1st Week in Cusco – High Life

Day 1 – October 6, 2016 

It was sad leaving behind Ollantaytambo and Casa de Wow; it had been the perfect start to our trip. We took a collectivo back to Cusco and had a much better experience this time around. We weren’t exhausted, the van never filled up so we had plenty of space to stretch out and we all decided to keep our bags INSIDE. Even though the roads are bumpy and windy its still a beautiful drive through the mountains full of lands untouched. Found our home for the next month with almost no issues and it was the perfect, just the right amount of room for 3 people and a beautiful view of the city at roughly 11,400 feet.

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(Not a bad view from our apartment)

Our first stop was Plaza Vea, which is Cusco’s mall, which was the first real feeling of home (sadly). When your apartment doesn’t have a refrigerator it makes it difficult to buy groceries. We ended up buying pastas, potatoes, and vegetables for the most part. What we didn’t realize was Mercado de San Blas is less than a 5 minute walk away. Luckily we only had some minor altitude sickness, which likely could be due to staying in Ollantaytambo (8-9000 ft.) before heading to Cusco (11,400 ft.)

Day 2 – October 7, 2016 

We decided to take it easy the first day or two since the changes in altitude can be trouble if you’re not careful. We walked to the Mercado de San Blas to get a few more groceries. The best deal has to be softball-sized avocados for 2 Soles (roughly 80 cents); needless to say, we’ve eaten many avocados. Next we wandered over to the Plaza de Armas which is definitely a “tourist” area just based off the people selling random goods and the price of surrounding restaurants (see top picture). Besides that it’s a beautiful area surrounded by large churches and views of the surrounding mountains.

Then we made our way back to Plaza de San Blas, which is essentially a much smaller Plaza de Armas with a large fountain at its center. We mainly just wanted to get a feeling for the surrounding area and our new home for the next month.

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Day 3 – October 8, 2016

We were ready to start seeing the sites. While in the Plaza de Armas, Emily noticed “free walking tour” advertising and figured that would be a perfect way to learn more about the area and the history. We headed back to Plaza de Armas and met our tour guide Marco. We learned about the shape of Cusco (a Puma), a brief history of Tupac (the Incan revolutionary leader during the Spanish Conquest) who Tupac the rapper is named after, stopped to see some alpacas and llamas to show us the difference of their ears and bodies to tell them apart. We then took a bus a little north, up towards Cristo Blanco and before we got to stop in a store selling indigenous products where they explained how the Incans made dyes

We walked over to Cristo Blanco, and there had one of the best views of Cusco. As we were leaving we got our first view of Sacsayhuaman and the huge stones it is made from.

Marco couldn’t have been a better guide and we still see him regularly around Cusco. (Marco below)

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At the end of the walking tour we were introduced to Harley the owner of the Cusco Bar Hop, which for a while we hesitant to partake since we knew drinking alcohol is not the best way to adjust to the altitude but at the last minute we decided to go since we knew the next day we wouldn’t be doing too much since the Patriots were playing. We showed up at Nuevo Mundo at 10 pm in the Plaza de Armas and for the first 45 minutes we were skeptical of where the night was going. The next stop was a hostel where we were offered 4 different types of Piscos which Colin and I ended up being fans of the Coca variety, which they describes as a natural vodka red bull. We got better acquainted with our Bar Hop friends, 2 girls from Malta, 2 girls from England, 1 guy from Australia, 2 local guys and Harley, our bar hop guide. After the Hostel the night started to blur, we we’re taken to 2 more clubs and got a free drink at each. One of the things we immediately noticed is although you rarely see people smoking on the streets the clubs were filled with smokers. After leaving the last bar I got hit immediately with déjà vu, it was like leaving a Faneuil Bar at 2 am, the cobblestones, the cache of taxis waiting for passengers, and street food vendors. We all agreed the next morning it ended up being a great experience.

(Check back later for a picture of our bar hop)

Day 4 – October 9, 2016 

I ended up heading to the Mercado in the morning since I promised the night before I would wake up and make guacamole for the Patriots game. Definitely ended up making a little too much but over the course of the day it was finished. Spent the day mainly researching the Tourist Boleta (a 3 or 10 day pass to the biggest surrounding attractions in Cusco).

Day 5 – October 10, 2016

We started the day with high hopes to start our “Boleta”, but when we woke up it was raining. We decided to head over to the Mercado de San Pedro, which is the biggest and most impressive in Cusco. They had anything you could want; probably ten times the size of Mercado de San Blas. Unfortunately it’s roughly a mile away so we stick to the San Blas market. While there Marco mentioned to us that the “black market” is just a block or 2 away. On the way over we passed by stall after stall of meats, chicken, guiena pig, cow, and something I wasn’t even sure of. As a meat eater it definitely wasn’t easy to walk past it all (not sure how Emily did it) Luckily we made it to the black market, which I was hoping to buy a bigger day bag at but it was stores filled mostly with clothes.

We got some more information on trips we’re thinking about doing (Maras, Moray, Rainbow Mountain, etc.) and ended our rainy day back at the apartment watching the Red Sox. Which sadly ended up being David Ortiz’s last game, not the best way to end the day.

Day 6 – October 11, 2016

Day 6: Another rainy day so we held off buying the Boleta, we got a slow start to the day and had our first meal at the Mercado de San Blas which was a salad, soup and main dish all for 4.5 Soles (roughly $1.25) and it was surprisingly delicious although we were slightly skeptical about getting sick. The weather seemed to hold out for us so we decided to try to find the Temple of the Moon, which we were told, was a short walk from our apartment. The walk to where the temple was passed us by some large caves just a minute walk from our apartment.

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Once we got to where we thought the Temple was it started drizzling, after exploring the area we came across some ruins we thought was our destination. By then it had started to actually rain and we were taking cover in some of the small caves.

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Soon after a guide and his small group passed by and told us where we were hiding out was used for “ceremonies” and we weren’t really supposed to be there. He also told us we were at the Temple of the Monkeys, not of the Moon, after exploring a little more and finding out about a hike to take in the future we decided to head back home. The best part was we all realized our boots had lasted walking hours in the rain. That night we treated ourselves to some delicious crepes at Crepería La Boheme, a French hostel and restaurant.

Hope everyone is well!

-William Tyler Weihs and The Everyday Travelers

P.S. High Life – Daft Punk

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