Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Cuzco in Peru. This was the meeting point for our trek to Machu Picchu. We were advised to come to Cuzco at least 2 days before the start of the trek so that we could get used to the altitude. I basically had no idea about the existence of Cuzco until planning this trip. I’m glad we were told to come a few days earlier, because it gave me the opportunity to explore a new city.
The hotels at Cuzco offer their guests coca tea in the lobby. These teas are made with coca leaves, which are known to help treat altitude sickness. (Coca leaves are also what’s used to make cocaine – hence, you can’t take these leaves back home with you). Cuzco is about 3399m above sea level, so this tea is definitely needed for newcomers to adjust to the high altitudes. The hotels also provided us with maps, which were easy to follow. There were also travel information stations within the city where tourists can go to to ask for help. It’s definitely a tourist-friendly city. I may be wrong, but I feel like one of the city’s main source of income is from tourism because everywhere I looked, it seemed as if there were products or services targeted towards tourists (tour companies, massages, souvenirs, etc.). I think I remember our guide saying that mining was also a good source of income for the city.
A popular dish in Cusco is Ceviche. It’s a seafood dish consisting of raw fish and onions that is marinated in lemon/lime. Many people like this, but for someone who’s not a fan of fish, this wasn’t my favourite. I’d recommend to get one dish and split it between people so you can try a spoonful before you decide to buy a whole plate for yourself. I also tried their popular drink, Pisco Sour, which was really good. The taste was pretty strong. This drink also has lemon juice mixed in it, so it was a bit sour as well. So basically my meal that day consisted of a sour dish and a sour drink! I had to buy fries afterwards to get rid of that sour taste in my mouth.
A specialty dish of theirs is Cuy (Guinea Pig). They serve it whole, so you see the face, teeth, feet, nails, etc.. You can ask for it to be cut up for you, which my brother did after we took this picture. He said it tasted like chicken.
On our first day, we decided we should get some practice with hiking uphill, so we walked to Cristo Blanco. It was at this point that I realized I was going to struggle hiking the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu. Cristo Blanco is similar to the one in Brazil, but smaller. It overlooks Cusco. From here, you could also see Saksaywaman, an Inca fortress.
On the second day we did some souvenir shopping and also went to Choco Museo. Here we made our own chocolate, which we got to take home. It was pretty fun. We didn’t stay long in the city, but if we did, another place that I was interested in checking out was the rainbow mountains. Here are a few pictures taken while at the city:
So we spent a total of 3 days in the city. Two days before the tour and 1 day after the tour. Unfortunately this trip did have one unfortunate incident – our bags that we left behind while on the trek got stolen because there was a break in at the office where we left our bags. The thieves decided to take our travel bags along with the other items that they stole from that office. It was a shame that this happened because everything leading to that point had been nothing but amazing. We got over it quick though and didn’t let it ruin the trip. We were fortunate enough to have the lost items compensated for by the owner and we took all of our valuables with us to the trek, so there wasn’t much to be compensated for anyways. However, I had my diary (One line a Day) in the stolen bag, which money can’t replace, but oh wells, what’s done is done.
I highly recommend people to visit the city if they can. It’s beautiful and has friendly people. I realize that last sentence may sound a bit odd after mentioning how the bags got stolen, but it happens. There are always going to be a few bad folks among the good no matter where you go in this world. When we were out and about in the city, we always felt safe and the locals were helpful when we asked them for help. I especially adored the old women that I came across when we were bargaining with them for souvenirs – they were so cute. And last but not least, you HAVE to go see Machu Picchu because it is breath taking – definitely a must see.
You can read about my experience hiking the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu by clicking this link: Lares Trek to Machu Picchu