Hola from Cusco...one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.
I took the bus from Ica to Cusco and it took around 17 hours. I booked myself in the VIP section of the bus so that I could have a good nights sleep. My chair was huge and there was no chair next to mine (and no screaming children..hooray!) I had a personal screen with internet and films in English. This is the life! The VIP section costs probably five pounds more..think I will travlel like this more often! My journey was comfortable and as I approached Cusco I could feel the altitude. My breathing started to get deeper and I had a little bit of tummy ache. I caught a taxi from the bus station after haggling with him to lower the price as I was solo. He agreed but then got some other people in the taxi going to a similar destination so he ended up making much more money!
I arrived at my hostel and straight away I could feel how cold it was inside. I had read about this online but I wasn´t sure how cold it would be. Brrrr. I put my
bags in my dorm and went to meet three Irish people I had met in the jungle in Ecuador. They had just finished their trek to Machu Picchu so that was really interesting to hear about. They were off that night to Lima so I said goodbye and wandered around the labyrinth of cobbled streets. I loved walking around and just looking at all the small markets with all sorts of nic nacs and alpaca clothing on sale. I then went back to my hostel to research how I would go to Machu Picchu. On my trip, I have met people that have taken the train to Macchu Picchu and that seemed liek a good option as I had no walking boots...untill I saw the price- $200 for a return train journey. Whaaat! I thought no way was I going to pay that much to just go on a train so I started to have a look at the price of tours. I found one three day, two night tour to Machu Picchu for $199...cheaper already! I then got talking to some people in my hostel and they told me about a tour they were going on with Lorenzo Expeditions.
They had heard really good reviews so I had a look up on Trip Advisor. As far as I could read, everyone seemed to enjoy the tour with Lorenzo Expeditions so I got in contact to ask if I would be OK just with my trainers. They assures me I would be fine and invited me in to chat with them in store. The tour cost $234 which I thought was good for four days but it didn't include the return journey. I had a look up on the internet and the train back to Cusco was going to cost $92!!! Crazy price. i thougt, Oh well, it is still a better experience doing a trek then just getting train there and back.
That night, the altitude really started to effect my legs. They felt soooo heavy and achy. I went to bed and really struggled to sleep. Thankfully, they were better in the morning. I was very tired from the snorer in my room though! My heart beat also woke me up as it was beating so strongly it was vibrating off the matress! Altitude really effects your body in weird ways!
The next day, I searched
for the shop to book my trek. I felt like I was wandering around for ages looking for it as Cuscos streets seem to lead to new places with every turn. Finally, I found it on top of a hill and walked in to the shop huffing and puffing. My breathing was crazy in that altitude! I booked the trek really quickly with a friendly lady at the desk, measured for a hat and gloves then went wandering around Cusco some more when I was finshed. I found out that there is a chocolate museum in Cusco and you can do a cooking class there for 70 soles (which is about 15 pounds). Bargain. I booked myself on for the following lunch time. I found a lovely small restaurant that sold different food from around the world. I had a salad and it was just what I needed. I feel like on this trip all I do is eat and sometimes not the healthiest of dishes so thought I had better choose wisely for once! I talked with a Norweigen girl who was also eating on her own and she was telling me she was going home a couple of
days. I was explaining that I don´t have long left and I started to feel really excited to be coming home. I love travelling but there is nothing like being around your friends and family...and having your own bed away from noisy people!
I then had a look at the market that seemed to sell everything! I wasn´t hungry and at the moment I can´t really buy much so it was just pure window shopping. It was a sunday at the streets were packed full of people buying and selling.
My final day in Cusco, I got up slowly and went in search for some postcards. I have found in South America when I want postcards they seem to be the hardest things to find!! Finally, I found some and went back to the restaurant from the day before. I had noticed that they sold alpaca meatballs and I was intrigued by what it would taste like! The meatballs were in a passionfruit, mint and chilli sauce. Scumptious! The alpaca tasted a little bit like chickeny pork. I have heard from other people since then that they thought it tasted like lamb or beef so maybe different people
get different tastes! I wrote my postcards and went in search for the post office. I found it really far from the main area and looked at my phone. I had twenty minutes to make it to my cooking class so had to leave the ever growing singular line and made my way quickly to the cooking class. I made it just in time.
The cooking class was informative about the process of how chocolate was made and it was especially interesting to find out that the production of chocolate is increasing in Peru to be exported throughout the world. The first part of our task was to remove the shells from the beans. We did this by heating the beans and stirring in a clay pot. Once the beans had cooled down, we could then easily pull the beans out of the shells. The shells were kept and made to use different hot(caliente) drinks for us to try. The first drink was made with the cocoa bean shells, hot water and a little sugar. It tasted just like hot chocolate (well the water version I have become accustomed to since leaving England as milk doesn´t seem like a
major thing in a lot of countries.) Was really lovely. We then tried a drink with the cocoa bean shells, hot water, chilli and honey. Again, delicious. The next drink was my favourite. Cocoa bean shells, milk, cinnamon and cloves with a little sugar. I enjoyed the drinks so much that I bought a bag of the shells! It only cost me three pounds so if any one out there comes to visit me when I´m back I will be getting out the hot chocolate-peruvian style!
We were then given a pestle and mortar to grind the beans into a butter. We had a competition to see who could make the best paste..I didn´t win. The winners won a bar of chocolate...so lucky! The paste was then put through a machine that had to be ground by hand using a metal handle. Some people were chosen to turn the handle and it looked like it was really difficult to turn. In factory settings I think everything is made by machine now to make the process quicker.
Next, it was time to make my own chocolates. Because the process of chocolate making is long and needs to be put
in a machine to be mixed, we were given pre-made melted chocolate. We could choose our moulds and the extra ingredients we wanted to add. I chose a mould with 16 small circles to pour my chocolate into. For four of my chocolate moulds I added salt to make salted chocolate (my favourite). The next four- oreo pieces and peants, Ginger in the next four and orange and raisin in the remaining holes. I then added the chocolate and stirred with the added ingredients. There was a little of the chocolate left in the bowl and it would be rude to waste it so I tucked in with my spoon!!! I was very happy 😊 I was asked to return an hour later to pick up my set chocolates.
Jessika, who I met in Lima, arrived in Cusco that day so I arranged to meet up with her after my cooking class. It was lovely to see her again. We arranged to go on a free night walking tour around Cusco to see what Cusco looks like by night. I quickly picked up my chocolates beforehand and we had a taste of a few before the tour. So good!
I wish they could last until I could get home to share with you all..... haha.
Our tour guide took us around different places around Cusco included the Jesus statue at the top of the hill that looks out over the city. It was really nice up there. We were also taken into a nearby shop that sold 100% alpaca wool clothing. So much more expenisive than the shops down in the town centre but we were shown how to identify real alpaca wool. It must be heavy with a tight knit. We were given two scaves to identify and the fake really did feel different, but if you didn´t know then could easily be fooled. The baby alpaca was the softest and most expenisve. I tried on an alpaca scarf and hat and paraded around the shop with them on as it was going to be the only time I would ever wear something like that as it as way out of my price bracket!
We returned back to the centre and a few of us decided to go for dinner a try Cuy...or in English - guinea pig! It is a very expensive meat so we
shared two guinea pigs between ten of us. It came out on a plate whole, even with its face and teeth!! We all had a slice and it was cooked very well. The meat was sweet and I really enjoyed the skin. We were told then not to use knives and forks but to use our hands instead. The carcass really smelled and I didn´t enjoy eating it after smelling the rather unappealing smell!
After the meal, I rushed back to my hostel to pack for my Inka Jungle Trek that was starting at 6am. I really regretted leaving my packing to the last minute as I was so tired! As I had to carry my own bag on the trek, it had to be as small and light as possible...not an easy task!!
I will update you with details about the trek soon! Lots of love xxx
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