Day 1 –
We have finally arrived in South America. Our trip in, although consisting of three flights was fairly seamless. The only disappointment was leaving my neck pillow in the Lima airport after taking a snooze before our 8am flight to Cusco! I guess I will need to purchase a new one before my next flight. We arrived at the Cusco airport around 9:30am on Saturday and were so excited to be there. We had a driver from our hostel meet us at the airport with a sign that said “Gabriel Grossman”. This luxury service cost us a whopping $6. We were loving Peruvian Soles already!
We finally arrived at our hostel, Loki Cusco. We were able to check right into our Deluxe Matrimonial Room which was enormous and even had a TV and panoramic views of Cusco – this may not seem like much if you don’t frequent hostels but usually rooms are filled with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. We were living in hostel luxury! The hostel was also one of the coolest I have ever seen. It had an outdoor volleyball court, outdoor and indoor searing in their bar and just had a great vibe – it came recommended from both my friend and Gabe’s friends and they did not steer us wrong.
Surprisingly, we did not feel too tired upon our arrival. We made sure to hydrate because Cusco sits at 11,000 ft above sea level. We did not want to get altitude sickness and ruin the rest of our trip! We decided to go out and explore. We walked to the main square of the city called Plaza de Armas. On our way, we saw some couples dining on these patios on the second floor on a side street that overlooks the plaza. We decided to go up and take the last open table outside. The sun was really coming out. Initially it was quite cold but with the sun shining and the day progressing it warmed up! For our breakfast, we had our first taste of Mate de Coca. This is a tea that derives from the coca plant. This tea helps significantly with the altitude and is more similar to drinking a strong cup of coffee. It was delicious and gave us the energy we needed to keep exploring!
Here is a view of the Plaza de Armas from our lunch spot:
Next, we went on a free walking tour that departed from Plaza de Armas called Free Walking Peru by Marco. The tour guide had great energy and taught us all about Peruvian history while showing us the city. He told his own story about growing up in the Amazon and by age 7 was collecting coca leaves that he provided to drug dealers. He moved away from the Amazon and to Cusco but made a beautiful point that everyone should love their own home, regardless of where they are from because we don’t choose where we are from. Another fun fact he told us was that in the Peruvian native language Quechua, there is no word for friend, only brothers and sisters. This is because everyone is your brother and sister and gives back to the earth. I thought this was really special. We walked all around the town and went in a small music shop where we heard a number of Peruvian instruments including a 16 string guitar and a large horn that resembled a shofar. Our last stop was in a part of town called San Blas. This area is uphill but has incredible views of the city. Our tour ended with free Pisco Sours, a Peruvian cocktail. It was pretty delicious! After our small sip of Perivan alcohol we were beat from all the uphill walking and decided to head back to the hostel for a nap so we could make it out that night.
Our nap truly rejuvenated us! It was very necessary. We kept questioning why we were so exhausted and completely forgot that we had travelled all the way from New York and arrived this morning. The day felt so long that it felt surreal that we had just arrived in Peru. After our nap we decided to just grab some dinner at the all you can eat BBQ at the hostel. We grabbed a few local Cusquena cervezas and sat with this group of Argentineans and Chileans. I practiced my Spanish and was starting to recall much of what I had learned in school. Following the BBQ and meeting some interesting people from around the world, we ventured off on our own to this live music bar that Gabe’s friend had recommended. It was called Km 0 and was this tiny place that had a small room with a Peruvian band. We got the last table luckily and sat and enjoyed another Pisco Sour with live music in the background. We were pretty exhausted still so we went home around midnight.
Day 2 –
Our second day began around 8:30am following a rude awakening by the roosters of Cusco. Well, they really began making loud noises starting around 5am but we somehow managed to fall back to sleep. We ate breakfast at Loki hostel then headed out to hike up to the ruins just outside of Cusco called Sacasayhuman. We underestimated the walk up to the ruins. There were so many steps but we powered through knowing it would be great preparation for our trek to Machu Picchu the next day.
Steps up to the ruins:
After viewing and hiking around Sacasayhuman, we went to San Pedro Market. This is the main market in Cusco and features different booths with local foods and also an area where locals dine and eat Peruvian food. Most of the markets I have been to in Southeast Asia and other areas are full of tourists so it was really cool to see a place that was filled with locals.
Next, we walked to the square and decided to hunt for a delicious lunch. We found this nice organic restaurant called Greens and ended up sitting next to a family from Beverly, Mass – it sure is a small world! This place was pricier for a Cusco restaurant but definitely attracted other American families since it was on the nicer side. We had this delicious trout ceviche with mango and alpaca sliders. Alpaca is a meat commonly served in Cusco and tastes similar to lamb. It was actually delicious! I have become such an adventurous meat eater thanks to Gabe!
Here is a picture of us wandering through Plaza de Armas and stumbling upon a baby llama:
After lunch, we went hunting for some Cusco souvenirs including hats and sweaters because it has been freezing at night and in the morning in Peru and we did not come well enough prepared. While we were shopping, a British girl recommended this one particular shop with the sweetest Peruvian woman running it. We went there and loved this woman. She had great stuff for very cheap prices. She even gave us these adorable pins to wear as a token of her gratitude. After we bought some items, she started to dress us in these colorful Peruvian garments and insisted that she take a photo. We are certainly glad she did!
After we took another afternoon nap then had to report to the Loki travel office for a briefing for our trek that began the next day. The briefing was informational and just reminded us about our 6:30am departure from the hostel offices – so early!
Following the briefing, we stumbled upon this amazing rooftop bar called Marcelo Batata. Gabe enjoyed a dirty martini while I had a ‘Piscopolian’ – a twist on the cosmopolitan with the Peruvian alcohol Pisco.
Here is a view from the restaurant:
Then we went to this incredible restaurant that came recommended to us called Fallen Angel. The decor in this guest house and restaurant was not like anything I have ever seen. The tables were bathtubs filled with fish with glass over them. There were crazy sculptures and art all over the place. It was one of the coolest restaurants I have ever been to. The food was delicious except for our main course which Gabe insisted on trying while we were in Peru. We ordered the Cuy or Guinea Pig. Yes, this 8 year vegetarian actually tried guinea pig. The gross creature even had its legs in the air and had teeth… It also tasted gross but hey, at least I can say I tried it.
Here is our disgusting Cuy:
The next day we left bright and early for our 4 day trek – more to come!