Around Peru: Cusco

IMG_7686Cusco (sometimes spelt Cuzco) stands at an altitude of 3,400 metres. This is likely to provide problems for many people; you won’t know if you’re one of them until you get there.

The locals swear by coca tea, a drink prepared from leaves of the coca plant (yes this is the same plant that yields cocaine but no it won’t have the same effect and make you talk boll***s to everyone in sight).

I’m not sure if the tea works because it’s hard to say how badly I would have been effected if I hadn’t have taken it. When I expressed an opinion that maybe the coca tea wasn’t working for me there was a gasp of disbelief. Probably I wasn’t drinking it right, they said: ‘you have to get the tea on your tongue’ (is there a way to drink tea without getting it on your tongue then?).

I spent the week a little tired, getting out of breath easily and having to sit down and rest a lot.

Even my computer was not immune to the effects of the altitude. Computers are only guaranteed up to an altitude of around 3,000 metres (the actual figure varies brand to brand but it is around the 3,000 mark). I tried to limit my computer use to around an hour a day, (powering it down after use rather than simply putting it to sleep as I normally do) and I used my tablet more for simple stuff like checking emails. Although she appeared to suffer no ill effects, at least this knowledge made me aware of the need to back everything up more frequently.

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Machu Picchu town, do-able on a day trip from Cusco, but better to stay over (if only to get value for money from the huge cost of going there).

 

Cusco is the most popular tourist destination in Peru, mainly because of its proximity to Machu Picchu. However there are lots of great places to visit closer to the city too, something that left me a little overwhelmed when it came to planning my stay. I am tired of spending entire evenings online, dealing with slow internet speeds whilst trying to research what I want to do next.

In the end I admitted defeat and handed my entire stay over to Emma, who organised my time for me whilst I was there (obviously in return for a huge payment from me, which will probably keep her mortgage going for the rest of the year). She did well though; I extended my stay to seven nights in order to accommodate all her suggestions. It put me well over budget however.

But I think it was money well spent; the guides made a lot of difference to my understanding of the area and I was able to fit a lot more stuff into my time this way.

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Emma arranged this city tour for me, which included a visit to the cathedral. Our guide was very passionate, particularly regarding his feelings towards the Spanish.  Imagine you are living in Inca times, happily worshipping the sun and mother earth, building your pyramids and sacrificing the odd virgin.  Then suddenly the Spanish arrive, tear down your pyramids and replace them with churches, telling you you have to worship this Jesus Christ fella now.  The churches in Cusco are all built on top of Inca temples.  

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Photo credit: Wikipedia.  No photos allowed inside the cathedral, however this is one of the paintings I particularly enjoyed: the Peruvian version of the last supper.  Here we see Christ and the disciples tucking into a dinner of guinea pig (a delicacy in Peru).  Judas is shown as one of their Spanish oppressors.  The cathedral contains many thinly veiled references to the Inca beliefs.  It is worth going with a good guide, who can point this stuff out to you.

 

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Sacsayhuaman (Pronunciation tip: sexy woman; well not exactly but it makes the locals giggle if you say it like that). The Inca ruins that look over the city.  You can get a public bus up the hill (it’s not so far to walk but it is all uphill and hard work at this altitude).

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Also good was the colourful market; I particularly enjoyed the row of juice women, thrusting laminated menus at you as you walked by.  Good, healthy and cheap too.

Cusco gets very cold at night, something that is hard to understand when the days are so warm and sunny. If you want a hotel with heating you have to be willing to pay a lot more for it. I wasn’t. Every evening when I snuggled under the bed covers wrapped in my one sweatshirt, I cursed myself for not paying the extra money. Then when the sun came out again all this was forgotten and I slathered on the sun block.

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I stayed in trendy San Blas, the ‘bohemian’ part.  It is yet another example of a part of a city where locals have been driven out by ever-increasing rents.

Whilst we’re talking about the negatives, the constant stream of people selling stuff is irritating; some of them are very persistent, and at the beginning of the week when I was constantly sitting down to catch my breath I was a sitting target for them. Some of the stuff is nice and there are good prices to be had if you like to haggle a bit, but I don’t shop.  I have enough to carry already.

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5 replies »

  1. Oh Sarah this looks beautiful and how strange as I have just sat down with a pot of coffee from Machu Piccu! It looks totally stunning and I am very envious. Perhaps you would like the coffee and not the tea. Mind you, I’d drink anything to see those views. Amazing. I have visions of you snuggled up in the evening looking wonderful in your sweatshirt, trying to keep warm. So funny. But hey who cares, you are having a blast and that is all that matters. However, as I have spent the past two weeks just trying to breathe hear I think I better give it a miss. Take care and safe travels my friend xx

    • Yeah I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re already struggling to breathe. The locals sell this coco tea as a cure for virtually everything.
      It’s a lovely place to visit though and so interesting. But I’ve spent far too much money now and I’m so cold at night.
      I’m now in Puno, which is even higher, meaning even colder nights, and to add insult to injury this hostel comes with cold (or luke warm) showers. I may not wash for the next two days.
      Hope you feel better soon xx

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