makes this place so special. It could be the amazing ice cream place that creates the ice cream right in front of you, making you come back every day for a new variation. It could be the wonderful hostel up on the hill, allowing you to eat breakfast with a stunning view in the morning sun. Maybe it's even haggling with locals to get that gorgeous blanket you wanted at a decent price? Or how about all the locals in their traditional clothes carrying baby llamas, offering to let you photograph them for just 2 soles! (50 cents). Or MAYBE, it's that the weather forecast was rain and thunder for the whole week but the sun shone for the full 7 days anyway.
Here's the amazing ice cream place!
We spent most of the first days browsing the many stalls and souvenir shops and looking at all the amazing colonial architecture. People here are MUCH more used to foreigners than in the remote mountains, as Cusco is pretty much the tourist capital of Peru, and they'll try and stiff you for everything and anything! As we had had our break from the tourist world in Huancavelica, the busy town of Cusco didn't really bother us so much. People came and went at our hostel as they all had busy schedules heading up to Machu Picchu, the famous Inca site, but we arrived 7 days before our trek started, so we had plenty of time to relax, explore and enjoy everything at our own leisure. The fantastic weather held up all week which was a great bonus too! Tom decided to get another band added to his tattoo on his leg, to mark this fantastic adventure in South America where we have been enjoying the Inca designs and styles that have been so present in South America. So that was mingled in amongst the browsing! It's a magical place, steeped in history with beautiful old churches, colonial buildings and an abundance of ruins just up in the mountain. It keeps up with modern life by offering things like Starbucks and McDonald's which are cleverly disguised in the old buildings surrounding the main square. This square has its own police officer guarding the grass and chasing off sellers, making it the only place you can sit on a bench with out being pestered to buy anything.
So after lazing around a lot we decided to hit up some of the sites around Cusco. Of course the Machu Picchu Inca site is the most famous and takes 4-5 days to hike to (we'll get to that next week!), but there are many Inca ruins in the area to visit. We were recommended Saqsawaman (sack-sa-wa-man) or as the non-local population call it, "sexy woman". On the walk up we were approached by two guys and we decided to take the two horses they were offering for a tour of the area as there were a few other ruins around the "sexy woman". This was great fun and it's been a few years since I was on a horse, however the guide didn't speak English (we were told he would), the other ruins literally looked like a pile of rocks that resembled nothing, there was no info whatsoever AND half way through the tour the guide just said "finished" and we had to get off and walk the rest of the way. As we walked down the hill we had a good view of sexy woman and it really didn't warrant the expensive entrance fee that was extra to pay.
We feel a little bad about saying this, but want to say it nonetheless. We have seen a relative amount of Inca ruins here in SA, and every time we have visited them, they are expensive to see, there's never any information and really, they're just a pile of rocks. This may seem a little uncultured but we've just been a bit disappointed by them. So we skipped the "sexy woman" as we will be visiting the biggest pile of inca rocks relatively soon! Hehe, well, Machu Picchu is a bit different I guess. It's an ancient city of ruins
We also visited a little town called Pisac, a short trufi ride out into the mountain countryside. As an entrance to the sacred valley, it was another beautiful town nestled at the bottom of steep high mountain gorges. Seeing a trend here? It's a good trend hehe! They have a "famous" market here but it was mostly the same stuff being sold in Cusco. We finally (after months of deliberation) bought a leather photo album to use when we get back for SA pictures. I haggled to the dirt for it and, after agreeing on the price, I got a wee bit more off after noticing it was a little broken (nothing a bit of glue won't fix!). We are getting to be expert hagglers - it's going to be weird coming back to Europe. You take nothing for face value here and never pay more than 75-80% of the stated price. Sometimes we get them down to 50% and one has to wonder how much they would make in profit if they'd sold it for even 75-80%. We found prices to be higher here as they generally get frequented by tour buses full of "grown ups" who don't know they are being over charged. A pretty place but after a brief visit and a vegetarian lunch, Cusco was calling us back.
Our final day was spent stocking up on souvenirs and gathering supplies like hats, backpacks, flashlights and snacks, all for the Inca trek which started the next day. We had a lovely evening that night with an American couple from New York whom we'd met the day before and played some cards and a game called doubt. Laughing, stopping for smoothie breaks and incredible vengeful gaming, it was the perfect way to finish off our time in Cusco. Katty even got a cake for my birthday (we be on the Inca trail for my birthday) whch was awesome. Steven and Amanda - we love you guys! They're on their way around the world, with really no plan at all, but they think they'll be in Europe this summer so we might just cross paths again 😊
And so we hit the sack for an early 4am start to mark the beginning of our much anticipated Machu Picchu 5 day Inca Trek!
Here we gooooo!
Love from tom and kat