It was time to head for the hills. After enjoying the city life in Lima, we took an early morning flight across Peru and up to Cusco (flying allowed us to avoid the 20 hour bus ride along winding mountain roads!) Cusco is the tourist hub for all things trekking and Inca. It acts as a starting point for many treks in the region, including the Salkantay and Inca Trail, as well as providing the more physically challenged an easy place to catch a bus/train ride to Machu Picchu. Cusco was an important city for the Inca’s being close to many of their sacred cities and offering a gateway to the rest of Peru. Unfortunately, not much remains of the Incan buildings in Cusco, the conquering Spanish did their best to build on top of it all. Now the city offers up a hundred ways to buy gear for trekking and caters to the foreign tourist better than most!
Cusco: Pre-Trek Prep
Anyone going on a trek is advised to get to Cusco a few days before to start to let your body acclimatise to the altitude, the city sits at 3,300m. It’s pretty solid advice, after a couple of hours walking around the streets we were already feeling the pinch of the altitude – nothing better than hitting the bed for a mid-afternoon siesta! Feeling tired, a bit headachy and generally drained, we more or less wrote off the first day and spent our time sipping on Coca tea (a local remedy for dealing with altitude), watching TV at our hostel (Hostel Recoleta) and working out what we needed to take on our trek.
After a night’s sleep we woke up feeling much better, obviously our bodies had realised we weren’t going down anytime soon so decided to toughen up. We had a bunch of things to buy so set out into town with a list and a wad of Peruvian Soles. Talk about destroying the shopping list, a trip to the local market gave us half our list, including wooly beanies, gloves and a massive bag of mixed nuts. After a stop at the supermarket for 12 Snickers bars and the pharmacy for altitude sickness pills we were set. It was off to meet up with Tony for lunch at Jack’s café which, as it turned out served me up a cracking flat white along with some great food.
We did manage to test our walking abilities before we set off on the trek. In the afternoon Cel, Tony and I strapped on our very best walking gear and hit the hills around Cusco. The scenery around the city is pretty stunning, with plenty of arid hills, terracing, cliff faces and in the background are the ever present mountains. We made our way up to Christo Blanco (White Christ – statue) where we chilled out in the sun for 30 mins or so. Up at the statue was one of the local ladies who offers you to take a photo of her with her alpaca in return for a few dollars. I decided to break her business model and snap a couple of photos of her, without her noticing – a win for the kiwi’s there. After making it back down into town, we headed for a quick cup of coca tea before returning to the hostel to pack the bags (8kg allowance each) and get an early night before our 4:30 am start.
To see what happened on the trek itself, including video footage on the trail, check out my earlier post Salkantay
Post-Trek After Match Function
We’d done it! Our return to Cusco signified that we’d survived the 5 days without sever life threatening injuries or major relationship challenges! It was a great feeling to get back and sink into a proper bed without setting an alarm for some ridiculous hour in the morning! We’d allowed ourselves a couple of days break in Cusco, before heading to Arequipa, to wind down and catch our breath. The two days were spent mainly eating, drinking and sitting – we felt walking was something we’d overdone in the previous 5 days! Cel hit the massage bed for an hour and loved, I meanwhile hoofed it 30 minutes down the road to the bus station to buy us tickets! We caught up with Garret, who was one half of an American couple we’d met on the trek, for a few beers and a de-brief. I think after a couple of drinks we were all feeling the effects of the alcohol a little stronger than we would have normally – makes for a cheap night out!
We did manage to get into the local scene a little more, with a couple of meals at local markets (for about $3USD for both Cel and I) and a visit to a museum that contained plenty of info about Incan history – a good refresh after our trip. I took the liberty of having some young lad clean up a pair of my shoes. It was child labour, but I made sure I paid the young lad a decent amount to ensure that I felt ok with myself for employing someone who should have been in school!
After two days we had sufficiently recovered and were feeling relaxed. It was time for the next part of the adventure, a trip through to Arequipa. The prospect of more trekking made both of us shudder a little, but, when in Rome huh?