In April 2011, Drew and I ventured to Peru to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary!
Since we only had two weeks, we wasted no time in flying out of Lima and over to Cusco, the famous former Incan capital. I had no idea what to expect, but was so excited when we arrived in this bustling city with old world charm. Narrow cobblestone streets, Spanish influenced architecture built sometimes upon original Incan stones that are masterfully pieced together.
Cusco is definitely a crowded city. So many Peruvians move here from other parts of the country, and a lot of foreigners have fallen in love with this town and taken up residence here as well. Besides your own two feet, taxis are the best way of getting around. But with all the traffic, we easily walked everywhere, unless our destination was FAR away. (Note the white Ferrari taxi!)
On half of our stay, Drew and I stayed at Second Home Cusco. If you ever go to Cusco, I highly recommend staying here if you can get one of the bigger rooms. Carlos, the owner, and ALL of his staff are truly some of the nicest and most accommodating people we’ve ever met! When we had to leave for our trek one morning at 4am, Raul got up at 3am to make us breakfast before we left!
When we arrived, the first thing we were offered was coca tea. Not so we can get a big rush (though that would’ve been nice), but so we could acclimate to the high altitude of Cusco which sits at almost 11,000ft. Altitude sickness is sometimes a problem here for newcomers, and the coca tea really helps.
The other was the giant Puma fireplace made by Carlos’ father, Victor Delfin -a famous Peruvian artist. And for those who like trivial knowledge, the city of Cusco was laid out in the shape of a Puma, which created some debate between me and Drew about whether we were staying near the head or the butt!
Once we got settled, we did some wandering around town. As much as I love this city, it was a bit annoying being constantly bombarded with vendors asking if we wanted to buy this or that or get a massage. Thank goodness we stayed in the San Blas neighborhood, which is a bit away from the main square. No harassment issues there. First thing Drew did though was buy a beanie from a lady who has a little shop near our B&B. I liked her pigtails tied in the back.
Around the main square, there are plenty of little girls and women dressed in traditional Cusqueno outfits holding baby llamas or lambs asking if you’d like to take a picture with them. Of course, on Day 1, I happily said yes! I asked them how much and the older girl said, “However much you want to pay.” So I asked Drew for the change he had in his pocket and showed it to her, asking her if this was enough. She said yes. I took one picture of them, and the girl then asked me to come into the picture with them. I said ok and gave Drew the camera. After we took the second picture, both their smiles turned upside down and they started to tell me that that wasn’t enough money I gave them. Being a former teacher, I told them that they should have told me that in the first place and that it wasn’t nice to trick people like that. “Next time you need to tell people how much you want, and they will pay you that much for the picture, ok?.” I walked away and the little one started chasing after me!
Aside from the aggressive vendors, Cusco is a wonderful town to explore. At times you can see amazing pieces of history as you’re walking. Incan walls, with the stones cut to fit perfectly with no need for mortar. These people were geniuses!
A delicacy for Cusquenos is guinea pig. Yes, the dear, sweet furry animal we know as pets here in the States is made into a dish to be eaten on special occasions in Cusco. There were a few restaurants in Cusco serving this for tourists, so we had to try it. Sorry PETA and guinea pig owners out there!
In 1650, a massive earthquake struck Cusco, and reportedly, a few Cusquenos decided to haul the statue of this black Jesus out, and the earthquake stopped. From then on, he has become known as Lord of Earthquakes and believed to protect Cusco from any future tremors. Now on Easter Monday, he is paraded around the plaza with people throwing red petals on him.
The celebration is huge and apparently lasts well into the night. We apparently had no idea how big it was because we took a nap in the evening. When we headed back out later that night, we saw tons of people out. Oh well, you snooze you lose kids.
After spending two days in Cusco, Drew and I ventured on a four day trek (turned two day) through Lares Valley. We should have spent one more day in Cusco though to acclimate, but more on that trip under the Lares Valley Trek, Peru. =)
After our trek got cut short, we had a couple of extra days to hang around Cusco. Arturo, our trek guide from Apus Peru, offered to take us around town for a bit since he was free. We had lunch with him and his girlfriend (who I tried to converse with in Spanish -I’m sure we only understood about half of what each other were saying, but smiles, nods, and confused looks go a long way.) They took us to the San Pedro market where Cusquenos go to get their fresh meats, breads, and produce. This indoor market was huge, and it was awesome. Every aisle had a theme. The fruit aisle, the grain aisle, the meat aisle, the baked goods aisle, etc. We’re big fruit lovers and bought a ton from this aisle.
The two images on the right are of a shaman booth with healing plants and concoctions. Too bad the booth owner wasn’t around so I could (or more likely Arturo) ask them about all the different plants and their healing properties. That stuff fascinates me.
After roaming through the market, we went to grab mango shakes (the fruit shakes here kicks Jamba out of the park) and then exchanged warm good-byes with Arturo and his girlfriend. If you’re looking for a good place to eat in Cusco, head to Cicciolina for some amazing food and great Pisco Sours, the Peruvian national drink. YUM!