I could spend a month in Cusco

I’m coming to realise that keeping you guys updated on my trip takes more time than I expected. Even just writing a short post on the most interesting bits and pulling together some photos takes hours. Hours that I spend looking at the iPhone screen and ignoring the world around me, which explains why the posts are not coming more regularly.

It also explains the jump from the previous post written from the border between Argentina and Chile to this post on my 10 days in Cusco. Two weeks have gone by in between (check the map to see exactly where I’ve been). One day I will put together a post on my day trip to Valparaiso in Chile that was really the only spot worth an update during these two weeks.

I have also spent 5 days in Lima, which, much like many people I did not trust have told me, isn’t worth the detour. The city is huge and chaotic, which means it meets all the preconditions for me to love it. But I didn’t. I did not manage to discover any charm in Lima that would make it enjoyable. Beyond a trip to one of its great seafood restaurants or a jog down its interesting coastline, there doesn’t seem to be much else. So I did some yoga, ate lots of ceviche and waited for my flight out. But I would give Lima a second chance one day with a local guide.

Lima coastline

Cusco was a whole different story. I planned to spend 5 days there, but I ended up extending my hostel stay every night and staying 10 days. I left yesterday, but could easily stay another week, two, or a whole month. The city feels like you have stepped 500 years back in time to join the Incas. Ancient walls built with perfectly aligned stones are lining the streets and locals are running about doing their business. Being rather touristy, the city also has quite a few good and simple restaurants (Organyka was my absolute favourite), markets, places serving delicious coffee (check out Aymura and L’atelier), cool hostels and all the other things one needs to feel cosy. But with hoards of locals running around and the tourists always being in a minority, the place remains exciting.

Cusco lies 3400 metres above the sea where the thin air forces you to slow down. For someone like me, that’s of great value. I couldn’t run from one spot to another; I simply had to slow down or even stop completely to catch my breath. After a couple of days, you get used to the altitude but also to walking slowly.

When I thought I was acclimatized, I tried doing sports and it was an interesting experience. When practicing yoga the purpose is to calm down and breathe intentfully throughout the practice. At 11,000 feet that proved to be physically impossible for me this time and I had to stop as I was too dizzy and out of breathe to keep moving at all (let alone intentfully). But even so, my reactions and thoughts while realising I wont be able to continue were insightful. So do try sports at high altitudes – your capacity is lowered and you will learn how you react to it physically and mentally.

Outside the city, there are a number of spots to see. Besides Machu Picchu (about which I’ll write separately), I’ve done a number of one day trips – the standard tour of the Sacred Valley (Pisac and Ollantaytambo), a day riding quads on the high plateau of Chinchero (Maras and Salinas) and a hike to the Rainbow Moutain at 5,200 metres. The photos below say it all – the mix of colours, history, inviting but also difficult natural environment, ancient architecture from with we can learn so much, and the unique people, descending from the Incas and speaking their own language, make the place magical. So when you visit Cusco, make sure you don’t spend only a couple of days there to see Machu Picchu. The place hides so much more!


Sacred Valley

Quads in Maras and Salinas

Rainbow Mountain – 5.200m

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