After one short evening in Lima, we caught a flight to Cusco.
We didn’t mean to spend quite so much time lounging and wandering about in Cusco, really. But when you’re in the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu is closed due to mudslides, you plan for other hikes and spend time celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
In general, we were all left with really great impressions of the city. Yeah, it’s too touristy and not as authentic as it could be. It’s definitely on the Gringo Trail, but for good reason. There is an indigenous spirit, and even though much seems to be done for tourists, most of these tourists are coming to learn more about one of South America’s most well-known indigenous cultures, so there is an honest respect for heritage (at least in well-intentioned part). It’s charming and the scenery is amazing. The city has a nomad/hippie/backpacker vibe, which put even the ever-planning traveler (that’d be me…) at ease. Our main trip plans had already been changed and you really can’t help but go with the flow in a place like Cusco.
We didn’t do anything besides meander, eat and adjust the first day. Cusco’s elevation is extremely high and we were trying to give our bodies a bit of adjustment time. The hostel even offered coca tea to help with the acclimation.
Speaking of the hostel, we stayed at the same place both the first and the second times that we were in the city. Our rooms were different each time, but both were comfortable 3-person options. The place was clean, the breakfast was good and the staff were cheery.
A lot of our time was spent wandering around markets. Our Spanish was, well, así, así, so bargaining wasn’t exactly our strength. Still, we loved looking at all of artisan crafts.
More than shopping, more than eating, more than lounging in the amazing town square, I enjoyed seeing the architecture of the city. (Wait?! Did I say I enjoyed something more than eating?! I’m checking my temperature right now). To me, Cusco will be forever known as the city with beautiful blue doors. The stone from the Incas still remain and are even worked into the modern buildings. It’s really a remarkable city to see.
Okay, maybe I enjoyed the food just as much. I mean, I had an alpaca steak. I don’t know if that’s a good thing to do, but it tasted mindblowingly good. One of us did order the obligatory tourist meal: cuy or guinea pig. And there was a traditional chicken soup in there. There were also a couple fancy beverages that made their ways into our meal plans.
The food in this city is good. The drinks flow. And the wandering is great. But when you’re tired, want to sit, and want to save money, there’s still a perfect place for you. Find your bench or your corner of the plaza and see what the city has in store for you.
Yes, we tourists paid for our picture with this guy.
Yeah, we could have hurried and tried to fill our travel itineraries with side trips and excursions to make up for our Machu Picchu disappointment. And I’m guessing I’ll be bitter every time someone talks about Machu Picchu (until the day I actually see it). But there was something so right about taking our time in Cusco. For one, we got lots of down time to hang out with Jordan’s sister, Emilee–something that is rare for us. For another, we actually got a vacation that felt, at least for a couple days, a little like an actual vacation.