Incans and Alpacas: Cusco, Peru

cusco peru
Plaza de Armas at night

From Huaraz we took a an overnight bus ride back down to Lima; it was much faster going down at night, especially because we were able to have big comfy seats and sleep for most of it. Before leaving we were able to pick up some sort of herbal sleeping pills that had catnip in them for real cheap. They sure worked wonders on that bus trip!

We woke up in Lima, caught a cab to the airport before flying to Cuzco. It takes almost 24 hours to take the bus there, but the flight was only an hour. Once in Cuzco, we bartered down a cheap cab to our hostel, Pariwana hostel, which was about a 5 minute walk from the main square. It was in a really neat building, a sixteenth century Spanish style colonial house, with a beautiful internal patio with cool archways. We walked downtown and had lunch on the balcony of a cool restaurant and sipped on pisco sours for the first time, yum! Pisco is a Peruvian liquor distilled from grapes, and in the typical drink it is made with lemons, egg whites, simple syrup and bitters. I was worried about drinking something with egg whites in a developing country, but it didn’t make me sick at all.

Phew! I took a nap and we went out later for coffee and hung around the Plaza de Armas or the main square as the sun set. I loved the main square. It was so beautiful with all its colonial architecture, mini-balconies, the gardens with a big fountain in the middle with children running around it, trying to get you to buy random trinkets. In the background is the cathedral and the university, with small side streets leading away from the square up into the foothills. At the top of one the hills sits a huge white cross, watching over the city. We then went in search of a restaurant recommended by the trusty lonely planet, where we had alpaca for the first time. I crashed that night in the super comfy bed in the hostel, especially compared to the hard bed in Huaraz with its pillows filled with rocks. yuck.

cusco peru

The next morning we got up and walked to the big covered local market a few blocks away. We found a few stalls that sold local chocolate and coffee, which we bought for gifts and such. The chocolate I bought never made it as gifts unfortunately. It was very tasty, not as refined or processed as chocolate in the states-you could see the chunks of sugar, but it was delicious nonetheless. We then went inside the market. There was anything you could ever need. There were aisles of textiles and clothing, fruit and vegetable stands, lots of potatoes, and then the meat aisle. It was obviously freshly slaughtered and hanging on big hooks out in the heat.

Lets just say it smelled almost as bad as it looked. Same goes for the fish aisle. We left those aisles real quick and went to the juice aisle. There are all these fruit stands lined up next to each other with women who call out to everyone passing by to see if they want to buy fresh juice for less than a dollar. We stopped at one, and she chopped up several kinds of fruit in front of us, threw it in a blender, strained it and poured us each a glass. It was so delicious! It was warm and thick almost like a smoothie. I wanted to snap some photos, and when I took my camera out a bunch of kids ran up to me asking me to take their pics. It was really cute!

cusco peru

cusco peru
Me drinking one of the best fruit smoothies ever in the market!

So there wasn’t room for us in the hostel that night so we went in search of another place to stay. Since there were no tourists in Cuzco, we had heard that the nice hotels were giving big discounts, so we walked into one of the nice hotels in the main square, where we were able to finagle a room for 20 dollars a night. Lets just say it was pretty nice! We went back to the main square, grabbed more cafe con leche as usual to keep us going, before heading into the cathedral-la catedral de santo domingo.

It was interesting to me, after having seen so many cathedrals while living in Europe, to see one in South America. It was the same traditional style but on a smaller scale with much less ornate richness built in 1654. There is a really neat painting there that depicts the huge earthquake from 1650, el señor de los temblores, the oldest painting in Cuzco. Afterwards, we wandered into an artisan market in the square where we haggled prices to get some amazing souvenirs.

We also stopped in McDonald’s to grab a quick cheeseburger as a reminder of home. We got ready and went out in search of dinner. We went to a really nice restaurant that served an amazing meal with a live performance of traditional dancing and music. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip. We then went out and ended up at an amazing dance club. It was intimidating when we walked in because everyone was up dancing salsa and very latino style of dances. Eventually after a few drinks, they started playing techno and more typical club music. We danced and had fun before heading back to the hotel and crashing. Pretty good night.

cusco peru
Traditional dancing in Cuzco

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