Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cusco (August 28th - September 8th, 2013)

Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire, and reminders of its past can be seen in many parts of the city. Currently, it is the most visited tourist destination in Peru, and also this is clearly evident: not only did we see many tourists, but were on countless occasions asked if we want a massage, or told that the restaurant we were about to pass is the place we should have dinner. This was quite irritating, but other than that, we really liked the city.

Plaza de Armas in Cusco

Cusco from above

Like in Arequipa, we weren't satisfied with the hostel where we spent the first night, and decided to look for a new place to stay. Namely, we had found a centrally-located hostel and thought that the room was nice and the price (40 soles) more than reasonable. That it was dirt cheap should have been a clue for us, though: we did not manage to sleep a wink that night. At about 10 p.m., we started hearing loud electronic music from somewhere below our room, and it did not stop until 5 a.m. Exhausted, we packed our things in the morning, checked online for a new place, and headed that way. Online, the Andean Dreams hotel offered a room for two for 62 soles, but we could not book it for that day. We went there, and found out that the price should actually be 125 soles, but the person working there allowed us to stay for the price we had seen online. We were very happy with the service, the rooms and the breakfast there, so we decided to stay until we left Cusco.

The first thing we did in Cusco was a free walking tour. We had two guides for the tour: one could speak very good English and told us about the history of the city, whereas the other was much more difficult to understand. The main responsibility of this guide seemed to have been to take us to different restaurants (altogether five), where we could sample a bit of sushi, falafel, chicha morada or chocolate. The food was good, but honestly, I would have preferred to hear more about the city.

During the tour, we also participated in a lottery, and I won a free entrance to Ccochahuasi animal sanctuary. This was a wonderful place to visit! Every animal there had a special, and often sad story about how it had arrived there. Among other things, were told about the reasons for the decline in condor populations (one of them particularly gruesome), and about the dozens of natural dyes that Peruvians use for their textiles.

Laura and a blue-and-yellow macaw

A Peruvian hairless dog, thought to alleviate asthma

Some of the natural products used to dye textiles in Peru

We visited Qorikancha - the ruins of an Inca temple, now the base of a colonial church and convent. It is said that during Inca times, the temple walls were covered in gold. Though this is no longer the case, the masterful stonework is still very impressive. We also had a three-hour tour lead by a novice guide in the extensive Inca museum. It left us quite tired, but was certainly worth it.

Terraces at Qorikancha

Without a doubt, the museum that left us with the biggest smiles on our faces was the Choco museum. Their exhibition on cocoa trees and the history of chocolate was very interesting, and their chocolate fondue absolutely delicious!

We also went on a trip outside of Cusco, during which we hiked along the Salkantay trail and visited Machu Picchu.

Don't forget to have a look at the other photos we took in Cusco!

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