Peru is full of places to visit, mountains to hike, markets to see and loads of history to learn about. Unfortunately we’ve not been able to visit some places that we would of liked to. Mainly because we thought stopping off somewhere different every two or so days was inevitably going to cost us more than staying in one area and explore close by surroundings. We would have loved to have seen areas like Nazca and Arequipa but instead we flew from Lima to Cusco with StarPeru and stayed there for nine days in an Airbnb which was located about ten minutes from the centre.
We didn’t do much the first few days as we had been advised by many to take it easy and acclimatise to the altitude as Cusco city sits 3,399 metres above sea level. A little different from the water of Leith and Portobello! When we actually arrived in Cusco we didn’t feel very affected by the altitude however once you try to climb a hill and very quickly become out of breath you realise then why you have to take the pace a lot slower. My personal tips on dealing with altitude sickness would be: to take your time to adjust, drink plenty of water, having oxygen canisters to hand and chewing on Coca leaves.
Once we both felt reasonably human again we visited the centre to see what was about. The main square of Plaza de Armas is really nice. It just so happened that there was a procession going on with music and dancing.
There’s a few museums to visit in Cusco. Peter managed to sway me away from the chocolate museum and instead into the Inca Museum just off the square. This cost about 10 soles each which isn’t much in pounds (£2.25 roughly). The museum was a lot larger than we thought and provided is with lots of information about the Incas’ and the colonies they overruled.
We spent a lot of time at the local markets buying fresh fruit, veg and fish. Due to being so inland and far from the sea, Cusco mainly sell fresh fish from their lakes, being Salmon or Trout. When we’d calmed down about how cheap the market was we decided to go along to one of the advertised Free Walking Tour. We met at 12:30 but they also hold tours at 10am and 3pm starting just off Plaza de Armas. Our guide Wilson was a local in Cusco and was very knowledgeable when it came to the Inca’s and Peru’s history. A lot of what he said we were able to connect with what we had learnt from the museum the day before which was useful.he showed us how to identify who built which buildings in Peru. Whether it was the Incas or the Spanish. The Spanish architecture was designed with straight walls using bricks and cement whereas the Incas built their walls with a gradient in in case of earthquakes. The Incas also used large rocks which they carved shapes on to or cut holes out of to ensure the rocks fit together just like a jigsaw puzzle. This was also done with earthquakes in mind.
Throughout the tour we were shown many places around the centre and given several tastings. We tried Alpaca meat which tastes a lot like beef as well as Peru’s traditional drink ‘Chicha Morada’ which is made from fermented corn. I thought this was very similar to Mulled Wine, but it was cold so I wasn’t that keen. Along with this we had some puffed corn from this newly opened restaurant called ‘Cultura Parasio’ which has typical Peruvian food with an international twist. I.e. Alpaca Tacos. Round the corner from this we visited a shop called ‘Artesanias Asunta’ which sold different types of Alpaca wool in different forms. Wilson let us feel the different types of wool as explained that the baby Alpaca’s wool is the most expensive because it is the softest. The shop owner gave us all a keyring for free pictured below. Lastly we headed to a bar to taste Peru’s famous Pisco Sour. This consists of Pisco Barsol Quebranta, Lime juice, syrup and a fresh whipped egg white on top. It’s tastes a lot like a Mojito. We enjoyed the tour so much as it had a good balance of history, traditions and tastings so we decided to tip Wilson the equivalent of £5 for his efforts.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cusco. Most people use it just as a starting point for the many tours that they offer and as a stopping point on the way to Machu Picchu but it has a lot of offer in itself. Just taking the time to wander along the narrow streets you are able to see the locals in their everyday lives. It’s so culturally different from back home that it’s fascinating to watch and be apart of.