As you might know from the previous post we choose the hard way to get to Cusco. Also, the first impression of the city and our hostel wasn’t great. Compared to sea view room in Lima we now had a room with no windows. In addition, the hostel was quite cold and damp. Luckily, we had an opportunity to cook our own meals because in the last place we were not allowed. Despite eating out in Peru is cheap we still missed cooking for our own.
Our hostel was located a few kilometers away from the Cusco old town. Walking up and down the hills was not the easiest because the city is located at 3400 meters high and typical Estonian is not used to air that thin. In tourism information center we picked up few flyers for a free city tour. Well, yes the tour is free, but you need to tip the guide after the tour. We were very satisfied with our guide. So far we had not used the guides for the city tours or museums but it makes a remarkable difference. Especially if you do not have time or ability to do extensive research. Our guide explained us the history of Incas and Cusco. Showed us the difference of Incas architecture and Spanish architecture. He also familiarized us with Peru and Incas music instruments. For our great surprise, although everybody is talking about Incas as a nation then actually only the leader of the nation was only called the Inca. Sort of like Varao in Egypt. When talking about the nation they actually call themselves as Andean people in accordance with the region and the Sierra.
During the city tour, we managed to see Incan buildings and take a photo with the infamous 12 – cornered stone. Probably we were one of the many millions of tourists who have taken this picture. Incas did not use the mort to build the walls and they cut the stones matching them precisely with each other. But this was not the only challenge. On top of that, they also placed the stones forming a shape of the three sacred animals of their religion – puma, snake, and condor. Snake and puma are very recognizable on below wall. The shape of condor was on the upper part of the wall and has been partly decayed
The city of Cusco itself has also been built in a shape of a puma. Puma heart is the Plaza de Armas and Puma’s head is the Incan fortress Saqsaywaman. In a few hours bus ride from Cusco, you can find all sorts of different sights. For convenience, there is a combined ticket to visit those valid for 2 days. Since we knew that we do not have time and strength to visit all of those then we did not feel like buying the combined ticket also to only visit the Saqsaywaman fortress just next to Cusco. However, we found a way to explore a small part of it by driving to the statue of Jesus next to this archeological site. From there, there is a footpath down to Cusco which runs partly along the Saqsaywaman walls.
Saqsaywaman was much different from Machu Pichu. Since it was a fortress the scale of the stones is much bigger. We somehow thought that Machu Pichu features also such huge stones but apparently no. We later learned that only most important buildings were built using very big stones. Buildings like churches, fortress or house of the king.
Despite the important role of the Cusco in Incas history this town today is mainly a stopping place for people visiting Machu Pichu. So was this with us but more importantly, we wanted to stay there more than a couple of days to acclimatize. We needed this because we did not choose the easy way to Machu Pichu which is with train and buses but a 5-day Salkantay trek hike. This Is not the traditional Inca trail which was way over our budget, but an alternative track. Still, we expected the hike will be full of interesting experience in the jungle and mountains. You can read all about it in our next post.
Few days before the hike we went to eat the Cuy – the guinea pig. Our free city tour guide told that there is a saying that who has not tried the Cuy has not been in Cusco. Cuy is one of the most popular traditional foods in Cusco. Nowadays guinea pigs are more kept as pets but Incas kept them for food. Kaija doubted whether she wants to try this so she ordered something else 😊 Anyway Jaanus claimed that the Cuy was delicious, despite the look they serve this. The meat looked little bit like chicken meat but the taste was more like rabbit meat and very tender. In addition, we tried the local cocktail called Pisco Sour which is a sour alcoholic cocktail containing egg white.
When in Cusco we also recommend visiting the San Pedro Market. There are many food courts where you can have lunch or smoothies. We also had a funny incident there while looking for a place to eat. One lady was talking very aggressively trying to get us in her food court. We did not like the aggressiveness and we moved on. Later we made it back to the same place and the lady again started to talk aggressively and, in the end, threw a tomato towards Kaija. We don’t know where she was mad or trying to get our attention. Not the best way to get clients.
Finally, we also found a place which suited us and we took a menu – in Spanish speaking countries the menu is a daily offer consisting of usually the choice of one soup and one main dish sometimes including a drink. It costs no more than 2-4 euros (6-10 soles) and we learned that usually, one for sharing is big enough portion for us.
Jaanus noticed that a man next to us is eating a lamb soup. Jaanus likes lamb and we asked whether the soup is good and man nod to us. So, we ordered this as well. The soup was very good – it had 3-4 different types of whole potatoes and lamb rib in there. But one type of potato tasted strange. It tasted like a manure 😀 We don’t know whether is supposed to be that way or not but Jaanus left this particular potato uneaten. Interesting fact, there are over 4000 potato varieties in Peru. Jaanus stink like a manure rest of the day and even the fresh mango and pineapple smoothie could not kill the smell.
Those were our most colorful adventures on Cusco and to sum up, this was a wonderful city. Cusco is even more beautiful in the night time.
We enjoyed America’s culture capital (this is how local people call it) very much. We probably had never eaten so many fresh fruits and smoothies of mango, pineapple, orange, and many other fruits than in Cusco. Fruits and smoothies were so affordable and widely available there.