October 2008: I couldn’t bear the thought of another 3 day bus journey.
We checked out of the hotel and Ellie, myself and Evelyn (Dutch
girl from the Inca Trail) headed to Loki hostel, as we had a few nights left in
Cusco before we needed to go to Chile
for our flight to Fiji.
We still had weary legs from the trek
and weren’t sure where the hostel was, so decided to catch a cab and thank god
we did - the hostel was on a really steep hill with an infinity of concrete
steps leading up to it.Disappointingly,
there were no beds available but they told us we could leave our rucksacks and
come back at 1pm as some beds may be free then after people had finished
checking out. We went to an internet café a few doors down, as we needed to
work out our 3 and a half day bus journey to Santiago
in Chile, for our flight to Fiji on Friday.
The more I thought about another long bus journey, the more it made me feel
sick. We couldn’t afford to fly, I was still tired from the Inca Trail and
after the horrific 3 day bus journey from Lima I wasn’t sure how much more of
South American buses I could handle.
We decided the best thing to do was to skip Fiji and spend 2 more weeks in South
America. However, when we called there was only one seat available
on the 3rd November and no other seats until 15th
November. Previously, we’d been told the 8th was available, but
these seats had gone and now we really didn’t know what to do. I said Ellie
should take the seat on the 3rd as she’d never been to Fiji and I
could be waitlisted, as I’d already been to Fiji and was thinking about working
at an orphanage in Peru which James (we’d met in Buenos Aires) had told me
about. Just as we were sat in the internet cafe organising all of this, who
should walk past the door but James! We had no idea we were going to be in Cusco at the same time and told us he was staying in the
Back at the hostel they told us they had a room for us and checked
us in. This was definitely the best hostel we’d stayed in so far. It was a
huge, old building overlooking a lovely courtyard with hammocks and a bar with
fabulous views over Cusco city. It had been
set up by a group of backpackers who clearly knew what makes a fanbloodytastic
hostel and was now one of three Loki hostels in South
America. It was really clean (there were people cleaning
everywhere), with hot, powerful showers and large beds with proper duvets –
it’s things like this which you really learn to appreciate as a traveler. There
were also huge storage lockers under our beds, a late check out of 1pm, free
tea and coffee, good cheap food (the homemade soup and chicken sandwich was
delicious!) and it was an excellent location close to the centre.
With our accommodation sorted, we went to have a look around one
of the many artisan markets – which is pretty much what we every day in Cusco! There were so many stalls selling piles of
colourful alpaca scarves, hats, gloves, socks, jumpers, jewelry and we weren’t
quite sure where to start?! Afterwards, we had a wander around the city to take
a look at its impressive colonial buildings which the Spanish had built on the
solid remains of Inca temples and palaces, as well as the 12-sided Inca stone
which demonstrates the unbelievable craftsmanship of the Incas.
Cusco is a bustling
tourist city, awash with excellent restaurants, lively nightlife and streets
and streets of shops selling all sorts of alpaca goods. There’s a beautiful
cathedral on the main square and lots of people in traditional Peruvian dress selling
everything from chica (maize beer) to paintings. One girl even had a lamb
dressed up and you could pay to take a photo of her and her lamb in their
traditional clothing. One thing you’re always aware of in Cusco,
is that the city is at a 3,500m altitude so you soon get out of breath,
especially climbing those steep steps to the hostel. The weather is bright and
sunny in the day (you need sunblock as you’re at a high altitude) but drops
quite a lot at night. All of which make Cusco
a very unique city and I loved everything about it (apart from the grilled
That evening, we arranged to meet up with James and his friends,
as well as our guides, Ozzie, Luis, and the Swedish couple from the Inca Trail.
On other traveller’s recommendations, we went to Jack’s cafe (a cafe run by an
Australian woman which serves ridiculously large portions of good food and
delicious fresh juices). It really didn’t feel like we were in Peru as we
tucked into our nachos and thick-cut sandwiches, and similarly as we headed to
a London-inspired bar called the Subway. I began to make my way through the
cocktail list – the pisco sours were awful, (the boys hadn’t tried them before
and these were a very poor example), the strawberry daiquiris were excellent,
but by 11pm we were all shattered and headed back to the hostel to bed – that
altitude really affects you you know.
October: more market shopping!
We spent the morning chilling at the hostel – it was such a
relaxed hostel and so nice to be staying in one place for a few days as we hadn’t
stopped since we’d left Buenos Aires.
After lunch, we did more market mooching and I fuelled the Peruvian economy by
stocking up on a truckload of alpaca goods to send home - all at a very
reasonable, bartered price. That evening, we did the hostel quiz – which the
boys took very seriously indeed. I wasn’t much help (my general knowledge is terrible),
but thought we were on a roll, as we won every round until the final one, when
we lost and ended up coming second overall. If only they'd listened to Ellie
when she told them Cuba was
the biggest Caribbean island and not the Dominican Republic…
October: roasted guinea pig at the black market.
We went to the local black market with Jon (a guy we’d met in Brazil and
bumped into at the hostel). The black market had everything from electronics to
fake sportswear, naff toys and roasted guinea pig – teeth and all! Lllama
steaks and roasted guinea pig were the local delicacies, and Ellie joked that
the McDonalds on the plaza probably sold McLlama burger and McGuinea pig
nuggets, haha! Our appetites somewhat numbed, we didn’t buy anything to eat
from the grooty food stalls, but treated ourselves to a pair of pumps (it
wasn’t really warm enough for flip-flops and we were getting a few funny looks)
and some memory sticks to download our hundreds of photographs onto (my memory
stick was faulty, so I had to take it back and the guy spoke not a word of
English. It was a difficult task, but eventually he miserably exchanged it –
giving me a new one and putting the dodgy one back in the box to be sold
again!). That night we met up with the Swedish couple and Evelyn and had dinner
at a fantastic organic restaurant called Greens – the cuisine (apart from the
guinea pig) in Cusco is bloody excellent!
October: the mad hatter’s hat party.
We’d bought that many alpaca goods, we probably could have set our
own market stall up and decided to send it all home. The post office was rather
disorganised and the lady spoke very little (if any!) English. So I packed my
parcel up and kissed it goodbye, unconvinced it would actually make the UK – at least
in the next 2 months as it was supposed to (it actually turned up 3 weeks later
much to my disbelief and relief! So my early xmas presents were very early
That night there was a mad hatter’s hat party at the hostel with a
competition for the best hat. There was a table set up with loads of stuff on
to make your own creation, and as the evening wore on, and the drinks kicked
in, the hats got more and more ridiculous. We were too busy making the most of
the 2 for 1 happy hour drinking Inca cola and vodkas, and only decided to make
a hat 2 minutes before the competition was judged, hence, we didn’t win L
The hat party finished about 1pm and we headed to Mama Africas – a
small club on the plaza. Poor Will had to leave early, it was the boys last day
in Cusco, they had climbed Machu Pichu that day and when they got to the top
poor Will put his rucksack down and accidentally knocked it off Machu Pichu
mountain, with his ipod, raybans, credit card and… passport in! There was
nothing they could do other than watch horrified as it disappeared down the
mountainside. Their guide said their was no way they could retrieve it (I
envisaged some bear bopping around with Will’s ipod and raybans on) so he had to
get an early morning flight to Lima to get another passport issued as he was
due to fly to New Zealand a few days later, what a NIGHTMARE!
The club was good fun and we met up with Melly, who owns the
Milhouse hostel in Buenos Aires.
She was on a trip to Cusco on her own and recognised
us from when we stayed at her hostel (she's currently opening another hostel in
BA and said if we ever need a job to go and see her, so there's an
opportunity!). The club was banging out typically cheese on toast tunes that
the South Americans love and after a couple of liver rotting capirinhas I
headed back to the hostel and fell into bed.
October: the hangover from HELL!
EUGH! Hangovers in Cusco are
TERRIBLE!! Again, I blame the altitude. The altitude terribly dehydrates you,
which doubled with copious measures of vodka and capirinhas the way South
Americans serve them, and I was felt positively DREADFUL! I headed to the shop
to get some much needed water and what was slapped on the counter but a raw,
smelly chicken!!! With a stinking hangover, it just nearly threw me over the
edge. I dropped my coins on the counter and fell out the shop door – there’s no
where quite on earth like South America.This is a small diary passage, as I spent the
rest of the day gusling water and vowing never to drink double vodkas and inca
October: we booked our bus to Ica.
We went to the bus station to book our ticket to Ica to go sandboarding. It was competitive
chaos at the station, as each bus company vied for your custom. After visiting
each bus stand for the best deal and the nightmare of our Lima bus journey in
mind, we decided to splash out on fully reclining, leather seats as it was an 8
hour overnight bus (although a doddle compared to 3 days we’d just done). It was our last night in Cusco,
so we hit the happy hour at the hostel bar again. I made the mistake of
drinking white Russians and attempting a game of pool, then the bar closed and
I headed to Mama Africas with Melley and two Canadian girls from my dorm. We
danced to another medley of Queen, Jon Bon Jovi and other 90s cheese, but had a
good night nonetheless… and another horrendous hangover. I LOVED everything
about Cusco – apart from the hangovers!
October: off to go sandboarding in Ica.
I woke with the worst hangover yet, so I threw some clothes on and
fell in a cab with Ellie to Jack’s cafe. There was a protest going on in the
square so the taxi couldn’t get across and we had to get out and walk – which
was difficult when I was still drunk from the night before. After breakfast, we
headed back to the hostel. I just wanted to lie on my bed, but we had to check
out by 1pm as we were taking the 8.30pm bus to Ica. That evening, we had a farewell drink at
the bar and I reluctantly left Cusco: one of
my favourite places so far.