Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Peru Part 1: Cusco, The Sacred Valley, and Ollantaytambo

Our recent trip to Peru included a couple of days in Cusco, and the surrounding areas. The reason for the visit to Peru was to see Machu Picchu, but to get to Machu Picchu, you must go through Cusco.

20140408_074426 20140408_074409 Getting to Cusco from Utah is no easy task.  Our flight left Salt Lake City in the evening, arriving in Los Angeles later that night, where we took a red eye to Ft. Lauderdale.  Our flight into Lima didn’t leave until later in the evening so we spent the day in the Ft. Lauderdale area and then left early evening for Lima.  We arrived in Lima just before midnight, and then spent the night curled up on the tile in a corner next to some payphones and an outlet where we could charge our phones. 

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Our flight from Lima to Cusco left around 6 in the morning, and we finally arrived in Cusco around 10:00, where we were greeted with several exhuberant tour guides and cups of coca tea to help us acclimatize {the altitude in Cusco is 11,200 feet}.

20140405_095711 We had done a little bit of research about tour guides in Cusco and decided that that was the route we wanted to go.  As we fly standby, and sometimes don’t make it onto the flights that we want, we were wary about booking hotels, train tickets, tickets to Machu Picchu, etc.  So when we arrived we tracked down Alejandra with Yananti Adventures, which was right by baggage claim.  Alejandra was great.  She helped us find a hotel, transportation and purchase all of our tickets and tours.  They were also more reasonably priced than some of the other tour groups we spoke to.

20140405_13444620140406_085434  After arranging all of the nitty gritty details, we headed to the hotel to check in.  We stayed at a hotel called Tierra Del Inca, which was walking distance to the main square, but still quiet and safe.  It was third-world-country-clean, and they offered a basic Peruvian breakfast, and all of the coca tea that we could drink.  In hindsight, we may have booked a different hotel in advance, and paid a little more for accomodations.  But it was fine, since we didn’t spend any time there except to sleep.

20140405_12564820140405_13064720140405_130832 We spent the rest of the day touring Cusco, which is a beautiful city.  There are some great ruins nearby, and the head to the Incan trail, which leads to Machu Picchu.  We also did a tour of Qurikancha, the Convent of Santo Domingo. 

20140405_155708 20140405_16362020140405_17531920140405_165424 When we travel, we do love to try local cuisine, however the water situation in Peru is iffy, so you have to be careful.  Our tour included one Peruvian meal which we had as we visited the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo the next day.  There was a lot of fruit, potatoes and meat and they had a great ceviche.  Oh.  And they had chocolate flan.  It was a.maz.ing.  Speaking of Peruvian food, most of the breakfasts we had offered a type of Rice Puff cereal with “milk” {think runny yogurt} honeydew melon and rolls with sliced meat.   A delicacy in Peru is guinea pig, which may or may not have been included in the traditional meal that we had.  We couldn’t tell.

Also, the corn in Peru is HUGE.20140406_14152520140405_180701One thing we weren’t prepared for was all of the stairs in Peru.  Everywhere we went we climbed ancient stone steps to the tops of the ruins, and back down again.  There were no handrails most places, and certainly no elevators.  So. many. stairs.

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Also, we did fall victim to a bit of altitude sickness, which was surprising to me as Utah has quite a few mountains that we frequent.  The altitude sickness we was a painful chest-crushing pressure, but can be even more severe I’ve heard.  The locals swear by the coca tea as a remedy, which I avoided in the beginning, as it tastes awful, but after 24 hours of feeling like I was dying, and after watching a woman in the lobby put sugar in hers, I decided to give it another try.  Better with the sugar, but still not great.  We then found some coca candies, and they were a little better, so we stuck to those.

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So our first day in Peru was spent near Cusco, and then the second day we visited the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo in the morning.  In the afternoon, we boarded the Inca Rail, which would take us to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. 

Continued…

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