Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Pisac. What gems!

So this was a quick stop off for a few days before we headed up to Machu Picchu, but while we were here we were going to get on a few tours, and Cusco turned out to be a wonderful city, with our favorite central square (Plaza de Armas) of all the squares in south america.

We arrived in at 5.30 am after our Peru Hop bus journey, but at this time we couldn’t check in to our hostel room, so we sat in the common area until it was time for breakfast (still going to grab that free breakfast!). After breakfast we headed out to get some quotes on the rainbow mountain tour and sacred valley tour.

We found a McDonalds and KFC in the main square and got a coffee at Macca’s before heading to this vegan restaurant where we got 4 courses for 4 quid! Talk about two opposite types of restaurant… This Vegan spot (green point restaurant) was all freshly made and for me who doesn’t usually enjoy vegan options, this was a game changer for me, and I actually now enjoy the different types of vegan foods round (still a meat eater though). Well done green point restaurant.

We had found a decent tour company (most are pretty similar to be honest and they all go to the same spots), so we booked our tour and then headed back to our hostel for check in and a much needed hot shower; yes we hadn’t showered yet since our bus journey, sorry Cusco…  We had a little afternoon nap and felt very lazy, as both of us didn’t sleep too well in the night bus. Its hit and miss if you sleep well on the busses depending on the roads and seats, and in Kumu’s case, whether or not the air con is on extreme mode and you freeze. I have a gut so stay warm in the chill, so no issues there… For dinner it was off to a very nice place… the McDonalds we went to earlier. End of good quality vegan eating for the day!

Next morning, we got picked up at 7am for our Sacred Valley tour and very quickly realised that our tour guide’s English wasn’t great. There was a lot of ‘what did they just say’ this day. Anyway, our first stop was a lake where Kumu tried to get another photo with an alpaca. You can see Kumu trying to tell the Llama where to look for the photo in the picture below. Still yet to get that perfect Llama photo!

Then we visited Chinchero where we were taken to a textile shop and watched a demonstration on how they extract colours from a natural products. The one that amused us the most was they could make 26 colours from the thorns in the cactus by mixing it with different colours.  

After this we headed to Moray which looked liked an amphitheatre but the Incas built thus for agriculture. The temperature differed by 15 degrees from the top to the bottom and they essentially used it as a lab to see in what conditions the plants thrived in by planting different plants on each level and seeing how well they grew. The Incas were properly impressive in the technology that they developed, and it always amazing how these people discover all these new methods and inventions. Basically, high five to science people!

Lunch was a buffet in Urubamba, and I got told off for taking one too many desserts; I took 2… Next stop was Ollantaytambo which was massive. Again, another insane relic from the Incas.

Opposite was a rock that looked like the face of a person and when the sun rose in the morning it would reflect exactly on the only entrance to the sun temple. The face is a profile view, and the jutty out bit in the middle of the picture is meant to be the nose. Good luck spotting it!

Most of the buildings and settlements from the Inca times were aligned to the sun and the moon, as these were seen as gods essentially, and the level of precision was just amazing. Take a look at this block work below, you couldn’t even get a piece of paper between those two stones. Even some modern day buildings aren’t built with that level of precision.  

The Incas also had holes in the mountain to store their food as it protected it from the weather, so it was like a massive fridge, as the mountain kept it at a consistent temperature.

Because our guide’s english wasn’t great, and our spanish was even worse, we decided to watch a documentary on the history of the place, and some of the other Inca sites as well. There are quite a few and if you haven’t watched or read anything around the Incas, I’d recommend it, they are very interesting. Here’s some other photos of Ollantaytambo.

Next stop was Pisac. This was Kumu’s favourite, and not just of the day, She still rates this as one of her favourite places overall in South America. The layers of terraces and ruins in between high mountains was just breathtaking. On the side of the mountain there were several holes which were used as tombs. The Incas believed in mummification and afterlife and when you died they would put you in these holes in the fetus position.

“Pisac was just so picturesque and a place I never thought existed in real life”
Kumuthini, 2018.

I am still pretty sure she was having a hippy ‘far out’ moment. Must have been the altitude! After driving back to Cusco we headed for dinner at Organika. What a cracker! I had a steak and it was better than the don Julio one in Argentina, where we waited for 2 hours to be seated. Some ace food in Cusco for sure.

So last day in Cusco before we head off to the Machu Picchu, and we woke up and decided to do a makeshift walking tour from the map and app I found. Turns out the map was pretty rubbish, but we made it work. We started at the San Pedro market and it was a lovely market filled with fresh fruit. We tried our first chirimoya here. A sweet white pulpy fruit, which is part of the dragon fruit family. Reminded me of the Chewits sweets in the UK. We saw several churches, visited the chocolate museum (not really a museum, just a shop masquerading as a museum).We walked around a bit more just taking in Cusco, and then headed to the hostel to rest before our 5 pm briefing for Machu Picchu. We met the rest of the guys on our tour, and they all seemed like a nice bunch. We got measured up for our bike gear and just ran through the itinerary. We were feeling pretty excited as we headed back to pack and get ready for our 5:30am pick up.

So Cusco. Great city, lovely place to spend a some time seeing the local history and tasting all the food, plus it’s a great central point for doing a huge list of trips and tours. Loved it.



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