Saturday, November 7, 2015

#travelpost - Cusco and Machu Picchu

It was a long 15 hour bus ride to Cusco that lasted all night and got us there for just gone 11 in the morning. 

First impressions of Cusco was that it was super pretty, very cold at night and full of tourists. At first glance all that you see are the artisan markets, overpriced restaurants and tourist agency touts but we were there for 7 days overall including our two nights in Machu Picchu and after the initial few days you start to see the real Cusco. Menu del dias are in abundance once you leave the main square.... We got one most days for lunch for 5 styles (£1) and like usual they included two hearty dishes and a drink.

We did a lot in Cusco so it's hard for me to catch up after I've left it a full week to start writing.

First on our list was sorting Machu Picchu tickets so we headed to the cultural office... Usually they're around 125 soles (£25) which is extremely cheap for what it is but even better we got student discount with our ISIC cards once again thank you to the kind man at STA travel for giving it to us non students... With the card we got our tickets for £10 each. With that sorted we went ahead and booked our trains and accommodation and that was that. We finished the night off with some homemade pizza and a few beers before a day of nosying around town.

We started off our wandering through Cusco by heading up to the San Blas area... High up from the main square, there's plenty of windy streets with small cafes and art shops. Over the first few days we went to the Pre-Colombian museum set in an old colonial house with a cute patio and the Temple of the Sun...a colonial church and courtyard set on an Inca site once literally covered in gold. In the end it was looted but the Spanish conquistadors but what's left of it is still beautiful. 

We did plennntttyy of souvenir shopping over the week, so much so that we had to avoid markets for the last 2 days because we knew what would happen and we'd have no space left for Bolivia.

We made food in a lot like the huge stir fry we had on our final night as the hostel we were staying at was super cute abs had a really nice kitchen/dining area but we still managed to eat out a lot. In fact, one afternoon we hunted down a place run by a French guy that only made udon soup and the menu only had about 7 dishes on it. On the Sunday we even found a full English breakfast at an Irish bar (the highest in the world) so we devoured that along with our beer and £2 rum and cokes. 

Cusco is a really nice city. It's manageable in size, it has a huge market with tonnes of food stalls, it's full of old buildings and balconies and don't be fooled by the in your face tourist spots.... If you try hard enough it can be a really cheap place to eat too. Except the one night we got treated by Jim and Jan to some reaaallly good food at a well known restaurant and another perfect Peruvian sandwich. 

In between our visit to Cusco we left for Machu Picchu. The Lost City of the Incas is not easy to get to and can be really expensive if not planned out enough as the only way into Machu Picchu is via the overpriced, smelly, bug infested town of Aguas Calientes which had no roads into town so the only option is by foot or by train... Our first plan was to catch three buses over the course of 6 hours to a town close by and then either walk the 2-3 hours to Aguas Calientes (wasn't going to happen with me...) or catch a local train later that night... This would have cost us £80 overall with everything included. Luckily, before we'd booked we had a check on the PeruRail website and realised they did two cheap trains a day in economy class from a village 1.5 hours away... We did the maths and it was £110 for entrance, transport and accommodation... And that's what we did.

On Thursday morning we caught a combi bus to Ollantaytambo, we got caught in the middle of their local festival this included a lot of cute kids dressed head to toe in the best outfits ever and got the train to Aguas Calientes. The train gave us commentary of any ruins we passed and we got free snacks and drinks. Not bad for us budget backpackers! 

We got to Aguas Calientes early afternoon and like I said, it was a strange, strange town. I got bitten on my hands by unknown insects within the first 10 minutes and literally had no knuckles from swelling for three days after! It was just full of restaurants selling Peruvian food/pizzas/ Mexican food/ Chinese food (this was just each restaurant selling all of this food... How can you specialise in so many types?!) and these places were costing our full daily budgets just for a plate of food. As you can guess, we didn't eat much here, instead we hid away in our room watching TV and waiting for the next day. The night before felt like Christmas eve it was that exciting. 

At 4am our alarms went off, we got dressed, grabbed our bags and off we went to the bus stop. The first bus doesn't leave until 5.30am but when we got there at 4.30 there was already a bit of a queue but by 5.30 the whole street was full of queuing tourists... Peruvian and non! We got the third bus and off we went... 25 minutes later we were at the main gate (we'd beaten the other two buses up) and we were lining up with the brave people that walked up in the dark for first spot. We got in dead on 6am and for the first couple of hours we felt like we had the place to ourselves! We'd go 20 minutes without seeing another person... And early on the mist hadn't quite settled so the place felt eery, like a ghost town. Machu Picchu was unreal. It's the best place I've ever been to. If you went high enough you could see the whole city and it's curvature over the mountain. Llamas were roaming and all sorts of ages and types of people were wandering about. By 11am the tour groups had crammed in and it stopped feeling like a lost city and more like a tourist attraction but we didn't care because we'd had our quiet time and decided to make the most of the fellow tourists by asking for some photos with the now much clearer views. It was the best day ever. We'd left by 1pm to escape the crowds and Harry insisted we walked back down to town... By calves are still aching today from it! It wasn't too bad, it took us an hour and we got pretty good views of Machu Picchu settled on the mountain. We spent the rest of the day feeling chuffed with ourselves and catching up on some sleep before we headed back to Cusco for a couple of chill days. 

And that's that. One of the seven wonders ticked off our list! X

No comments:

Post a Comment