Back in Cusco

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Backpacker Bright Hostel

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our first full day back in Cusco was a bit of a write-off. The two girls were pretty useless as they had stinking hangovers. It took us ages to get them moving and we finally got out of the hostel at about 2pm. We went straight to Jack's café which is known for its good western food and all ordered the double hangover. After working our way through those we wandered around town for a little but then had to head back home as Liz and Lucy were not faring well. We even went so far as to get McDonalds takeaway that evening and while the girls slept I gave Dunka a good beating in scrabble.

The next day we headed to Pisac, one of the Incan sites of the Sacred Valley. We were pretty slow moving once again and didn’t make it to Pisac until about 1pm. We grabbed a menu del dia in the village and headed up the hill towards the remains. We didn’t really know what we were coming to see and were very impressed as we kept finding more and more buildings and terraces as we climbed higher and further into the hills. We did leave it a bit too long before turning back for town and even though we went fairly quickly back had to do the last half hour in pretty poor light and only just made it back to town before dark. That night we took Lucy and Donn to what was fast becoming our local pizzeria in Cusco (3rd time for us!). May sound excessive but it does the best pizza we’ve found on our trip.  Think they liked it too!

We finished our Inca education with a trip to Ollantaytambo, the second most visited Inca site after Machu Picchu.  Obviously we were late again! The hostel we had stayed in for our 9 nights in Cusco was full when we tried to extend one more day so we had to move for our last night.  We booked something but when we arrived they didn’t have our booking.  After some faffing they were able to accommodate us but it was quite late when we eventually got in the bus to Ollantaytambo.  Totally someone else’s fault this time!  It’s an hour and a half drive to the town, and after we had some food it was 3pm again before we started exploring.  It wasn’t anywhere near as impressive as Pisac though and given the number of tourists there was actually a queue to climb up onto the ruins which ruins it somewhat.  I think we were all a little Inca’d out by then because we stopped every 2 steps to have a chat about something completely unrelated and then moved on another couple of steps.  The Inca’s built some extremely impressive walls and their constructions into the mountains are stunning, but I think this was one site too much for us.  We headed back down into town quite quickly and went back to our lunch spot for some coffee and cake.  Far more exciting! By the time we got back to Cusco it was quite late and we decided to be adventurous and head to the Irish pub, Paddy’s.  For some reason we were all wrecked though and it was tough just to finish one drink! We ordered another one though just so Donn and Lucy could surprise Kevin with a birthday present from people at home.  On the way home Kevin and Donnchadh tried to convince Lucy and me to get involved in a game of 4-way scrabble which we politely refused.  I think they were a little disappointed!                                                                                    

We were up and out surprisingly quickly the next morning, not just because we had to check out but because Lucy had found out about the Choco museum and the 2 chocoholics (Lucy and Liz) had booked us in for a chocolate making course. No way would they be late for that! The course was good fun. It started with a bit of info about the coco tree and types of beans and stuff but before that we all donned our aprons so we really looked the part. The first step we actually did was roasting the beans. Everyone had a go stirring which took a while with 13 people in the group. Next we had to peel the husks from each of the beans. A pretty labour intensive process to be honest. We then used the husks to make cocoa tea which tastes like very weak hot chocolate but is pretty tasty. Next we were each given a mortar and pestle and had to grind a handful of beans into a cocoa paste. We were then shown how the Mayans first used chocolate as a drink. They mixed it with water and sugar and then in order to mix it and create froth they poured it back and forth between jugs from as much of a height as they could. We were all given a go to try which lead to plenty of the mixture all over the countertop and definitely put the aprons to good use. After that we had a go at making the drink the Spanish created when they arrived on the continent, replacing the water with milk and adding some cinnamon and cloves. Obviously they didn’t want to get any on their nice shiny armour so instead of poring back and forth to mix and froth they invented a little mixing stick which we all had a go of using. Less fun but definitely cleaner. We were all wondering when we would get on to making chocolate as we know  it, when in a bit of a disappointing Blue Peter moment our 'guide’ quickly explained how it was done and then produced a bowl of melted chocolate from the kitchen for each of us! We did get to pour it into our own moulds and add our own ingredients from nuts and marshmallows, to salt and chilli, but not getting to make and melt the mix was a bit of a let-down. We left our bars and bits to harden in the fridge and headed back to Jack’s for a big feed before our night bus to Nazca.

That night we finally left Cusco which was starting to feel a bit like home for us. It’s the longest we’ve spent in one place so far on the trip but it definitely kept us entertained. If you can get there for Inti Raymi it’s definitely a lot of fun, even though the place is pretty packed. And all the ‘local’ tourists in town make it feel a lot more authentic than when it’s just full of white faces.
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