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Published: March 30th 2014
Mud slide on the road
February (Odyssey Day 86)
Breakfast was at 0615 this morning and departure at 0700. It’s about 10 hours to Cusco apparently and the roads are open according to the bus station.
We passed some beautiful scenery as we drove today. It rained on and off and some of the roads had mud or rock slides and a couple of places were being cleared and we had to wait our turn to go past. We were heading up into the mountains and for the first time in well over a month, the weather was expected to get cooler.
I did manage to spot a stunningly beautiful metallic blue butterfly fluttering around one of the streams we stopped by though. I have never seen anything like it before. We stopped to buy our own lunch in a small town on the way today. It’s very hot still even though it’s cloudy.
After lunch we started to head up the mountains. There was certainly a lot of water to be seen on the way.
Electric blue butterfly
However it wasn’t too long until I began to get light headed and I wasn’t the only one struggling to breathe. I was hit rather hard today with altitude sickness – dizzy, short of breath, headache, exhaustion, tingling fingers, rapid pulse, nausea. It certainly wasn’t a pleasant feeling. However because no one had expected we would be crossing quite so high today (upward of 4700m over some passes), no one had thought to pack any Diamox in their hand luggage. It was a bit of a debacle as the luggage locker was unpacked to get to the first bag whose owner knew where their first aid kit was. Though I wasn’t really in any condition to help with that, I did eventually manage to take a bit of a tablet and then mostly sleep the rest of the trip. Not an experience I want to repeat. Ever. We will certainly be better prepared next time, that’s for sure!
We arrived in Cusco in the dark and were quick to check in to our hotel. A really nice hotel it was too, something everyone is very happy about. Joanna and I are sharing a
room and it seems so big after what we’ve had previously. Feeling much better but still exhausted I skipped dinner in favour of a quick snack and headed straight to bed after a nice hot shower.
February (Odyssey Day 87)
Originally, our group would not have been in Peru until April but with the change in itinerary we have a few weeks extra in this beautiful country. We will be back in Cusco for Easter and for those who will be doing the Inca Trail or the Lares Trek in April, there is now the chance to see the city of Cusco itself as well as the Sacred Valley – something they would have missed due to the trek options. This is a change that everyone is happy with and Emma was happy to inform us that since we missed our Amazon Trip, they would organise a day in the Sacred Valley for us instead.
On our first day in Cusco, a large majority of the group decided to do one of the
Waiting for the walking tour
offered free walking tours. We met at 1130 in one of the squares and headed off at around midday. The first stop was a small restaurant that serves local quisine where we had the chance to try some alpaca meat which tasted beautiful. We lost a large portion of the group here as they thought it would be a food tour and bailed.
It was just an ordinary walking tour however and our guide took us through some of the main squares and past some important statues and buildings of Cusco.
Unfortunately the altitude was still affecting me quite badly and since Cusco consists of many hills, sloping alleys and staircases, I missed most of the information the guide regaled the group with. By the time I caught up with the group he had finished talking and I certainly couldn’t walk any faster around here. I had to take a breather after every flight of steps to give my heart rate a chance to slow down, as it was beating far too fast to be healthy.
Just as I
thought I might have to call it quits for the day without getting to the end, the tour finished at a church with a stunning view of the city behind us. It had taken nearly three hours to get there but was worth it in the end.
The guides then took us back down the hill to the square we started at and finished the tour in the most important place – the chocolate museum. Here we had a chance to sit down and hear about the history of chocolate and its uses. They had a whole wall dedicated to the myths and facts surrounding this delicious bean and we had a chance to sample some of course. We also had a chance to try some chocolate tea, which I thought was a novel idea but didn’t really taste like anything in particular.
Heading back to the hotel, I picked up some empanadas on the way for dinner. There is a group meal tonight but since they are heading to a curry restaurant I will have to give it a miss. No point going out to
Serving Cuy - that's guinea pig!
some place where I can’t eat the food.
February (Odyssey Day 88)
Joanna and Hannah headed out early to visit the sacsayhuamán ruins which were within walking distance of the hotel (assuming you can walk up a hill without feeling like your heart is going to go straight out through your chest). This site is part of a set of four sites near Cusco that you pay a group ticket for that costs S/.70. I'm planning on seeing these ruins next time we come through Cusco, but the girls decided they didn’t want to pay that to only visit the one site and so came back to the hotel.
I headed out with them at that point to see if we could find the main markets. We ended up stopping at a few different small markets and doing a fair amount of shopping before giving up on finding the big markets. And of course, the sensible thing to do at this point would be to go and have hot chocolate/mocha/coffee and
Hannah, AJ & Joanna enjoying some chocolate
dark chocolate fondue with fruit. Delicious.
At this point I was completely shopped out and decided to head back to the hotel for a nap. I did first however, remember to send off a postcard for Siarra’s birthday.
I decided I would wait until we returned to Cusco before buying any gifts. So if anyone wants an alpaca jumper or socks, best let me know now! They are incredibly warm and look pretty good too, I made sure to buy one for myself for any future cold Peru nights.
February (Odyssey Day 89)
Today was the day of our Sacred Valley tour. We all met in the lobby at 0850 to board our air conditioned bus. Our guide for the day was Jason, who was very knowledgeable about practically everything.
Our first stop was the Inca ruins of Pisac, which sit at the entrance to the Sacred Valley, above the town of Pisac. The ruins contained a large section
AJ at the Inca Pisco terracing
of agricultural terraces carved into the hills, as well as military and religious areas. The ruins on one of the hills was a military checkpoint, while another hill further over was apparently a burial area. The human remains found appeared to have been buried in a foetal position, an indication that the Inca believed they would be rebirthed into an afterlife.
Our next stop was the local markets in the town of Pisac. I managed to curb my spending to just a couple of paintings, which is just as well since I didn’t bring much money with me today.
Our lunch stop was a buffet restaurant which we all enjoyed. Some very nice salmon and vegetable that was a bit of a surprise for us. The place was near Urubamba, which is one of the larger towns.
Next we headed off to Ollantaytambo, which is at 2700m and once served as the capital of the resistance of the Inca against the Spanish conquistadors. These ruins were very impressive and very big. We spent a good amount of time here
AJ taking a rest at Ollantaytambo
exploring the ruins and hearing the history of them from Jason.
Heading off for our last stop, we managed to reach the ruins of Chincheros in time to see the sun set over the mountains. These ruins have a magnificent church built over them, clearly a later addition by the Spanish. After that, it was definitely time to head off home. The whole day has been amazing and hundreds of photos have been taken. I’m really keen to see Machu Pichu now and am highly looking forward to returning in April.
Back in Cusco, there was just enough time to walk down to the square with the girls for dinner, collect washing, pack bags, charge camera batteries and get a good night’s sleep while we can.
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