Cusco: Of Incan Empires, Great Food and My First Guinea Pig


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October 2nd 2012
Published: November 27th 2012
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Viva el Peru!Viva el Peru!Viva el Peru!

...kinda sums it up...
October 2, 2012



After my first bed in four days and arguably my best sleep in a while it was time to get out and explore the mighty Cusco...had a taste of it the week before as we transited between Puno and the Sacred Valley, but now I had three solid days to poke around, relax and wind up this fantastic adventure...

Awesome place: Great narrow cobblestone streets surrounding the Plaza de Armas, beautiful churches and museums, with fun pubs, shops and restaurants thrown in for good measure! Hectic enough pace at pretty much anytime of the day but the vibe to me was relaxed, absolutely loved it...hawkers aplenty, but again not a hard sell and a simple "no, gracias" would end the encounter, no worries...

The gang pretty much split up for the day, and after ten days of touring around my first priority was to find a cafe to plunk my ass down and have a relaxing coffee and proper non-hotel-continental breakfast...found a great hole in the wall on the second floor of this building facing the Plaza and settled into a very narrow balcony to soak in the square...and man they had a
CatedralCatedralCatedral

...and the Plaza de Armas
fantastic omelet and perfect coffee, heaven! Spent the better part of an hour and a half there, only to return the next two mornings to repeat the ritual...haha!

Decided to head up to the San Blas area after breakfast, as this was supposed to be the artisan and finer handicraft area...not exactly what I expected, there were some nice shops in and around the Plaza San Blas but nothing that jumped out at me. Still fun exploring the wonderful narrow streets, dodging cars, tourists and the odd llama...spent the rest of the day poking in and out of shops, taking pics, having some pints and figuring out what would be the places to visit over the next couple of days...

Met up with everyone again at the hotel early evening, this was going to be the "goodbye Cusco" dinner for the rest of the gang as they were leaving for a tour of the Amazon in the morning (I had opted out of this part of the tour, thought it was a bit expensive and wanted to just spend some down time on my own in Cusco). Fortunately it wasn't the "goodbye Jeff" dinner as well, as luck
Statue...Statue...Statue...

...in the fountain in Plaza de Armas...have some guesses as to who it is but for the life of me can't remember...
and timing would have it I would be able to hook up with the group again in Lima at the end of the week, fantastico!

So off to a fancy-pants restaurant, as the time had arrived where we were to try the Andean dish of cuy...otherwise known as, yes, Guinea Pig...a must-try on most travelers' visits to Peru, it was something that had to be done and the time had come...haha...

Decided that it would probably be best to order just one and split it up amongst the group as an appetizer...and after much speculation out it came; a whole, cooked guinea pig, complete with head and teeth! Thoughtfully displayed with a cherry tomato or something in its mouth, doubt had started to creep into the faces of everyone around the table; were we really going to eat this? The pig was taken away and carved up, then two or three pieces were served to each of us...not too bad, bit greasy with I would say the texture of duck (?), but very bony and not a lot of meat...glad I tried it but once was enough...

Great meal and laugh, then a few of us headed
Oh yeah...Oh yeah...Oh yeah...

....too much fun...
over to the Norton Pub for some pints; fun place dedicated to motorcycles and seventies rock...also had a great balcony overlooking the Plaza, might have hung out there a few times...haha...

Next morning I got up and saw the gang off, bit weird seeing everyone leave and staying behind but was looking forward to some non-touring-around days on my own...started with the usual breaky and coffee and then went exploring the town, with stops at the main Cathedral and the Museo Inka (very cool, both of them). A national strike had materialized that day, the Transit Union or drivers or something, so riot police and demonstrators started showing up in and around the Plaza, with a final march of hundreds of people into the Plaza de Armas...nothing exciting, kinda cool though...

The following and final full day was spent pretty much the same way, with the exception that I had booked a 4-wheeler tour in the afternoon (something I like to do wherever I go-it's a ton of fun, and it gets you off the beaten track and into places not normally seen by the hordes), fantastic! Turns out I was the only one on the tour, which
IglesiaIglesiaIglesia

...also on the Plaza...
meant no slow pokes! It has happened before, and it's always funny seeing the expression on the guide's face when he realizes I can ride and that we can go for a good rip...haha...

Didn't disappoint; he was on a two wheel dirt bike, and off we went...flying through the suburbs of Cusco and eventually making our way to the top of one of the hills surrounding the city, great vistas...took some pics, and off again tearing through the countryside...

What I love about these tours are the kids that come running out of nowhere laughing to wave at you (and of course the dogs that start chasing you), and we saw plenty of both...all in all it was about a two hour rip, and a great way to finish off this amazing adventure...

Made it back to the Plaza, and then discovered it was all blocked off due to a leg of the Caminos del Inca car rally coming through town...cool! Main plaza was jammed with people, beer sponsors everywhere and a stop/start line that the cars would come ripping into, get out to get their pictures taken and off again trying to make their way through the crowds...very fun...

Went through the Lonely Planet looking for a nice restaurant that night and settled on a place called Cicciolina, reputed to be one of the best in town...and man was it good! Place was packed, but was able to secure a place at the bar over a pint...menu was great, decided on some bbq'd duck and chili risotto, mind-blowing! It may well have been one of the best meals I have had; it was sooooo good...very nice way to wrap up the trip!

Next day was up early and off to the airport; back to Lima, final dinner with the gang and home...absolutely loved Cusco, great place to unwind and explore...


Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 26


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Norton PubNorton Pub
Norton Pub

...may have spent some time here...and of course they were out of T-shirts...gah!
More cobblestones...More cobblestones...
More cobblestones...

....loved these streets...
Hangin' out...Hangin' out...
Hangin' out...

...and keeping an eye on things...
View from the top...View from the top...
View from the top...

...on the 4-wheeler tour, with Cusco and the airport below...


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