Cusco, Peru
Saturday, January 12, 2013

Most of my time was spent roaming the streets of Cusco, visiting the many museums and old buildings in the city. I stayed at two ‘backpacker hostels’ near the centre which was good for chatting to people over breakfast, but they were often in groups so kept to themselves. Solo travellers were at a premium, so when we discovered someone in the same spot, it was celebration enough to get a beer and put the world to rights.

On the first day, I took a Free Walking Tour around the place. The concept was simple: take a bunch of people around the city to different spots, give them a few freebies, finish off with some ‘tasters’ at a couple bars, and when people are sufficiently oiled, ask for a tip. “Here at Cusco Free Walking Tour we don’t like coins!”. All very well done.

The city used to be the capital of the Incan Empire and was in its heyday from 1270s – 1530s. And then the Spanish turned up. No points for guessing what happened next…

As recent as 2007 archaeological remains are being discovered (see 9.3.1) shedding new light on what was happening with this civilisation. At the time of writing there have been no Fun Facts to note.

Oh wait, there was one from the walking tour..

Incan Fun Fact #1: to combat earthquakes, buildings were built at a 5 degree angle (rather than perpendicular to the road), with small rocks for foundations, and large above ground so they could absorb seismic shocks.

Due to my OCD style of blogging, some days in Cusco have been documented separately. See 9.3.1 and 9.3.2

On Day Four I went to town buying jumpers (well, I headed to the shops and got two). Also some other gifts for the fam.

I got in a routine of decribing what I was after: “chompa (jumper)”, “without zip”, “without hood”, “complements my figure”, “not too expensive”, “really trendy”, “not synthetic”, “not V neck”, “goes with my eyes”

Eventually found one that met (most of) my criteria. And then bought a second.

In terms of food, other than an (alpaca) steak and chips on the first night, and what’s described in 9.3.1, dinner was always at one of the eateries on a street a little out from the centre.

The general menu in each was identical:

Starter of soup (usually vegetable, or chicken with noodles)
Choice of three mains (usually chicken/ beef in a sauce with rice)
Sweet tea, which sort of acted as dessert.

This format was so well known, that on a couple of occasions I wandered in, sat down, and my first contact with the owners was the soup arriving.

The front room would have about 6 sets of tables and chairs, with the kitchen next door. Most had a small television which the locals would stay fixed to throughout, unless they had company. On Day Five, we witnessed Peru beat Brazil 2-0 which excited everyone, and brought in a few who were just passing.

I got the impression that the family lived in a third room (or perhaps the front once everyone cleared out) as they were always all hands on deck. Often the kids would bring out the food.

The cost of these meals averaged out at 4 soles (Β£1). That was cheap by Cusco standards too.

On Day Seven (also 9.3.2), I thought I’d splash out and visit two establishments as I’d worked up quite an appetite. At the first, I had a re-run of Chicken Finger Soup (see 9.1) followed by chicken, sauce and rice. At the second was a creamy vegetable soup, with beef and pasta for main.

Gave myself a breather on the walk back. #foodbaby

Here, I got chatting to a couple from Lima about pets (amongst other things) and also observed some youngsters practicing their circus skills. Took a photo of it, and illuminated in the background is Cusco’s ‘Jesus statue’ looking over the city.

Then in the morning it was a case of moving hotels, buying some supplies, and generally preparing for the Inca Trail.

Cusco from above

Cusco university

Inca Fun Fact #1

Dinner: Day Two