Today was my last full day in Cuzco, but it was my absolute favorite day of the trip so far!
I woke up to find two new roommates who had just come back from hiking the trail. They both had gotten pretty sick during it so they gave me some tips. They told me I needed to get plastic garbage bags for all of my things because it rained most days and that I should get altitude sickness pills, just in case. Now I’m a bit more nervous.
After breakfast, I stopped for a cappuccino at Cuscoffee. It was very small and very strong, yet necessary.
Next, I headed to the plasticeria near the San Pedro market. It is a very small storefront that sells every size plastic bag imaginable. I saw one in the market in Lima and had wondered who their customer base is. Clearly it’s backpackers.
It is Saturday, so the San Pedro market was bustling inside and out. I bought some puffed giant Inca corn from a Quequa street vendor for 1 Sole. It was delicious.
I strolled over to the Plaza San Francisco to relax with my cappuccino and puffed corn snack. I sat on a bench beside Olsen, a friendly Peruvian gentleman from Lima who speaks very minimal English. He was in Cuzco for work and was waiting for his overnight bus back to Lima. We struck up a conversation, starting with all of the basic questions everyone here asks me (What country are you from? Are you married? Why not? Do you have kids? What do you do?). He was very intrigued when I told him what I do for a living. I shared my corn puffs with him and we talked for almost an hour in (pigeon) Spanish.
I left him and headed back to the hostel to gather up my laundry. The storefront next to the hostel did my laundry for 10 Soles ($3.50USD) and it was ready in two hours.
I decided to try the hike up to the ancient ruins of Sacsaywaman again, as yesterday’s attempt failed. It turns out that I was almost going the right way yesterday! Fortunately, today I passed a tamale vendor en route.
I climbed steep flights of cobblestone stairs for what seemed like hours (probably 30 minutes) up the side of the mountain. When the stairs came to an end, I hiked up a dirt path studded with stones. I had to stop for breaks every few steps. And then I reached the top. The breathtaking views of Cuzco made it all worth it!
Just a short ways up the path was the Jesus Blanco, or White Christ statue that stands atop the hill, towering over the city, near Sacsaywaman. It was hard to believe that I had gotten all the way up there.
A quarter mile farther along the path was the posterior wall of the ruins called Sacsaywaman. They were built as a fortress to protect the Inca city. The ruins also form the head of the Puma shaped ancient city.
I climbed down the cobblestone steps back toward the city center and I met a couple from LA. Their names were Zoey and Brad and they gave me some suggestions for food to try while in Peru. We swapped stories and then parted ways.
I found a pharmacy and bought some altitude sickness pills. I haven’t had any problems yet, but I just want to be safe.
From there I walked to the bus stop across town. Someone help me find the bus going to Tipon, a nearby city. That was an adventure in itself. The bus was packed with all sorts of Peruvians and it was clear that gringas don’t often take the bus. I sat next to a Quequa woman and watched the mountains pass but. 45 minutes and 1.5 Sole later, I was in Tipon. It was a very small mountain city know for Cuy (roasted guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru).
As soon as I stepped out of the bus, an eager woman asked me “Cuy, Cuy?”. I followed her past two large restaurants advertising Cuy through a dirt alley to a small open air restaurant. I was the only customer, and only Cuy was on the menu.
It has a distinct taste, not like chicken. I like it, although there seemed to be very little meat. It was served with potatoes, mixed vegetables and pasta. I’m no expert, but everything was overcooked. I’m very glad that I tried it, but I probably wouldn’t have it again.
I hopped a bus back into town, however the bus route ended in a different place than it had picked me up. I had some trouble finding my way back, but enough to strangers helped me. My Spanish seems to be improving each day.
I reached my tour office an entire hour late. I felt terrible. Then I was told that it was not a problem, as I was the only one booked for the tour (they cap tours at 8; other companies have up to 20). Panic rose in my chest. He then told me that the trek would continue, and that I would have my own guide. We will join two other groups to have 6 people in the group and share porters and cooks. I am really, really excited!
I’m back at the hostel now. I’m all packed and I’m ready to go.
We leave at 5:30 am and will be on the trail for four days, entering Machu Picchu on the fourth. I won’t post anything until Thursday (at the earliest).