It was just not my traveling day. We were flying to Arequipa through Lima (so it would be our third out of five times in the Lima airport) and at the airport in Cusco, I beeped red through the metal detectors and they ransacked my bag because I accidentally packed an aerosol can of bug spray in my carry on. All this while Daniela and the TACA attendant were yelling at me to hurry because the plane was waiting for us since the airline bumped us up to an earlier flight. As if I wanted to hang out with security. Continue reading Cusco to Arequipa: travel hell
There are so many cool scenes in Cusco, I had to add one last post with some random images. So, enjoy!
Our first tourist stop on Monday was the Museo Inka. As promised, the museum itself is nothing fancy but there was some good info about the various indigenous cultures of Peru. It was cool to learn about all the cultures that came before the Inca even:
- The Paraca tribe made beautiful woven funeral cloths
- The Pukara would include feline faces on their pottery and art
- The Mochika had 11 different colors they used in painting pottery
- The Nazca, while famous for their lines, also made really beautiful pottery with many colors and in lots of animal forms, even mythical creatures
- The Wari tribe, which took over Cusco for awhile, also included feline faces in their art, complete with colorful eyes
- Of course the highlight for me was seeing the Inca mummies, still very well intact
It was interesting to finally see cats represented. Most ancient cultures seem to have recognized something spiritual or significant in felines, but I hadn’t heard or seen too much of that in Peru until now. There are definitely a lot of dogs around town, but barely any cats.
After lunch, we went up by the San Blas neighborhood to see the Iglesia de San Blas. It was a very simple church, but known for its intricately carved wooden pulpit, complete with human skull! We also took advantage of San Blas’ unique shops and galleries to do some shopping. Continuing our souvenir shopping closer to Plaza de Armas, I officially topped myself in buying the most ridiculous souvenir ever by spending too much money on an antique iron that weighs probably 20 lbs. I also finally got a photo with a little lamb!
That night, we had dinner at Chicha, a restaurant of famed chef Gaston Acurio. Considering all the hype, the rest of the group was disappointed in the food. I felt it was simple but good. The tamales appetizer and pumpkin ravioli I ordered were pretty much what I expected so overall I was happy with the dinner, although it didn’t necessarily blow my mind. I’ll admit that the ambiance definitely didn’t compare to Fallen Angel.
Now back in Cusco, we attempted to actually see the sights. We got off to a slow start though, because our first stop, the Inca Museum, was closed. So we walked around town and ended up at the Chocolate Museum. Which is really a coffee shop with some info about cacao in Peru and a few souvenirs. But admission is free, so it wasn’t a bad stop. I did actually learn a little about cocoa production and history. I also learned that Poland is one of the biggest consumers of chocolate (of course not compared to the US). And of course we bought some souvenirs. There was a complimentary cup of really cool tea they gave us that tasted like chocolate even though it was tea, so I bought a bag of that.
Then we walked past the church and convent of Santa Clara, which sounds really cool with mirrors covering the interior, but it’s barely ever open and indeed was closed now.
So we did what we do best – shopping – at the Mercado San Pedro. And I finally got to eat choclo! Continue reading Back in Cusco: La Catedral, Mercado San Pedro & Qorikancha
Our tour guide from Q’ente, Alex, picked us up bright and early at 6 am today so we could drive the 3 hours to where we’d start hiking.
It was a really beautiful drive, I wish I could’ve stopped every five minutes to take a photo. But we couldn’t. At one point, we saw a bunch of young school kids coming back from class, walking up this green hill with their uniforms on, all in a straight row, just headed towards one of the little houses. It was sunny, but there was still a slight mist in the air, and it was just such a memorable snapshot of a scene. Then, I saw this chicken just standing on top of a pile of wood logs in one of the yards we passed. Just hanging out. It would have also been a cool photo.
Before we even got to our starting spot for the hike, we had to pull over the van and I had my first peeing in the Peruvian wilderness experience. Well, it was more like peeing on the side of a Peruvian mountain road behind some rocks. TMI again?
Today was a typical day of shenanigans.
First, we went by Q’ente to meet our tour guide for the five-day hike towards Machu Picchu. I think he was mildly alarmed at how ill-prepared we were for the hike.
Then, we went to a nearby panaderia in the San Blas neighborhood run by monks (or maybe nuns baked the bread, I forget exactly) to stuff our faces with empanadas and pastries.
Next up, we went by Hotel Marqueses to confirm our reservation. Of course, they messed it up, so the next several hours were spent walking all over Cusco, looking for another hotel for when we return from the hike. We literally just walked around from one hotel to another, asking for availability, rates and to see a sample room. At one point it started raining cats and dogs — or guinea pigs and llamas — so Daniela abandoned the search while we continued on. At least we got to see a lot of the city since we pretty much walked from one end to the other. And in the end we found a decent hotel that gave us a good discount. But I was truly devastated that things didn’t work out with Hotel Marqueses, because it looked like such a beautiful hotel!
After walking around Cusco for hours, Ben had the brilliant idea to precede our five-day hike with a hike up to see the Big White Jesus statue overlooking the city. And for some reason, I agreed to go even though I was wearing a skirt and my brown boots – hardly appropriate hiking apparel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the very top because 90% of the way up, the stone steps turn into a narrow, steep dirt path. It was just not gonna happen. So close, yet so far away. So Ben and Adrian continued without me — but with the random dog that accompanied us literally the entire way and back.
Speaking of dogs, I feel like all the dogs in Cusco (Peru?) are “stray” dogs…maybe not stray, but street dogs I guess. I can’t decide if it’s sad or good that they roam around on their own. They’re kind of on their own, but then again they have all the freedom to go where they want and probably know the city and nearby mountains pretty well. Plus, they have each other to hang out with. So who knows which lifestyle a dog prefers. And yes, I just wrote all that philosophizing about the lives of dogs.
Anyways… after our mini-hike we grabbed dinner at the Plaza de Armas. I had Aji de Gallina, which is chicken in a yellow cheesy sauce and is apparently a traditional Peruvian dish. It was really good, but let me warn you…do not eat this unless you are near a bathroom! (TMI?)
Apparently, I forgot what a normal plane was supposed to look like after flying Spirit, because as soon as we stepped onto our Taca flight this morning from Lima to Cusco, we felt immediately spoiled. Clean seats, actual leg room, TVs – they even fed us! Hello, chicken empanadas.
Unfortunately, that didn’t change the fact that we flew through tons of turbulence. I was the one furiously tightening my seat belt and gripping the hand rests.
Ben tried to comfort me by pointing out the window that things were shaking because we were flying through clouds and mountains. Great, thanks for pointing out that if something goes wrong we have plenty of solid mountains to crash into.
The view was quite pretty, though. There were just so many mountains and the looked ancient – simple, empty, and this green-gold color. You can’t help but wonder how people have lived in these mountains for centuries.
And there were just so many mountains, I started to wonder where we were even going to land. Well, sure enough, the pilot had to make a super tight turn as we plunged towards Cusco so we could land in a tiny valley. It was rough. The landing strip literally runs right through a small town. Very little room for error!
But Cusco is really nice. A relatively small, walkable town with cobblestone roads, narrow streets and colonial architecture. It seems like all the restaurants are on the second floor of the short buildings, so each has a beautiful, decorative balcony.
The altitude is kind of a bitch, though (yes, I know, I’m so eloquent). I feel ok, but I have a little headache and definitely some shortness of breath. I feel bad for Daniela though, because she really feels sick and has been laying in bed and puking all day. Luckily, she got some altitude sickness pills from her doctor before the trip. For now, I’m just relying on the coca leaf tea to work its magic.