Cusco, Peru

Trip Start Jun 10, 2012
Trip End Aug 17, 2013

Flag of Peru  ,
Monday, November 26, 2012

We spent around 2 and a half weeks in Cusco, Peru. We stayed at the Torre Dorada hotel the whole time. It was a nice hotel, but on the very edge of Cusco. We actually got free transports to wherever we wanted every day though, so that wasn't such a problem. The first ten days, we explored the city and visited lots of ruins and museums. Then for four days, we hiked the Inca trail up to Machu Picchu.

The first couple days in Peru I got pretty sick. I went through a very sudden altitude change, from the coast in Florida to high in the Andes (11,400 feet high actually). I found it hard to breathe, and I was naucious. I acclimated soon though, with the help of some coca leaf tea. There was actually coca everything in Peru. Coca tea, coca candy, coca chocolate, and just plain coca leaves to chew on (just to be clear, coca isn't cocaine. It's perfectly legal!). We chewed on the leaves on our hike on the Inca trail. They helped with altitude sickness.

The first museum we went to was the Museo de Inka. It had lots of cultural Inca things, and also real mummies. They were mostly decayed, sitting in a fetal position with gaping mouths and open eye sockets. I thought they looked really creepy, especially in the dark red light they were under. We also walked around town. Cusco is a cute city, and reminded me of Antigua, Guatemala. It had cobblestone streets and a central park with a fountain. Like Guatemala, Peru was also taken over by the Spaniards. So pretty much all of churches had the same names as the ones in Antigua. Cusco is largely built on Inca ruins. The Incas built their buildings so well, they have lasted thousands of years. You will see that the bottom of most buildings is original Inca stones, then the top is whatever else normal buildings are made of.

We went on two city tours during our time in Peru. In our first tour, we visited six places. We first went to a beautiful cathedral in Cusco. There was carved wood and silver everywhere. Then we also went to another building, which was a convent. In the Inca time, it used to be the Qoricancha, the Temple of the Sun. It was then taken by the Spanish and converted to Santo Domingo Convent. We also went to many ruins. The first was called Qenqo. It was fairly small, with just many large boulders and a sort-of cave. Then we went to Sacsayhuaman (pronounced "sexy woman"). There were tons of huge, heavy stones there. Most of them were left because they were too heavy for the Spanish to carry away. In Sacsayhuaman, there was the heaviest Inca stone recorded, between 130 to 200 tons, and also the tallest, which was about 30 feet tall! A lot of it was underground, though. It amazes me how the Incas were able to carve and carry them. After Sacsayhuaman, we drove by Puca Pucara, which was sort of a military building for the Incas. The stones that made the building there were small and packed with some natural mortar. The last place we visited on the tour was called Tambomachay. It was the highest altitude we had been so far, around 3765 meters. You could tell it was a higher altitude because it was a lot colder there.

Most of our time in Peru, we just got caught up on school. We were pretty behind from all of the days just visiting museums. I didn't quite get caught up on school in Peru, but was then home for awhile when I could. I kept getting bored and distracted from school, though. It's hard being alone for your classes. The day after our first tour, we also went for a jog. We were trying to build up red blood cells and become fully adjusted to the altitude.

On our second tour, we went into the Sacred Valley of the Inca. We first went to Pisaq. It had lots of terraces, but was also a huge cemetery. There were small holes cut into the mountains everywhere for mummies to be stuck in fetal position. The Incas mummified everyone. There was also a huge Pisaq market, but we didn't stay for long. They had tons of sweaters and hats made out of alpaca fur. Peru is known for all of its alpacas. In a different, smaller market, I actually got an alpaca fur hat. The fur traps in heat in the cold, and I brought it with on my hike to Machu Picchu. After Pisaq we went to Uramba for lunch, then to Ollantaytambo. There were tons of terraces in the ruins there. On the mountain, there were also drying areas for the corn built by the Incas, and a natural formation that looked like an old man. We then went to Chinchero, our last stop of the ruins. It was another site with some terraces and Inca walls.

The day after that, we went to a cultural dance. The music was played with fiddles and flutes, and reminded me of American pioneer music. We took a bus tour around Cusco. It was like a Big Bus tour in London. We went to the top of the hill above Cusco, and we could see the whole city. We could even see the large letters carved in the mountainside, "Viva el Peru". There was also a big statue of Jesus at the top of hill, that was lit up at night.

When we had a briefing for the Inca trail, we got t-shirts that say "I survived the Inca Trail". We couldn't wear them yet though. They told us about the hike and warned us about how hard day two would be. They also talked about how we would walk down for hours on the third day, and that it would be best to get walking sticks. We bought some the next day. They turned out to be a huge help on the Inca trail later.
My mom and I walked around one day and went to a "restaurant." This restaurant was something we read reviews about online, and it sounded great. It was really just a grimy little hole in the wall where you ordered food, then sat on dirty stools and ate on planks of wood attached to the wall. But the food was absolutely amazing! The little "restaurant" was called Prosada Veggie Food, and they only sold vegetarian food. They made their own veggie burgers and everything. They were super cheap, too. I had the best veggie burger ever there. We went there twice, another time with Soph. And of course we also completed our best veggie burgers ever with the best cupcakes ever. Encantasqa was right across the street, and was a restaurant that sold the most amazing chocolate cupcakes. They were warm, and chocolatey, and I can't really describe them but they were so good.

We went to another museum, called the Qoricancha Site Museum. It was right under the Santo Domingo convent, and was sort of small. It had more creepy mummies, though. Another museum we went to was the Museum of Popular Art. It was huge, with all sorts of interesting paintings and sculptures. Then we went to another art museum, of contemporary art. Another museum we visited was the Museum of Regional History. I think we visited just about every museum in Cusco! Another good vegetarian place is called Greens. We went there a few times during our stay in Cusco. It was expensive for Peru, but had good veggie food. Another thing I like about Peru is all of the quinoa. They grow it everywhere there, and I love it.
On December 7, we left for our hike of the Inca trail!! It was fun and absolutely amazing, so read my separate entry about it!

When we got back from the trek, we got hot stone massages. They were 20 soles, which is about $6 for an hour. We saw reviews online for an Italian restaurant called Roma Mia, so we tried it out. They had great pizza there, and it was handmade then baked over a fire.
We left Peru on the 13th. Then we were home for Christmas and New Years, until January 7th. That's when we left for our cruise to Antarctica!

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swatts on

This trip sounds amazing so far (I've only read the first entry)! I am debating on going to Peru this summer to finish my Spanish minor so it is great to read about your experience to learn a little more about the area.

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