One of the small streets of cusco. These streets are great fun, especially when two crazy taxi drivers (they are all crazy) meet in opposite directions.
We arrived in Cusco, the ancient stronghold of the Inca Empire, at about 7am after an overnight bus from Arequipa. We had taken a Cama bus which was pretty comfy, however had decided to take the front seats directly above the driver where you had a clear view of the road ahead. This wasn’t the best move as the driver appeared to be a retired Japanese kamikaze fighter pilot with some of the overtaking maneuvers he was taking. Was fun though, that’s for sure.
We checked into a place called Cabana Lodge after being convinced by the lady at the bus terminal that it was a good thing.
The hostel had a private bathroom and cable which we ended up getting for 40 Soles (approx $17A), the price they quoted at the hostel was $25US per night for our room, what a joke! Anyway, this place looked nice so we organized ourselves and headed into Cusco to show our faces at Vida Andina (Andean Life), our Machu Picchu tour company.
The local brew, Cusquena
The walk from the Hostel was our first taste of Cusco and you noticed straight away as with Arequipa how beautiful the city was, cobble stone streets, little laneways and beautiful architecture. However as with Arequipa there were thousands of crazy taxi drivers in little cars buzzing around the place with what appears to be no concern for the road rules. To add to the zany taxi drivers were the thousands of little kids trying to sell you finger puppets (little woolen knitted puppets to slide onto your finger).
After telling about 20,000 kids `no gracias`, which included some of them turning on the water works (dirty tactics), we gave in picked up three of the little things. Sarah got a giraffe (Gabbi) and a tucan (Bert), I got a monkey (Kong). There was also a plethora of other people selling things, but the other big ticket items were postcards and paintings, of which we wanted neither. We got to Andean Life for a our briefing and to be told we would be picked up at 5:30am on Monday morning, you beauty!
One of the two massive Cathedrals on the Plaza de Armas.
We had Sunday to burn which comprised really of very little. We had the intention of doing a week long Spanish course when we returned from the Inca Trail, however after some investigating decided to give that the heave ho as we would be to constrained with time in Bolivia. The exciting part of the day was trying to consume a beast of a cheeseburger (me) and a massive vegetarian pizza (Sarah) at the local Irish Pub.
These were seriously big meals, but we got to watch some ESPN while we struggled through them. Had a fairly early night and the next morning we were off on the Inca trail for 4 days (see the Inca Trail section).
This is one of the famous Inca walls of Cusco. Made famous as the Spanish knocked most of them down when they arrived. This is one remaining.
We arrived back on the train from Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu about 8:30pm, after getting ripped of by the taxi driver from the train station, we got ourselves looking respectable and headed out to the Irish pub to meet the our group from the Inca Trail at the Irish Pub. Our group met there around 10pm and in great style our guide Jimmy turned up smashed with some of his mates. We all headed off to a local night club, which was full of Peruvians who looked like they could eat us if they wanted to, but they all were pretty nice and we had a good night. As we were leaving we were discussing that we hadn`t seen Jimmy for a while and we found him downstairs passed out on couch next to the bouncer, go Jimmy!
With a bit of a hangover, the next day we decided to take it easy as well as gathering our stuff and changing hostels to one of the other side of town in a place called San Blas.
This was no problem, however the sign that read `Hot-water 24 hours` proved to be crap. We spent the majority of the day eating (and telling young kids `no gracias`), the best part being a couple of coffee’s we had in a café down a local hot spot (gringo alley), where the lady produced a different menu from the one we ordered from, she had obviously given us the local’s one by mistake in the first place. After a bit of an argument in Spanglish and us searching through all the menu’s we found the right one and walked out the correct money on the bench.
The Plaza de Armas at night. The two big Cathedrals in view.
We had two more nights in Cusco, both of which were very lazy. The highlights comprised going to check out one of the Cathedrals in the Plaza de Armas and walking directly into a Peruvian wedding, the lonely planet as usual was spot on with opening times! We eventually got kicked out by one the ladies who worked at the church.
That was that sight done though. We made the trip up one of the hills surrounding Cusco to the big statue of Jesus overlooking the main section of the town. It was a nice walk up a lot stairs to get up to him, of which we were both well and truly feeling the effects altitude. Up top there was lots of kids trying to sell us pictures with their Alpacas for 1 sole, too late they were, lots of Llamas and Alpacas at Machu Picchu. The best part of Cusco however was getting down to the local handcraft market and getting me an Alpaca poncho, finally! I’ve been hanging out for ages for one. Sarah also got some jewelry and an alpaca scarf for herself, not quite as exciting as the poncho (for me anyway).
Inside one of the cathedrals, its magnificent.
Cusco was a beautiful place where you could spend a lot of time.
It reminded me kind of a Lygon Street on steroids (for all you Melbournians). Every restaurant you walk by has a man (or woman) out the front doing everything they can (lots of free pisco sours) to persuade you into their restaurant. You cannot afford to stop or you get surrounded by about five of them all from different restaurants.
On the walk up to the Jesus we passed some young Ronaldo`s having a game.
We left Cusco and headed for Puno and Lake Titicaca.