We flew into Cuzco and it has been yet another one of the absolute highlights of our trip. The town of Cuzco itself is incredibly characteristic and retains a great deal of its elegant Indigenous culture and pride which is what makes this place so special. Being one of the highest capital cities above sea level in South America, I came prepared with a mini pharmacy in my backpack for the altitude, but it is still an effort climbing up steep stairs to where our hostel is and we are often out of breath and light-headed. On the plus side though, we enjoy the views being situated up in the hills surrounding the main square.
We’re here to do the 4 day Inca trek and we decided to fly in a few days earlier so that we could acclimatise to the altitude. On our first evening, we perch ourselves on the rooftop terrace of our hostel and take in the sea of terra-cotta rooftops around us which are all curiously crowned with a mini cross and two bulls (don´t ask why but Peter is convinced they´re really devil guinea pigs in disguise) flanking each side. As night falls the city lights come on and the surrounding hills look like it’s festooned with twinkling fairy lights against the darkening blue Andean sky, and I really fall in love with this place.
After travelling solidly for the last month, this bit of downtime is very much appreciated and we spend the next few days exploring the nooks and crannies of Cuzco. I really enjoy moments where we while away a couple of hours at a café, pub or restaurant and indulge in people watching. There are travellers/tourists every we go and just about every shop in the Plaza des Armas sells souvenirs but somehow Cuzco manages to retain its cultural identity which makes it so charming.
The combination of Andean baroque and Incan majesty is reflected in the architecture flanking the Plaza des Armas which is simply stunning. As we are perched on a little balcony over coffee and mate tea we enjoy watching school children dressed in traditional garb walking in lines of 2 going to the museum. Surprisingly, Cuzco has amazing Japanese food! We visit a great restaurant called Kintaro numerous times during our stay here and it sates my craving for salmon sashimi and also rice/noodles.
We are keen to visit the Sacred Valley so we book a tour – I go a little crazy at the plethora of textile stores and artisan markets both in Cuzco and the surrounding Sacred Valley which are a riotous melange of vivid and rich colors. We weave ourselves amongst the crowds and come across llamas and alpacas grazing nearby tethered to various posts and children who are looking to make a quick buck for a picture. The locals and stallholders are dressed in their traditional colourful garb and the women particularly stand out in their quintessential Peruvian bowler hats.