Former capital of the Inca empire
25.07.2007 - 28.07.2007 7 °C
On July 25th, we waited around in Nasca all day, for an evening bus at 8 pm. There was nothing much to do in the ton, and so we were quite bored. We caught the bus, had a meal served and went to sleep.
On July 26th we woke up after a horrible night on the bus. All the hairpin turns on the mountain roads had made me ill and nauseous all night. At around 10 am we arrived in Cusco. The town looked much larger than I expected, coming in on the bus and looking over the valley, at about 3600 meters altitude, in which it is set. Still, you could see that it had many, many old colonial buildings, and even caught sight of some remaining Inca walls. We checked into the Osiris hostel that we had booked online. It is set in a nice, quiet area called San Blas - a bit uphill from the center. The area has lots of hostels and restaurants lining the narrow cobbled streets, and it is quite idyllic. The hostel itself was in a lovely colonial building, with lots of character. Unfortunately, the service there was a bit off, and the showers were not really hot (a problem, since the altitude makes Cusco quite cold).
After checking in, we went to the train station to buy tickets for the train up to Aguas Calientes, from where Machu Picchu is reached. We knew it was high season and the tickets sell out fast this time of year, so we were prepared to be flexible on or dates of departure and return, but we had decided to at least spend a night in Aguas Calientes, and perhaps visit the ruins twice. We managed to get the cheaper backpacker train up there on Sunday morning, and then the more exensive Vistadome service back on Monday afternoon. Neither of the services are cheap - especially considering we were in Peru - but bar the four day Inca trail, there is no other way up there. (Although, to save a few bucks, we could have gotten a bus to the station of Poroy or even Ollantaytambo, and then caught the train from there - but we didn’t think it was worth the hassle).
After securing the train tickets, we walked around Cusco for a bit, but we were exhausted from the bus ride, and were really feeling the change in altitude, so we went to bed early.
July 27th we spent most of the day watching a never-ending parade taking place in the Plaza de Armas. The 28th is Independence Day here in Peru, but they celebrate a day early in Cusco, in order to avoid coinciding with the events in Lima the following day. The parade was great for people watching, and Alan took lots of photographs of the people there. The parade seemed to include every institution in Cusco - soldiers, school students, kayakers (?) firemen, divers (??), dog patrols, SWAT etc. We were still feeling the altitude, and enjoyed taking it easy and just watching all this pass by.
July 28th, we took an organised tour - which we normally shun - in order to see some of the other Inca ruins in the area around Cusco, known as the Sacred Valley, before heading up to Machu Picchu. The all day bus-tour took us to three Inca sites: Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. The organised setting had its downsides, as they always do - waiting for others, and then being rushed through things you might like to spend more time on - but the sites themselves were amazing. The Inca stonework is so precise and strong, it blows your mind. They way they manage to fit the stones to each other - very cool. And the settings as well were stunning - Pisac for example, is perched on a high mountain ridge. We had to climb a narrow path hugging the mountain side to get up there. How they managed to get the huge stones up there is a mystery to me. I could barely drag myself up there, wheezing in the thin air, let alone carry a stone… Anyway, despite the tour group setting, we had a great day out.