CUSCO, definitely tops the list as being the favorite city for all the travelers who visit Peru.There were so many good things that I heard about Cusco; while on my journey, that I was super excited to uncover the mystery of the popularity of Cusco.In fact everyone who comes to Peru definitely makes a stop here, as all Machu Pichhu treks start from here.All the major tour agencies are located here and thus a touch down here is almost on everyone’s itinerary.For me it was the same.
After having done the Salar de Uyuni tour for three days and then spending a night at La Paz, I then hopped back on the Bolivia Hop bus to head to Cusco, Peru.The bus as I mentioned before, is extremely safe and convenient to travel in.They ensured that we crossed the border safely and were then transferred to the Peru Hop bus from there on.The total time of the journey from La Paz to Cusco was around 24 hours by bus, and the reason for the long journey was because the Hop bus makes stops at some cities on the way like Copacabana, Puno etc for the day tours(i.e.if anyone is interested).In a way, it suited me as the journey was broken up and thus we weren’t in the bus for long stretches at a go.
|Pariwana Hostel, Cusco|
We arrived in Cusco early morning i.e. around 6 am and were then transferred to our respective hostels.I had made a reservation at the Pariwana Hostel, since I had had a wonderful stay in Pariwana,Lima.Thankfully, I did not have to wait too long, and my bed was ready to be occupied.Some of the other people who had checked in at the same time as me, had to wait till 2 pm in the afternoon,since their beds were still occupied and the check out time was only 1 pm.I actually felt bad for them, since I am sure that at that hour,after a terribly long journey, all that someone would want was a nice,comfortable bed to crash in.Well, I got my bed and so no complaints from my end.
I slept for almost 3 hours and got up in time for some brunch.I was starving and so I decided to eat something at the hostel bar.Surprisingly the meal was cheap and really tasty.I was content after stuffing myself, and then started deciding on what to do that day.Since it was only 10.30 am, I decided to check if there were any walking tours for that day in the afternoon.Voila!.I was lucky as there was one at 12.30 pm, starting at a plaza not very far from my hostel.So that was decided and my afternoon was planned.
|A wedding function 🙂|
Next, I went up to the hostel travel agency and inquired on the Sacred Valley tour for the next day.I had read online that this was one tour that I must not miss when in Cusco as it covered some of the most magnificent ruins in and around Cusco. The lady at the reception told me that I go book the next day tour which leaves at 8 am and would end by 7 pm and would cost me 30 soles(appx 5 dollars).Sounded great to me and thus I booked it instantly.So I was set and booked for tomorrow as well. Perfect.This is how I liked my vacations.Not to waste a single minute and not to miss out a single sight.Yipee.
Since, I had some time to kill before the walking tour started; I thus decided to go check out some agencies for booking the Machu Picchu trek.I had decided to book a 4 day Inca Jungle trek which was exciting as apart from the regular trekking, it also had cycling,rafting and zip lining.Now that’s what I call and adventurous trek.
Right before I left the hostel to go on the search for agencies, I spoke to some backpackers in the hostel and those that had already done the Machu Picchu trek, recommended few agencies.One such agency was recommended by almost 3 people.They mentioned it was cheap as compared to others and the guides were good as well.And so,after jotting the address I went to this agency called the PERU COLCA TREK, which was in Calle del Sol, near Plaza Regocijo.I had stopped at few other agencies on the way and so I had an idea of what the cost was(most companies were charging USD 250, plus additional for rafting and zip lining).After having a chat with the man on the desk of Peru Colca Trek agency, I finally got a good deal.For 4 days/3 nights Inca Jungle trek including the zip lining and rafting; I had to pay USD 230.
|Plaza Armas at sunset|
I told them to reserve a spot for day after and that I would come and pay in the evening.I was really happy and feeling accomplished, as I had taken care of all the main things.With Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley tours booked, I could enjoy Cusco in peace.
I reached at the Plaza at 12.30 pm and saw that there were almost 3 or 4 different men wearing the free walking tour jackets.Thankfully I had seen the website and was aware that there are a lot of other companies who are using the same name in order to pull tourists to them.The way to know the original and the real free walking tour agency is to find the FWT symbol on the back of their jackets.Most of the tourists were aware of this and thus headed straight to the correct company.But those who weren’t aware got tricked into joining the other company.Anyways,they also got a walking tour in the end, which is what really matters.
Our group in the tour was huge with around 15-20 people.We were given a brief history about Cusco and one interesting fact that I came to know was that the original name of the city was COSCO, which in the Quechua language meant ‘navel’.The significance being that Cusco/Cosco according to the Inca’s was the belly button of the world and thus was a supremely important city even in the ancient times.
|Calle San Blas|
The first place where we all head to was the San Pedro Market.This market was very similar to the Camillo Mercado in Arequipa and one could find each and everything here that they wanted to buy.I again was tempted to try the fresh juices and which I did.A mix of passionfruit,kiwi,banana and apple in orange juice.All this for just 6 soles(USD 2).In fact you get not one, but two full glasses if the lady seller likes you ;).
|Sun temple of the Inca’s|
After roaming in the market, we walked the colonial streets and saw some old houses and architecture.We then headed to the Plaza Armas and our guide gave us a brief of all the churches surrounding the plaza.There was a church in each corner of the plaza and the place was swarming with lots of tourists.Our next stop was a walk through a narrow street with original stone walls from the Incas time. This street led to a place where the Alpacas and Lamas were housed and people were free to feed them or play with them and click as many number of pics as they wanted.This was really fun as the animals were so ignorant to our presence and were so occupied in their food that you could get up real close and even manage a selfie with these fur balls.
Next, we were taken to the sacred most temple of the Inca’s- The Temple of the Sun.This structure was quite impressive and was discovered in its true and current form after a massive earthquake the outside walls got damaged.It is said that the Spanish had covered up the original temple with a layer of stones,so as to hide the Sun Temple.They did not want to people to have their beliefs in the Inca gods and only the Spanish gods, and thus did this.But due to the earthquake, a part of the original temple was uncovered and this is how the temple was discovered again.
We then headed to see the street where the original Inca carved pieces of stone were laid out.The guide explained to us the complete, tedious and long process of how these huge boulders were carved.The process involved complicated and cumbersome processes which took almost a total of 12 months to come to its current structure.Thus you can imagine that if one stone took 12 months,how long the whole wall must have taken.Inca’s were definitely one of the most hard working civilization that I have come across.
Our last stop for the day was a visit to one of the hostels called VIEWPOINT in Calle San Blas, where we got to see the whole view of the city and also additionally got lessons on how to make a great Pisco Sour.We also got to drink the pisco after the class and this was a great way to end the walking tour.
I reached back to the hostel at around 5 pm,as after the walking tour, I decided to walk a little more to explore some markets,some shops etc.I could feel the tiredness in my body and thus decided to take a nap for few hours before dinner.
The nap which went on for 4 hours was great and I was super fresh.I went again to the hostel bar, ordered food, got talking to some people and soon we were all having a great time listening to good music and eventually dancing as well.A great first day in Cusco.
Next day, I barely managed to be ready by the time the bus came to pick us for the Sacred Valley tour.I had slept late as I was having great fun with my new friends and thus could barely open my eyes in the morning.But I somehow managed.The bus was completely full and there was one guide for all of us.
The first stop was going to be Pisaq market, where we could buy cheap souvenirs,shawls,caps and other Alpaca items.I bought a reasonable yet a very pretty muffler and some key chains.At this market, you can also buy the Boleto Turistica or the Tourist ticket for the Sacred Valley; in case you haven’t already bought it in Cusco.This ticket is mandatory and costs around 70 soles for a half ticket and 130 soles for the full ticket.I purchased mine here.
Next stop was the Pisaq ruins.The ruins were just 15 minutes away by bus and as soon as we got down, we were again surrounded by hordes and hordes of foreigners and their guides screaming out loud for their group to gather in one place.
Since our group was a mixed group of Spanish and English, and since there was only one guide, it was a pain waiting for the guide to finish his explanation in both the languages before moving on.In fact I was getting irritated with all the wait and thus sneaked out from the group while the guide was explaining in Spanish.
|Can you spot the face of the Old man???|
The ruins were huge and the vast area consisted of agricultural terraces used during the Inca times,A huge hill with holes in it where all the dead bodies were stored(bodies were hidden in the hill, to protect from being eaten by the condors) and the Sun temple.The climb to the Sun temple was a little tedious but was a good practice for the Machu Picchu climb.The view from the temple of the surrounding valley was amazing and I spent some time clicking pictures from different angles.
After an hour we all gathered back near the bus, and then boarded for the next stop which was Ollantaytambo. This is also the city from where the trains for Machu Picchu start, and thus those who opt to do the trek themselves, instead of with a agency;they come to this town to catch the train.The round trip from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu and back costs a whooping 70 dollars.
|View of Ollantaytambo from the top of the ruins.|
Some people from the bus who were catching the train got down at Ollantaytambo and did not carry on for the rest of the trip.But before reaching the town, there was a halt of 45 minutes for a buffet lunch.This was for an additional 25 soles, but the food was pretty decent.
After reaching this town, we were again asked to gather together at the gate and then in a line we entered and were led to one spot where the guide could explain the history and the significance of the massively high terraced hill which lay behind us.More serious climbing.I was hoping my legs don’t start hurting or else my Machu Pichhu trek would end up being more difficult than what it already was suppose to be.
|Chinchero Main Plaza|
The guide showed us the hill which was called the Old Man of the mountain and the name given to it was because from one angle it looked like an old man carrying a heavy bag.
After the brief we started climbing up the ruins and this was a steep climb up.I was breathless by the time I finally reached to the top and the condition was both due to the physical strain and due to the beautiful view from up there.After seeing the sun temple, we started descending down and took some time exploring the local market.
Our last stop for the day was the Chinchero ruins,which is a small Andean Indian village located high up on the windswept plains of Anta at 3762m about 30km from Cusco.By the time we reached Chinchero, it was already getting pretty dark.After getting off the bus,we walked through the market, climbed a little stretch and reached an open space.This was the main plaza area of the Incas.In this main plaza, lies a colonial church and this church is a must visit.The beauty strikes you as soon as you enter the door of the church.The ceiling and walls are covered in beautiful floral and religious designs.There are fresh flowers all around the beautiful structure of the Mother Mary and spending even 10 minutes in this church spreads the soul with happiness and warmth.
After walking around a bit more in the Chinchero village, we finally got back in the bus and it took us another hour and a half to reach back to Cusco to our hostels.I had an early dinner that night, packed my small backpack for the Machu Picchu trek for which I had to leave at 7.30 am tomorrow and then went off to sleep.
Tomorrow would be the highlight of my trip to Peru.I had saved the best for the last. Machu Pichhu awaits me and I await the thrill of being on top of one of the most magnificent wonders of the nature.
Do keep reading for the details on my experiences during the Inca Jungle trek.Lots of interesting adventures coming up.