Cusco is about an hour flight from Lima, but it feels like a completely different world. This historical capital of the Inca Empire is nestled in the valley of the Andes mountains. Flying in, your first glimpse of the city are the red terracotta rooftops. Since this is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, most of its buildings and plazas date back hundreds of years, there are no high-rises here.
Like millions before us, we came to Cusco for a few days to get acclimated to the high altitude before we started our Inca trek. We stayed at a small local hotel that was rustic and charming. After checking into the hotel and with our tour company, Gadventures, we realized that we never purchased the travel insurance that was required on the Inca trek; not sure how we missed that. For the next hour we scrambled to look up travel insurance. At the end we decided to call up Gadventures and they were able to help us get a policy effective the next day. What would have been a big problem was quickly resolved.
After we sorted out the insurance issue, we took a walk to the Plaza de Mayo in the center of town. It was a Sunday afternoon and everyone was out celebrating. We walked into a parade (again!) full of colorful costumes and festive music. I am quite convinced that there is a parade in every city on every weekend.
Nearby, in another plaza, there was a large group of locals sitting on the stone steps in a semi-circle watching a comedy/musical show. I didn’t understand what they were saying, but it seemed like the woman was trying to entertain the audience and the guys kept upstaging her, so she was fake-whipping them to the delight of the crowd.
Conveniently set up nearby the entertainment was all the local food stalls. The food looked mouthwatering considering we hadn’t had lunch yet. We were very tempted to join in, but we were told to take it easy and not eat too much, especially street food in case we get sick before the hike. After much deliberation, we overrode our good judgement, gave in and ordered some rice with fried chicken and egg. We enjoyed our food on the steps, watching the show and hung out with locals.
After spending the day leisurely exploring the city, we headed back to the hotel to meet the Gadventure group and get our briefing for the next day. We met our tour guide, Spider, who helped us figure out what we needed to bring. Afterwards, we headed back out to the square to grab dinner. At this time of the year, it can be quite chilly at night in Cusco, and after walking around in the cold, Fausto got nervous because he did not pack enough warm clothes – he didn’t even bring a woolly hat. All he had was his hoody to keep himself warm at night in the mountains. He eventually gave in and bought an alpaca wool hat from one of the ladies wandering around the square.
Overall, Cusco was beautiful. I wish we had more time to spend in there, I would love to see more of the sprawling city and get to wander through the local market place. After Cusco, we headed to the Sacred Valley and started our Inca Trek. It’s hard to believe that it has been over a month since we were in Peru. I’ve been taking my time going over my notes and pictures; I am so excited to share it all with you. Check back soon for more posts about our hike to Machu Picchu and in the meantime, ‘Like’ our Facebook page for more pictures from our trips.
Side Note – We had 2 cups of coca tea over dinner in our zealous attempt to beat the altitude sickness. That was a bad idea, because we couldn’t sleep at all that night. Lesson of the day… Don’t drink coca tea before you go to bed.
Air: LAN airline – 9,000 Avios pts+$40 for round trip from Lima (our link on Avios points)
Hotel: Hotel Prisma – cost included in the Gadventure tour
Length of Stay: 2 Days