Late June 2016
We had heard some mixed reviews about Peru from other travellers and our plan for the country was a quick visit to the cultural town of Cusco and explore some of the Inca ruins. While there seemed to be endless amounts of activities and archaeological sights to visit in the country, we decided on a few.
The night bus crossing from Bolivia into Peru was pretty easy and we even had heating on the bus, the first time on our entire trip. During the dinner break, the entire bus station crammed around the TV screen to watch the final of the Copa America as Argentina beat Chile in a penalty shoot out.
Arriving into Cusco at 5am, we weren’t sure of our accommodation options, but sometimes not having a plan is a good plan. We teamed up with 4 other travellers and found a hospedaje that had cheap beds ready for us. We had to sleep in a single bed as our beds weren’t yet ready, but we didn’t mind a few hours of cuddling.
We decided to attack the town and headed out with Tone, a Thai traveller we met on the bus. First stop was the market. This local gem was the go to point for all food produce from fresh fruit and veg to fish and even local cuy (guinea pig). It also had stalls selling freshly squeezed juices and other delicious meals. We opted for a ceviche (raw fish cooked in lemon and herbs) and shared a delicious mixed plate of sea and river fish. This was washed down with a soup. We couldn’t say no to a fresh juice and knocked one back before exploring the town.
A very informative stop at the tourism centre yielded many results and we made a plan over the coming days. We decided to skip the famed Machu Picchu sight and opted for a lesser known ruins called Choquequirao. In order to visit this sight, we would need to be self sufficient, camping along the way. We finally found a good store and booked our equipment for the 5 days 4 nights trek.
Before this though we wanted to explore some of the other sites. The next morning, we left early and headed to the town of Pisaq. It was on the bus ride to the town that we encountered our first “wallet-on-legs” issue in Peru. We found a ticket from the previous day that had a $2.50 charge while we were charged $6 per person. We normally turn a blind eye to a few extra cents added on, but this was over double the normal price!
Waiting for an opportune time, Steve went to the bus boy and had a conversation with him about the difference. His excuse was it was the “tourist” price. After some more words (including the word police) and some finger pointing, he relinquished the difference and we received our money back. This was the only warning we needed and every price was double checked from then on.
Above the town, we explored the fantastic ruins of Pisaq. With a semi circle of terraced steps creating a centre piece, we walked amongst the ruined buildings, enjoying the views of the valley below and listening in to tour guides giving snippets of info.
We asked one guide about a return walk back to Pisaq town and he was very friendly, explaining the way. The walk followed a steep valley and was enjoyable and not difficult. We saw more of the famous terraced steps and arrived into town to run the gauntlet of souvenir sellers.
Whilst searching for a local restaurant, we bumped into the guide who told us about the path. We asked him for his advice on a local restaurant and he again showed us the way, re-establishing our faith in Peruvians after the previous bus ticket incident.
We enjoyed a large meal of soup and a main course. We chatted with him about Peruvian life and he seemed genuinely interested in our cultures, asking Steve about the Aboriginal Australians and telling Sandra some history of France (e.g. How Mr. Parmentier reintroduced the potato as a fancy veg under Louis XVI).
A local bus followed the winding river to the town of Urubamba where we transferred to a minivan to Ollantaytambo. After we sorted our lodgings for the night, we headed to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Terraces, high roofed houses and ceremonial rocks again made up this site. And the views of the town and valley below were enjoyable.
Back in town we rendezvoused with our old French friends Etienne and Nathan, who had joined us on our Uyuni salt flat tour. Heading to the local supermarket where we could buy and consume drinks. Our connection with them was instantly rekindled as we chatted about our travels, experiences and what we were planning in the future. Dinner was at a local joint and was nothing special, but the company was good even if the music on the TV terrible.
We meet with them also the next day and strolled the train tracks back to town, doing the journey in reverse. The winding roads and hard driving of the driver caused one of the passengers in our collectivo to vomit. Thanks to the quick thinking of his girlfriend it all stayed in a plastic bag.
Back in Ollantaytambo we decided to stay the night and used the opportunity to enjoy Nathan and Etienne’s company a bit longer. Sandra was regularly in tears with laughter and the expression “oh la vache” was blurted out more than a few times.
The remainder of our time was spent in Cusco. We caught up on communications with family and enjoyed good food at a variety of locations. Some of the food really stood out for us but we were dining at more western orientated locations due to the antibiotics.
Cusco is a nice town and we enjoyed our time in the city. The red bricked houses, many unfinished, stood on the surrounding hills and the mountains beyond were scarred with donkey trails. The cobblestoned streets led to small plazas where children would play, locals would sit and talk politics and tourists would take photos.
From Cusco it was a quick dash to Ecuador, with 2 flights and an overnight bus. Next stop, the home of the theory of evolution….The Galapagos Islands!