March 15, 2008

Cuzco, Cusco or Qosqo

Filed under: travel — mmrobins @ 2:55 pm

We’re finally here in the most popular tourist area of Peru: Cuzco.
In most of the rest of Peru one of the first questions people asked us if we had been to Machu Picchu and Cuzco, and finally at the end of our trip we’ll be able to say we have. Cuzco used to be the Inka capitol, and renewed interest in their language of Quechua, which is still spoken in the region, has caused the spellings of a lot of things to change or be a little ambiguous. One of the first things we noticed was the street names are sometimes very long and hard to pronounce, many Spanish names on the maps are now Quechua names, and street names change pretty much every other block anyway, so orientation can be a little tricky at first.

One thing about Cuzco to keep in mind is that it’s cold! It felt even colder than Puno to me, and Puno is about 500 meters higher. Most of the time here I’ve been wearing long john smart wool pants, regular pants, wool socks, shirt, sweater, jacket and hat. Burrrr! The final day was warm enough to go down to a t-shirt layer though, so maybe we just got a cold spell.

Fortunately for us, we’re already fairly well aclimatized to the alitutude since our recent travels have been on par with Cuzco for altitude. This meant the first day in the city we could get around without feeling woozy, so we went to a soccer game. The local team ended up winning by one goal scored near the end, and we had a lot of fun watching the crowd as always.

In total we spent about 4 chill days in the city before heading to the Sacred Valley. We spent a lot of that time doing things at South American Explorers. One night they had catered food for a Lonely Planet sponsored party, and we don’t pass up free food often. Another night they had a poker tournament, and I made it into the final four before being knocked out, which is as far as I’ve ever made it in the few poker tournaments I’ve played in. We also enjoyed the reading books from their fairly well stocked library and just getting info about the area in general.

The food is really varied and good here since there’s so many tourists, but it’s also pricey. It’s still possible to find 3 sole (US$1) lunches, but you gotta get outta the touristy sector. However the touristy sector has stuff like nachos and towering american style breakfasts, so sometimes it’s hard to leave. There’s a lot of good vegetarian restaurants and almost everywhere has veggie options.

We took a tour of the city on a trolleylike vehicle that leaves from the main plaza at seemingly random times. The tour was good for 9 soles (US$3), but if you go don’t sit on the back deck where it’s cold and the speakers make it hard to hear the guide. The tour goes up above the city and around the ruins of Saqsaywaman (pronounced like “sexy woman”) which you can see really well from the tour, so we didn’t feel the need to buy the rip off boleto turistico yet (you can’t just pay to see many individual sights, you have to buy a ticket to see them all for 70 soles or US$27). We might have to buy it if we want to see some of the sacred valley sites, but for now we’re gonna pass.

All in all Cuzco was more fun than I expected for the amount of tourists there. From here Kim and I are off to luxury for a few weeks at Willka T’ika, a yoga retreat, where Kim will be teaching vegan cooking skills and I’ll be teaching English and computer skills. After that Laura and Brendan are coming down from the USA to visit us for a little while before we fly back to Florida on April 15th. Somewhere in all that we’ll be visiting Machu Picchu of course.

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