Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire and is therefore steeped with fascinating history and archaeological remains. After a pretty full on 10 days in Peru we finally had some down time – spending 6 nights here before the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (blog to come…) and 1 more night after our trek.
We spent alot of time just walking through the central city admiring the architecture, the people, food and the weird and wonderful sights this city has to offer. The city is full of beautiful cathedrals, churches and plazas, many of which have been kept in great condition. The markets were also a great place to see the locals selling fresh produce, meat, grains and pulses, souvenirs, fresh juices and cheap meals (about $2NZD for a main).
Cusco and the surrounding area has a lot of famous archaeological sites which tourists require a tourist card to enter (about $70NZD). We decided that we would just buy a partial ticket that gave us access to the four main sites close to the city: Saqsayhuaman, Q’enqo, Pukapukara and Tambomachay. We booked a bus tour through our hostel and were meant to meet in the main Plaza. After an hour of no-show we started to worry and went back to the Tourist Office to try and change the date of our ticket – unfortunately they don’t allow this and also let us know there was a Strike happening the next day. So we had to scramble to ensure we got on a tour as not to waste our ticket. It all worked out in the end through as our tour bus was a bit late we didn’t stop at Pukapukara (just drove past). Saqsayhuaman, pronounced “sexy woman” was very impressive, the scale of the boulders they used to construct the complex was unbelievable. The boulders were carefully cut and fit tightly together without mortar.
On the two days before our Inca Trail trek there was a huge strike in central Cusco against the concession of archaeological sites. The 48 hour strike meant that bascially everything was closed, no cars were allowed on the streets and all public transport was stopped. The rallying in the streets around the Plaza was quite intense at times and we heard a few stories of tourists being shut in the dark inside of restaurants (which weren’t meant to be open) and protesters breaking windows. Because of this we had a pretty quiet time in our hostel.
On our last night (before the trek) we caught up with some of our Peru Hop crew for dinner at a delicious restaurant called Los Perros. We also had our Inca Trail briefing at Alpaca Expeditions and met our trekking group – five Australians, a Canadian and two Americans. Stay tuned for many photos from the unreal trek to Machu Picchu.