Rochelle & Will
During our time in Cusco we stayed at the nice overlanders camp called Quinta LaLa located just below the Saqsaywaman ruins and a 15 minute walk down a steep hill to the trendy plaza. On arrival we received a helpful info guide and city map that even included where to get your car fixed or washed. The grassy paddock camp included a flock of ducks, a duckling, over seven chickens, a large rooster and five small dogs. The chickens really liked to hop in your car if you left the door open but it was ok because we got to eat their fresh eggs. To top the farm experience off every few days a pack of Llamas came through to trim the grass.
First in on the agenda in Cusco was to get our extremely dirty car washed and the broken spotlight welded back on. As usual this took most of the day but left just enough time to do a supermarket shop, as the tourist filled centre of Cusco was a very expensive place to eat. Despite this good planning we went out for dinner after bumping into our friends from our resent pampas tour Sarah, Harrison, Ben and Thomas. They planned to try cuy or guinea pig; a must for every tourist. So we joined them along with our new Canidian overlanding friends Aleksey and Dawen. It was a fun but very expensive night, luckily Dawen was an expert negotiator and scored us free pisco sours. The two cuy we ordered came out whole but were then quickly whisked away and cut into five parts with the fifth being the head. There wasn't a lot of meat but daring Thomas even tried the brain under the instruction of the waiter.
The next day we planed to check out some nearby ruins after buying a Boleto Turistico ticket for 130 soles. This entitled us to visit 15 museums and ruins located in Cusco and around the wider Cusco area. We walked then taxied up the hill to visit the closest four ruins being Saqsaywaman, Qenqo, Pukapukara and Tambomachay. We really enjoyed the large tight fitting stone work of Saqsaywaman as well as the view over Cusco, rumour has it if you go there before 7am it's free. The aqueduct of Tambomachay was good but very small and we would end up seeing better out of town later. The Qenqo and Pukapukara ruins weren't overly spectacular but as part of the walk back to the campground they were ok. Most people take a tour bus to see these four ruins but we recommend taking a colectivo to the top then walking back down. Just be aware of dogs on the road as we met one tourist missing a chunk flesh from his arm following a dog bite so we carried stones just incase.
The next day we kept up our tourist activities and walked to the furthest of six museums, making our way back towards camp after visiting each one in turn. The best was the Monumento a Pachacuteq the rest were ok. Our $5nz lunch that day included a cup of flan and an empanada each. We were having to get used to the small portion sizes having been left very disappointed after ordering an ice cream that looked huge in the photo but was actually ridiculously small.
We had planned to leave the following day for the famous ruins of Machu Picchu but Aleksey and Dawen told us about the Corpus Christi festival that would begin the next day. Corpus Christi entails fifteen statues of local saints and virgins being paraded around the central plaza in a procession to the Cathedral where they "greet" the body of Christ. It was a colourful noisy affair and we felt for the statue bearers who had to shoulder a massive load and walk forwards and backwards in time to the music. We headed to the parade early hoping to find some of our friends but had no luck so splashed out on a tapas lunch instead. Then we returned to camp for some much needed Internet time. We also recapped our research for the route to Machu Picchu as there are so many different ways to get there it can become confusing.
The following day we left Cusco and before making our way to Machu Picchu we spent a few days taking in the sights of the other outlying ruins including Tipon, Pikillacta, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Tipon was an impressive demonstration of high altitude terraced farming with beautiful aqueducts feeding each level. While Pikillacta was a huge red stoned fortress of long corridors said to once have been a military base. We really enjoyed exploring these ruins and as they were just out of town there was hardly any other people around. Pisac later that afternoon proved to be absolutely breathtaking and we would highly recommend it. The best part about Pisac and all of these ruins was that we didn't know what to expect unlike Machu Picchu where everyone has seen photos of it. The blockwork at Pisac was stunning set across four sections of hill top housing connected with a maze of walkways and overlooking thousands of steep hill side terraces. We enjoyed it so much we stayed the night at the entrance and went again early in the morning getting the place to ourselves for a few sweet hours.
Next we drove to the town of Ollantaytambo and were again blown away by the spectacular hill side ruins over looking the town. Especially the church that was impossibly set high into the near vertical hill side. Afterwards we headed for our destination for the night at the Santa Teresa hot pools. From here we start our journey to Machu Picchu which we'll tell you all about in our next blog.
Rochelle & Will