Our flight pattern from Hawaii went like this: Honolulu->Houston->Panama City, Panama (9 hour layover)->Lima, Peru->Cuzco, Peru. Over 36 hours after we left Hawaii, we were in Cuzco! Note: even though it was a really crappy 2 travel days, we can’t complain. We purchased these tickets for 25,000 United miles +$20.
We arrived to Cusco safely, maybe a little ripped off by the cab driver (what’s 10 soles anyway?), and settled into our hostel where we had the next 10 nights booked. Do you know what we did for the next 10 days? NOTHING. And it was great! Jeff is really good at being content staying in one part of a city and not doing anything. Normally I am itching to go see everything because I don’t want to miss out. FOMO is real. But in this case, we had been traveling constantly since we left Cambodia at the end of February, and it was time to slow down.
Of course, we didn’t really just do nothing, or else I would have nothing to write about. We ate a lot that week in Cusco! On our first day in town, we sat down at a little local place and the waitress asked if we wanted menus (in Spanish). I responded ‘si’ (yes). She brought us 2 bowls of soup. My Spanish may be rusty, but it’s not that bad…I had actually ordered 2 menu del dias (menu of the day). The set menu that day was soup, followed by chicken, rice and French fries, with jello for dessert. Both of us ate for $5. During the week, we also tried local delicacies: guinea pig, alpaca, tamales and my favorite- stuffed poblano peppers! Jeff liked the guinea pig (I’ll pass), but give me alpaca any day! (Below: guinea pig, stuffed pepper, alpaca on a stick, alpaca with quinoa salad, chicha fresa (local strawberry beer), lunch with entertainment, and ice cream for dessert! Note: all of this was NOT consumed on the same day. #cheatyear)
We also received a restaurant recommendation from a local, so we checked it out. We showed up for a late lunch and were pleasantly surprised that entertainment accompanied our meal!
On Sunday, we showed up in time for the 9am mass in the city center, but we ended up walking in during communion. We think they were running behind from the previous mass. Anyway, the whole operation seemed like a free-for-all, so we got blessed and quickly returned to the main square where it seemed like a parade was in the making. It ended up being a huge event! Poor Jeff, he’s not a big fan of parades, and I made him sit there for an hour and 20 minutes before we got up. It ended up being a bunch of marching labor unions, military, and random working groups. The best part was at the end, when many cultural groups were dancing!
We never officially found out what we were celebrating, although someone did tell us that they have a military parade every Sunday to raise the flags. The flag of Cusco is the 7 colors of the rainbow. However, we doubt that it is that large every weekend. We think that maybe the even we stumbled upon was for their version of Labor Day, which happened to be the next day. Jeff didn’t think that this guy stood on the back of a truck and jackhammered every Sunday:
Through our hostel, Cusco Packers, we were able to book a few day trips around Cusco in order to see some of the Incan Ruins. We did a long day tour of the Sacred Valley and visited ruins in Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. Of course, on a big bus tour you have to put up with a few stops at handicraft markets, but for $20 each, plus a huge buffet lunch, it was an awesome way to spend a day! Our guide spoke great English, and we learned a lot!
They next day we went on a shorter day trip to the archaeological site of Moray, and the salt ponds in Maras. It was nice to see different ruins and the salt mine, but this tour wasn’t as good as the previous day. It didn’t help that our tour guide spoke poor English (which was ok- especially since we can both understand a little bit of Spanish), but he was point-blank telling us false information- like that the Inkas built the salt mine 400 years before Christ. Um…there weren’t any Inka’s around then…much less in South America. This was not a translation error on his part, he said the exact same thing in Spanish, even when I called him out on it. You win some, you lose some I guess! The scenery was awesome though, and the rain held out so we had perfect weather!
Moray (above) was constructed to worship and celebrate fertility, and is supposedly shaped like an ovary. Again- this from the guide who didn’t know when the Inka’s existed. Take it with a grain of salt… but the Inka’s did construct the terraces all over the place to grow crops. These crop circles grew everything from medicinal plants, to grains and potatoes.
The salt mine is pictured above. The salt water coming from a natural spring in the mountains contains a concentration of salt that is less than ocean water (I tasted it, I can vouch for it), which makes it perfect to collect in small pools after the water evaporates. It is then taken into town and processed for table salt.
During our day tour of Moray and Maras, our driver made the sign of the cross and was visibly praying as he headed down a steep street. I am completely supportive of praying and asking for a blessing, but I do want to know if this is normal, or if we have a legit concern to pray for? Anyway, we made it back into town safely, and spent the rest of the week planning out our 5 weeks in Peru. These are the places we plan to see while we are here: