We gladly left Lima and headed for the city of Cusco high up in the Andean mountain range. Cusco is about 4000m above sea level so we went with some trepidation surrounding altitude sickness, which luckily we didnt seem to get. However our hotel had 40 stairs to our room, let’s just say we had to stop after 20 to get our breath back. We decided to take it easy and go for a gentle stroll around the town but we felt so unfit we couldn’t get far, the lack of oxygen really was an unusual feeling. Luckily after 24 hours we could climb our stairs and we began to feel normal again!
To help with the altitude the locals swear by cocaine so as we arrived into our hotel we were instantly offered some. When I say cocaine its actually the coca leaf that they use which contains less than 1% of the drug so it has no effects. But the locals make tea, sweets and cakes out of it and its still strong enough to show up on drugs tests. Whether or not this helped us avoid the altitude sickness is debatable but the tea tasted really nice 🙂
Cusco town was really pretty and reminded me of Krakow in many ways with its squares and beautiful buildings surrounded by picturesque mountains. Being the middle of summer, when the sun is out its incredibly hot and every tourist dives for the sun cream but in the evening the temperature plummets to below 5. To cope with this we purchased some rather fetching Alpaca jumpers and gloves, we may look like silly tourists but we are really warm!! Speaking of alpaca we couldn’t come all this way and not sample the delicacy, its a hard meat to describe as its soft with no over powering flavour but we thought it tasted good and will definitely have it again!
The main reason for coming to Cusco was to go to Machu Picchu, the famous Inca ruins perched on top of a mountain. To get to Machu Picchu it involved a train ride through the mountains which whilst was great scenery was not as interesting as the return leg, more to come on that later. To get to Machu Picchu involved a rather scary bus ride which wound its way up the mountain with several hundred metre drop down to the valley floor.
When we arrived at the top, the mountain was shrouded in mist and rain meaning we could only see patches of the ruins and mountains which gave a very eery and magical feeling. After a while the sun burnt through and we were left with the most amazing and awe inspiring site I think I have ever seen. The 600 year old ruins had the most amazing back drop which words just cannot describe.
The train journey back probably had the most surreal 30 minutes of my life. From out of nowhere a man dressed in bright Peruvian clothes and a tigers mask danced through the carriage purring at everyone, especially those who weren’t clapping with him. This followed by him picking out random people to join in a fashion show demonstrating this years must have alpaca clothing range. All I could think was that English train journeys would be much more interesting if we had this!
Next up Arequipa…