Now in Cusco
We arrived in Cusco after an amazing flight through the Andes mountains. You wonder where on earth we are going to land. Cusco is a very large city set in what almost looks like a giant volcanic crater so there is plenty of room for the landing strip. Again TACA airlines was cheap and reliable and safe. We both suffered from the high altitude. Really weird feeling. Tightness in the chest, headache and a real effort to do anything. It is sort of like attempting exercise for the first time after a long period of time. Even bending over to tie your shoes makes you huff and puff. Had our trek briefing at Peru Treks and are being picked up at 5:20 am tomorrow for what will hopefully be the experience of a life time. Couldn't recommend Peru Treks enough in the lead up to this adventure. Nothing has been too much trouble, every question has been answered and they are very friendly.
Cusco is a very unique place built right up high in the Andes. First the Quechuans settled here then the Spaniards raped and pillaged the place. Saqsayhuaman high up above Cusco is the battle field where the largest of all the Spanish - Inca battles occurred. The remains of the fort there are very impressive and once again you can't believe how they moved the huge rocks, (some around 3 tonne) and how they cut and polished them to fit into each other. We purchased a ticket to all for of the historic sights Saqsayhuaman, Q'enqo, Pukapukara and Tambomachay and hired a cab to take us to the furthest away. We walked down to the next 2 and then hailed the local mini bus to get us to Saqsayhuaman which is by far the largest and most impressive. From there is was only a 20 minute walk down hill to our accommodation, Walk On Inn.
This accommodation was a Hostel and we had a double with private bathroom. It was only a few minutes down hill to the Plaza De Armas which is the main square. The walk back up was steep and difficult with the high altitude. It is 11,200 feet above sea level and for sea level dwellers such as ourselves it was a real struggle for the first few days. We chewed Cocoa leaves and drank cocoa tea to alleviate the altitude effects but unfortunately we didn't read that section of the Trek notes where it suggests to only do that in the first half of the day. We were sitting up in bed at night with a strong cup of cocoa tea and subsequently I had delirious moments and very unsettled sleep and Shauna was on full alert most of the night.
One night we had the local Peruvian elicacy Guinea Pig and Grilled Alpaca. The Alpaca was sensational, very tasty and tender and the Guinea Pig was an experience. It was brought to the table whole so we could photograph it and then taken away and carved for eating. It tasted a bit like tough rabbit. Glad we tried it but didn't have it again!
Another night we had dinner at Two Nations Restaurant run by Matt from Melbourne and his Peruvian wife. Great food, good beer form Matt's micro brewery and a realxed atmosphere. Matt was saying that since the daily visitor numbers to Macchu Picchu had been capped at 2,500, business had dropped off severely. In peak times, the numbers used to reach 9,500 per day. If they restrict numbers further which is quite possible in the name of conservation and safety, the economy of Cusco could be in trouble. Cusco relies on Tourism as it is where you have to start your journey to Machu Picchu if you Trek or go on the Train.
Cusco in its own right is an interesting city with the old Spanish architecture, the Cathedrals, the squares and great restaurants. We purchased our trekking requiremenst such as walking poles, zip off pants, snacks, thermals etc. Not rip off prices as one might expect being the last stop. Competition is quite fierce and bargaining is expected.