I arrived at Cusco bright and early at 5am so jumped in a taxi with an Aussie couple I met and headed to a hostel. I had a quick snooze and then arranged to meet Shachar for a catch-up. I was waiting at the Plaza for 25 minutes before I realised that there was a time difference! So an hour later, Shachar arrived at our meeting place and showed me around the city. We went to some museums (including a chocolate museum!) and in the evening we went to watch a Native Art Show. The costumes were so colourful and detailed...the ladies looked very elegant and the dancers were very good. It was a great introduction to Peru!
On Tuesday 17 December Shacar and I ventured out to see two ruins about 40 minutes from the city. The first place was Pikillaqta and then we visited Tipon. This was the day I tried "Cuy" which is a type of guinea pig...I must admit it looked horrible - they don't cut the animal up, they simply cook it just as it looks like it has been killed so the facial expression of the animal is terrible and quite scary! Shachar didn't want to try it with me so I managed to order half a cuy to test it out. The taste wasn't actually that bad and it had lots of flavour however, I was quite ill that evening so I only have that animal to blame. I had to try it because it's a Perivian dish and they all love it here so I couldn't not. The evening spent in Tipon was great. The walk was about 40 minutes to the ruins, but we walked across the hills and across rivers, passing some small villages it was really nice and the sun was out for us too so we chilled on the grass before attempting the final climb to the top. This place was beautiful, not only were the mountains incredible to look at and the view of the city was impressive, but the actual ruins were beautiful. It had different platforms full of green grass where they used to grow different crops at different levels according to the temperature and there were small streams flowing through each level as water was a symbol of life for the Inkas. After wondering around and taking in the views, we decided to head back down before dark.
I had a lye-in on Wednesday and did a bit of research to figure out what else to do in Cusco (there is SO much to do here, you could stay in and around Cusco for a month and never get bored). We decided to check out a few areas of the 'Sacred Valley'. We visited Ollantaytambu (2 hours on the local mini van and only about 2 soles!) which is quite a toristy town as the Inca trail starts from here, but the village was really cute, with great architecture from the Inca & colonial times and had cute narrow cobbled streets. We hiked up the mountain with the fortress and enjoyed the views from the top...well, that was until we got chased down the mountain by one of the angry guards who had to climb to the top to come and get us and kick us out before closing time. In all fairness we had no idea it closed at 6pm, and also didn't even go through the main entrance...we must have gone the 'back way' where the locals usually walk and we didn't even realise the mountain itself would have a closing time. But by the time we had ran down the mountain and through the fortress to the exit, we were joking around with the guard and he soon cheered up. We checked into Chayana Wasi hostel by the main plaza and agreed to pay 20 soles for the night (it's great, you can barter here with everything as it is low season J and the dorm room was empty so we had the room to ourselves anyway!) We had dinner in a place called Papa's...it was nice enough but considering their menu consisted of pasta and pizza, we were a little shocked when they told us they didn't have any pizza left?! I didn't think it was that hard to make some pizza dough? Strange!
Thursday morning I left Shachar ill in bed and went hiking up the mountain on the other side opposite the ford. I got a little lost as the 'path' decided to disappear as I was walking up the mountain. I arrived to a 'path' of many rocks and stones so presumed that was the way up. After an hour of struggling up the mountain, falling on spiky plants I realised that this really wasn't a path, it was too dangerous to be. So I made the wise decision to head back down...and I was so relieved to arrive back in the village alive with only a few scratches on my legs and a few plants stuck in my hands! I decided it was definitely time to treat myself to some vegetable soup and some real English food...SCONES in "Hearts" cafe (I had strict instructions I must visit this cafe from Papa - and yes, the food was delicious, so thanks dad!)
After lunch we jumped back on the micro and stopped off in Urubamba where we wondered the town and came across a school group who were practising for a show/play of some sort outside. We just sat by the wall for an hour watching them rehearse with some smaller children playing in the waterfall nearby. We decided to head to Pisac that evening, so jumped back on the bus, paid 2 soles and arrived in Pisac an hour later. We spent a while trying to find a cheap hostel, and eventually came across a family run hostel with a very friendly old lady. We paid 15 soles for a bed and then went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.
The sun was shining and we were ready to see the city and ruins of Pisac. The people in the information centre were not very helpful as they suggested we get a 25 soles taxi to the top of the mountain and walk down in order to see "everything properly" (it was about 11am after we had checked out and had breakfast in Blue Lama which was terrible granola and very small portion - not even a portion for a 2 year old!) As you can imagine we didn't want to pay a taxi so started walking instead...until we realised we were walking in the wrong direction so had to turn back and head back to the village. We were lucky enough that a micro stopped and asked us where we wanted to go...he said he stopped 1k away from our destination so we jumped in (at only 2 soles per person- a little different to paying 25 soles!) Ok so we were squashed, I was literally sat on this lady's lap in the front seat, but she was lovely so we got chatting away as if we were old friends. Rather funny! It's times like these I am so glad I can speak Spanish with the locals otherwise it would have probably felt quite awkward. The walk down the mountain was lovely, we passed several different ruins and the views of the city and the valley ahead was magical. We were so lucky with the weather too which makes a huge difference with the views. When we got back to the city we had a good chat with an artist and then brought a few items from a bakery before hopping back on a bus to Cusco. We treated ourselves to pizza before sitting down to watch 'Gulliver's Travels' on my laptop. Ok, maybe I managed to stay awake to watch half the film - I must have been exhausted.