Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
After we came back from Machu Picchu, we stayed in Cusco at the Hospedaje Recoleta, just about 15min walk away from the historic center, in St Blas district. My friend was staying only one day with us, and we decided to take it easy that day before they left for the airport. We had been pretty much on the go for the last 9 days, so it was exciting for my mom and I to know that we would be staying put in Cusco for another 5 nights afterwards.
On our first day in Cusco, we went to the Artisanal Market to shop for a few last souvenirs and gifts. We were told that the market in Cusco was probably where the prices would be the best (for touristy items mainly). I don’t really buy much anymore when I travel, but my travel partners got crazy with alpaca scarfs and blankets (scarfs for 3-4$ as a gift is a pretty good deal!). Most of the touristy gifts and souvenirs will be the same from city to city, from market to market. The idea is just to walk around and spot a few things you like before buying. The prices are so cheap, I usually don’t try to bargain that much anymore. Instead, I try to buy somewhere where I had a really great service, and where I feel like I am contributing to help the local craft or artist more than the big business. I try to make sure that I buy items made locally as much as possible, if at all possible!
After the artisanal market, we strolled along the Avenida del Sol all the way back to the Plaza de Armas. It was a bit cloudy on our first day, but this is where we usually spent all of our mornings in Cusco. We found comfort getting our morning coffee at Starbucks (West Coaster, I guess… though we didn’t see a Puku Puku in Cusco and Starbucks had great toilets AND decaf for me!) right off the main plaza and walk around shopping for our day tours in the Sacred Valley.
After my friend left for the airport, my mom and I decided to splurge on a nice fancy restaurant for dinner. We were told to try Chicha, 1 block away from the Plaza de Armas, which is a restaurant by Gaston Acurio (same chef as Tanta, the restaurant we tried in Lima). We knew this was going to be an expensive meal but we didn’t really care. We both had a glass of wine and a lovely plate of pastas – this was probably the best meal we’ve had during the entire trip. I also recommend booking ahead of time if possible, as the place gets crowded pretty quickly. In the end though, our total bill was only 50$CAD for 2 including drinks, which I think is pretty reasonable for a fancy expensive restaurant!
Cusco was sick time as well and I had to slow down a bit for the next 2 days. I started feeling a bit sick after having lunch in a small French restaurant off the Avenida del Sol. Unfortunately, something didn’t digest right and I started to get sick later that night. I waited about 12hrs before starting my prescription antibiotics, as I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a small indigestion. Unfortunately, after starting our historic walking tour on our second day in Cusco, I left to go back to bed in the afternoon and getting some rest as I was starting to feel feverish. My mom did great and finished the walking tour on her own with the rest of the group. We met a lot of travelers in Cusco who complained about getting sick in Peru. I also found that a lot of them were not really prepared for it. If you can afford heading to Peru for a while, make yourself a favor and visit a travel clinic – get a prescription for travelers’ diarrhea antibiotics just in case you get sick. Without them, you might be sick up to a week and risk dehydration and exhaustion – which you don’t want down there. I took my antibiotics for 3 days, along with some Gastrolyte/Hydrolyte packs for rehydration, and some Imodiums after 48hrs when I needed to start moving again. I was a bit weak afterwards but this was nothing compared to the sickness I had when I was in San Pedro de Atacama, after my Salar de Uyuni trip back in 2016.
On our 3rd day to Cusco, we were hoping to head out to the Sacred Valley for a day tour. Luckily, I was able to postpone our previously booked tour, as I had been pretty sick and slept all day the day before. Instead, we decided to walk around and maybe jump in one of the City Tour Hop On Buses. We found a tour for 35 soles that was about 3hrs long (turned out more like 4h30) which left at 1230PM. We figured this would be the perfect thing for me, as I didn’t have to walk around much, but we would still be getting on and off the bus at different places and not waste our time doing nothing. To be honest, I don’t really know who we booked this with – We just walked on the Plaza de Armas and asked question to the first person who was selling the tour (they are everywhere, pretty much). We took the tour in Spanish because we didn’t want to wait late that afternoon for the English tour.
We did a few stops to check out some ruins just outside of Cusco (we did not actually go down the bus for these, just a stop by the side of the road as we looked around for a few minutes). We also drove past Saqsaywaman ruins, which were an important part of the citadel back in Inca times. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire in the 1400s, so there is a lot to see in and around the city. You can visit these archeological sites if you would like, however this was not included in our ticket. We kept driving a while all the way to a small animal refuge and rehabilitation center. We took about 40min to visit the area, where the guide explained to us that they take in animals that have been injured or got sick in the wild, and help them get better before releasing them back later (if possible based on their conditions). There were 10 condors present that day, that had been rescued from an older traditional festival where the birds are used for plays and games. It was quite impressive to see them this close. The refuge mainly runs from tourist donations and profits from alpaca products and sales. On our way back, we stopped to attend a traditional ceremony for Pachamama, where a men sang and prayed and blessed us as we donated coca leaves to Mother Earth. We didn’t understand all of it, but it was kind of a cool experience (except when they ask you for tip at the end…! Typical touristy traps!). We did our last short stop at the Cristo Blanco (Statue of Christ), enjoying a nice view of Cusco from the mountains surrounding the city.
That night we decided to eat on a balcony facing the Plaza de Armas, so we tried the Gaston Arcurio pub called Papachos (see a pattern here? We were starting to prefer eating for a bit more money than risking getting sick (again)!) We watched the sunset from the balcony, which was really lovely, however get ready as the temperature drops really quickly once the sun is down.
For our next 2 days, we did day tours to Rainbow Mountain and the Sacred Valley. I will post the details about these very soon! Stay tuned!
Fascinating stuff, Cusco looks well worth a trip. Shame about the food-issues but I guess that’s one of the traveller risks. Not too bad though thankfully. Looks a very colourful friendly sort of place.
Nicely written travel report. And dito pics:). Peru, bucket list stuff:). Cheers Stef