The center of all tourism for Peru, Cusco is the heart of Peru’s Gringo Trail so it was no surprise that we found Cusco to be the busiest place in Peru. No one seems to come to Peru without going to Cusco, seriously. We´ve bumped into several people here that we met in other parts of the country.
Walking through the Plaza de Armas is like walking through a shopping mall. Touts selling everything from massages to jewelry, paintings and sunglasses see your tourist signs and attack! For a few soles you can even get an indigenous woman, dressed in her traditional attire to pose for photographs with her llama, great living for her, great photographs for tourists (and no we did not do this!).
The jumping off point for Machu Picchu treks and tours, it wasn’t too hard to convince our friend Leah to join us in Cusco. Excited to have our first South American visitor we picked her up from the airport early the next morning and spent the rest of the day touring the city. All the sights in and around Cusco are combined on a 140 sole ticket (half price with ISIC card), which we thought was rather expensive. Hoping we could just pay individual entrances to the two places we wanted to go, we hiked up the hill over looking Cusco to the Incan fortress of Saqsaywaman (pronounced Sexaywhoman!). A decent uphill, especially at 3800m, we were thwarted at the entrance when neither our command of Spanish nor Jill’s attempts to cajole the ticket seller resulted in our entrance to the site without the expensive all sites ticket. Satisfied with the ruins and llamas we could see outside the ticketed area, we hiked up an ajoining hill to overlook Saqsaywaman and Cusco.
Of course Machu Picchu is the most famous thing do to from Cusco, and trek’s to the site along the Inca Trail book almost a half a year in advance. With no itinerary or set travel plans we couldn’t commit to a date that far in advance so we opted to trek the Salkantay Trail, also an old Inca trail, just not “the” Inca trail. Checking in with our tour operator, we got our last minute instructions and supply list and rented our sleeping bags.
Preparing for the next day, we decided to introduce Leah to Peruvian cuisine. After Danny´s problems in Huaraz, we avoid the 3 sole set lunch menu (about a dollar!) and thankfully found a good looking place in Cusco to settle in for lunch. Worried about eating something on her first day that would (ahem) affect the trek, Leah played it safe with chicken noodle soup and chicken breast. Danny on the other hand figured he´d throw caution to the wind and ordered fish soup. I think the photo explains it all, and yes those are fish eggs! Needless to say, the flavor was good, but in the end the waiter took a significant amount of soup back to the kitchen.