After a wonderful day up in Machu Picchu (last post),
the following day we arrived in Cusco via car – we had a driver pick us up from our hotel in Ollantaytambo. The drive to Cusco in the evening took about 2 hours as there was a lot of traffic…some people take the train (also 2+ hours?). It’s the same line that continues onto the small town near the base of Machu Picchu…details in last post.
Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire, (history timeline in last post) and is now known for its archeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. It has an airport and regular flights to and from Lima (where we first entered Peru from Iguazu Falls, Brazil…a post for another).
The photos both above and below show the Plaza de Armas, the central square in the old city. A unique feature of this plaza are the carved wooden balconies which can be seen to right of above photo (bright blue) and to the left (brown balcony).
Whenever there are special festivals or celebrations the Plaza de Armas is where the action is and weren’t we lucky to stumble on this celebration/parade on our first full day in Cusco! We couldn’t believe our luck!…yet again!…we’ve had similar happen before on our travels (posts for another day!). Here’s few photos from that day…
We have lots of photos from this day as there was a fabulous parade we watched for over an hour honouring the workers of Cusco and surrounds – soldiers, teachers, nurses, public servants, fire fighters, paramedics, police…many many others including street cleaners and volunteers…
After the parade there was music and dancing – some in traditional Inca dress…
Eventually there were last speeches and then everyone drifted off in all directions – some lingering at the bars and cafes that surround the Plaza de Armas (photo above of blue balcony bar), and others strolling back up the streets to their homes on the surrounding hills we presumed…
Cusco is also renowned for it’s Inca wall and ruin…originally the Incan Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha) – here’s a photo of the Inca stonework right near the central Plaza de Armas…
A convent was built on top of the Inca temple (17th or 18th Century?)…the baroque convent – Santo Domingo Convent. We learnt a lot more about convent life (harsh at times especially for 2nd daughter in wealthy families!) when we stayed in Arequipa (also known as the Rome of South America)…a post for one day soon.
Another photo of the fabulous festival/parade and the hilly surrounds of Cusco…
One afternoon we visited theCENTRO de TEXTILES TRADICIONALES del Cusco…photo below…
Knowledge and appreciation of craftsmanship goes into every piece. A group of women’s cooperatives. The manager gave us a brief insight into the process of dying and weaving.
Here’s a quick photo of handbag I bought at that outlet…coordinates with our lounge/sofa (depending on what country you’re from😉) I just noticed…not that I use the handbag when home!…do love the burnt orange colour against the blues/greens. Reminds me of outback Australia as well…a post for another day too!
If you’re interested in learning more about their textiles and design, there’s a bigger complex about an hour out of the city I heard…details at end of post.
Where we stayed in Cusco:
We enjoyed staying at this small hotel (3 nights) and the thing we loved the most were the beautiful sunsets we could see from our room. Each evening we had a pre-dinner drink before we went out.
Only a few minutes walk to the centre of Cusco – the Plaza de Armas
INNER CITY WALKS + DINING OUT IN CUZCO:
The first night we were so tired so we had something small and light at the hotel. Both outdoor dining (photo below) as well as an indoor restaurant. We went indoors as it was quite cool (not too cold) in May…
The next night we went to the restaurant LIMO…upstairs overlooking the Plaza de Armas. Gorgeous ambience. We had four tasting plates (similar to Tapas) – we enjoyed that… light and different flavours. More expensive than similar places we had tried in other parts of South America but all very enjoyable + the central location (quality/trendy fitout too) probably contributed to price as well.
Photo above: We had a very early evening walk around the city one evening and stopped to take in this monument honouring the Inca leader, Pachacuteq. Again, the interesting colonial architecture of Cuzco can be seen in the background with the carved wooden balconies and surrounding hills.
There is a fascinating story/controversy behind the gold statue…debates about whether the Inca statue is appropriate on/in Spanish colonial surrounds. I hear that this statue was only placed on top of the fountain in more recent times – 2011?…what I love about travel, always opening up new questions about the world! If we want to read more later…http://cuzcoeats.com/inca-statue-raises-more-controversy-one-year-later/
Apologies for a bit of an Aussie diversion…more for my grandkids one day?? Skip over if you prefer to know more about Peru🤓
The debate outlined above reminded me of some of our own eg. The push by Indigenous Australians and some non-Indigenous to have the date of Australia Day (what they call either Invasion or Survival Day) to another date; so all Australians can celebrate rather than mourn the trauma and struggle that followed on 26 January 1788 (arrival of First Fleet from Britain) for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait ancestors.
I recently heard our current Prime Minister (we’ve had many in recent times!), Scott Morrison, say something like…well my convict ancestors had it tough back then too; which is true, but generally, unlike Indigenous people, they had hope to hang onto, as many became free settlers.
I loved Kate Grenville’s The Secret River trilogy…evocative historic fiction at it’s best. The 3 books give a thoughtful perspective, based on her extensive research, on what life was like in colonial Sydney for convicts/ex-convicts and the Aboriginal people of the region. I heard that Kate’s books are on the reading list in most Australian high schools?…I do hope so.
In Australia, there are also similar debates about some statues and even street names (I do wonder if a costly process of changing street names would be worth it) but I thought the debate about Uluru in the centre of Australia was over…but couldn’t believe it when I overheard someone loudly objecting to that recently, plus the fact that in the near future he wouldn’t be allowed to climb “the rock because the Aboriginals say it’s sacred”. I can’t understand why people like that can’t be more respectful when travelling…it really isn’t difficult to find other wonderful places to climb.
Off my soapbox now😂 and…
Back to PERU/CUZCO…
We went to a lovely restaurant that next night – CHICHA…also near the Plaza de Armas. The chef is based in Lima but the restaurant there is hard to get into we had heard so it was a good opportunity to try some well cooked, Peruvian at his second restaurant; again a light meal (appetite was slightly affected by high altitude-nothing too serious) and again the price was higher than expected. Oh well we thought!…win some/lose some!
My appetite was more seriously affected once we arrived at COLCA CANYON about a week later (a post I’ll do soon) so I quickly lost the weight I put on in Brazil/Olly/MP and Cusco! Fortunately, I wasn’t nauseous at all…just tired and a very small bowl of quinoa and vegetable soup had me feeling satiated. I might need to return to COLCA CANYON to lose some weight now after too much pasta in Bologna last year! (Post for another time too!)
However, opportunities for lots of walking of course, especially once we got to the Colca Canyon…the photo below isn’t of the actual canyon of course, but the walking started as soon as we put our bags down at Killawasi Lodge (another post soon)...
Elevation: 3,399 m…
Back to Cuzco, and a note on preventing effects of high altitude…
We were so tired when we first arrived in Cusco as it had been such a long day travelling from the small town (AC) very close to Machu Picchu – the altitude seemed to be affecting us a little as well…mostly a slight loss of appetite. It was nothing serious although I think by that stage we started to take a low dose of the meds our Travel Doctor (name of practice in Canberra) suggested. We found a visit to a Dr specialising in travel worth the extra money on this occasion and the Dr gave us detailed instructions. We closely followed her advice and all went well except for some very minor effects…
Once we arrived at Colca Canyon (about a week after Cusco) we had heard many people say that they had felt really bad (headaches and nausea) so it is a good idea to do your homework about how to avoid it eg. If possible, plan trip so it’s a gradual increase in altitude.
The young woman we heard about hadn’t taken any altitude medication although she was so sick that her partner was looking into the availability of medical services visiting the lodge where we were all staying. Perhaps her sickness was caused by something else as her husband (it was their honeymoon) “wasn’t too bad”. It was sad to hear this when perhaps it might have been preventable. We’re also super careful about hand washing (when water unavailable we use a pharmacy hand sanitizer) particularly when out and about/before eating.
(Packing for India/Sri Lanka now! so we’ll do similar there of course + other precautions with water/food of course. Sorry if this post is a bit disjointed as I’m writing it as I pack + catch up with family etc.!! I’ll do final edit once at the airport…if I have the energy!…it’s always so hectic just before a long trip isn’t it. I’m also doing a presentation on Peru at a Travellers’ Tales meetup tomorrow…so life is busy atm!)
AFTER CUZCO – TRAIN TO PUNO…
Another train trip (more upmarket than the train trip from Olly – Machu Picchu) – here’s a glimpse of that relaxing day long journey to PUNO…departed 8 am – 1st June 2015 ...
USUAL FOOD FOCUS:
Above photo a little dull! but these regular bowls of soup were enough for me at night due to loss of appetite caused by the higher altitudes in Cuzco. Sometimes I had an even lighter soup…more like a clear broth with vegetables and quinoa. (Many recipes on Net). I could easily turn vegetarian (not vegan) but Tony enjoys an occasional steak or similar (photo below).
I referred to one of my favourite books – Lonely Planet’s Food Trails. This is their description of Peruvian food and cuisine:
“In Peru, criollo cooking is the fusion of native ingredients with the disparate cooking styles of conquerors, slaves and immigrants” and…
“The cooking is a fusion of native ingredients (potatoes, chillies, seafood for example)”…with the disparate cooking style of different cultures brought together over many centuries.
Meat is often on the menu in Peru as well…vegans skim over our next pic😉 A lot of meat!…this platter was shared one night.
We had many a tasty Peruvian potato cake and most were just a simple recipe similar to this:
Peruvian Potato Cakes with Poached Eggs:
(Easy) – Serves 4
Ingredients: 1 pound (will convert to kg soon) uncooked russet potato (peeled and sliced); 2 large garlic cloves (coarsely chopped); 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese; 1/2 corn kernels; 4 medium scallions (shallots) – thinly sliced; 1/4 cup coriander (cilantro)…additional for sprinkling; 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 tsp canola oil; 1 tbsp white vinegar; 4 eggs; 1 tsp hot pepper sauce.
This recipe came from weightwatchers.com…Method is quite straightforward and similar to most fritter style recipes (I have a corn one on this blog too); Tony is an expert with cooking poached eggs so I’ll get him to do that! He just gets the water boiling fast and then slides eggs gently into the water (his recipe is Jamie Olivier’s and can be found on 1 of his videos…not the 1 with plastic wrap…so unnecessary!).
BELOW IS NOTED A FEW ADDITIONAL TIPS ON CUZCO AND SURROUNDS FROM A TRIP ADVISOR “3 DAYS IN CUZCO” GUIDE…we went to a few of these eg. The History Museum and the Textile Museum. We thought about the drive/hike to the famous lake (details below) but a long/full day to/from Cuzco and after reading reviews it sounded like something the very young?/fit might consider? However, sure Tony would have been up to it as he goes to gym often. On this occasion he decided not to go alone…glad really as the road up sounds quite treacherous?
From Trip Advisor “3 Days in Cuzco”…
“EL MOLINO MARKET
1-2 hours…less known about by tourists. Get there by taxi for a few soles. Take cash! Wide range of fresh food and places to eat.
SAN BLAS…(1 hr) a short walk up the hill from main Plaza de Armas…a little away from main plaza so generally quieter except for Saturday – a local market.
AMIGOS SPANISH SCHOOL
Peruvians are embracing their heritage and the Quechuan indigenous language is making a resurgence. If you want a deeper understanding of the culture. Also hourly, daily, weekly classes in Spanish and they can put you in a class to suit your level.
STATUE OF CHRIST – great views…hike up or get a taxi
(Looks a bit similar but smaller to the one in Rio…I’ll do a post another day)
Centro Historico De Cusco...ancient ruins. Historic architectural buildings.
Tony and I enjoyed the History Museum although not very large.
Sacsayhuaman archaeological park…believed to have been part of a fortress
Spa area for INCAN VIPs or a military outpost. Water still runs through here and includes fountains and pools.
Rainbow mountain – Cerro Colorado Vinicunca
MUSEO del PISCO
Laguna Humantay…the lake mentioned above but this review written by a local I think put me off too…
“Sacred Lake of the Andean people – the magical spell of serenness and great vistas, solitude and anokace for reflection has been sold out for money. Patcha Mamma (Mother Earth) is probably not happy about this….Hike starts at 12700 ft & u hike to about 13300 ft.”
PART OF SALKANTAY TREK next day
CASA CONCHA MUSEUM…Tony and I visited this one for an hour or so
“Most comprehensive collection of Inca artefacts from MP in the world – displayed in a colonial building that dates back to 18th C. Insights into the daily life at MP and an overview of the challenges the Incas faced there. Many pieces returned back to Peru from Yale uni in 2011.”
CENTRO de TEXTILES TRADICIONALES del Cusco…less than 1 hr (see my photos above)
PLANETARIUM CUSCO – 2-3 hours at night
A unique insight into the stars through the eyes of the Incas. 15 min drive from Cusco…Incan and modern day knowledge of stars. Family owned business.