Trapped in and around Cusco

Trapped? Yes, in a way. We're a bit ancient to do the Inca Trail, so we were in Cusco while the rest of the group did it. Then we meant to meet them, but read on.


Trapped in and around Cusco

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by davidx on October 24, 2005

If you are going to be “trapped” anywhere, you will be pushed to beat Cusco as the perfect location. It was once the capital of the Incas and then was re-planned by the Spaniards to celebrate their triumph. There are any number of Inca walls in the city and at least two fine museums of different cultures leading up to the Incas. For those who have not been to any Inca site, what distinguishes them from the sites of earlier Peruvian cultures is the brilliant joining of large and asymmetrically shaped rocks without any gaps, the joins appearing to be made with giant rock-cutting cheese knives. Another feature is the way they blend into the natural environment, making earlier remains look as though they were planned elsewhere and then dumped where they now happen to be. This applies even to rocks “imported” into the area, which are placed to make a harmonious whole with the natural features of the site.

 

 

Cusco, apart from its own Inca remains, is very near to some spectacular sites. This report will cover Sachsaywaman [yes, it’s true – it does sound like sexy woman], Qenco, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay. In the city itself most places you will want to see are within walking distance from the beautiful Plaza de Armas, where the cathedral and the Jesuit church compete for pride of place, surrounded by arcaded streets with upstairs restaurants on balconies where you can watch the world go by. As for shopping, there are shops that sell the best alpaca, which is not cheap, even here, where alpacas roam not far away as wild animals, but they are at giveaway process by UK standards. There are also shops selling good jewellery, but most people will have far more interest in the markets, a tourist market for all sorts of souvenirs (but mainly textiles) behind the Jesuit church and the large food market down near the station for Macchu Pichu, which is mainly to meet the needs of the local population. The latter and marvellous Inca site of Sachsaywaman, only 2km from the city (but 2 very steep kilometers!) were said to be most inadvisable after dark.

${QuickSuggestions} Each of the sites mentioned has features unique to itself, but entry to them and to many museums in Cusco city is obtained by a single tourist ticket, obtainable at the sites or in the Avenida del Sol in Cusco. ${BestWay}

In the city you can walk pretty much to anything you want to see. For the wider area, taxis are remarkably cheap by UK standards, and your hotel will book you a multi-site trip, with breaks as long as you want at each site, at a prearranged price.


A Mi Manera

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by davidx on October 29, 2005

If you go up the street with the cathedral on your immediate left from the main plaza, after 1 block you will find A Mi Manera on your left. The food is described as Nouveau Andean, and that's fair enough. We had the final meal for our trip there, and you could have a problem with booking if many others do. I particularly enjoyed the ceviche, but beware if you don't like much chilli with it. For carnivores, alpaca steak is delicious and "safe." The management obtained a small but highly accomplished band at our request within minutes, but again, this might be easier for big groups. Anyway, it's an enjoyable place to eat. Second floor means one floor up - what we in England would call first floor.
A Mi Manera
Triunfo 393, 2nd floor
Cusco, Peru
084/243-629

Los Perros Couch Bar

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on October 29, 2005

If 'couch bar' means nothing to you, like it does for me, I can only say that it's about what it says. Most of the seats are couches. This was great for a group, as we were, but might be less good for those moved so that groups could sit on couches around the same table. The attitude is very relaxed, and there is a variety of snack-like foods, but in restaurant-like quantities. I particularly recommend the chilli rolls or the potato skins if you don't like your food too spicy hot.
Los Perros Couch Bar
Tecsecocha 436
Cusco, Peru

Saqsaywaman

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by davidx on October 26, 2005

Sachsaywaman is an Inca fortress with massive “imported” rocks at the lowest level. These were used in combination with much smaller material at the next level and then smaller stones as you ascend. At the very top there’s a restricted zone with the foundations of what was clearly once a round tower.

We went with our group to visit it and liked it so much that we decided to go again on our own on a free day. If you do this and want to wander without a guide, you will have to do a bit of beating off, but it’s well worth it. There were various kindergarten groups wandering past and enjoying having their photos taken as we enjoyed a leisurely picnic lunch.

I didn’t get to Machu Picchu, but those who did tell me that, although its site is truly outstanding, the authenticity of the remains is much greater at Sachsaywaman. A number of lintels have been replaced here, but one is original and most of the other features are as well.

I mean to do several sites in the area and am sure that the individual features are better viewed in photos than described in words.
Saqsaywaman
Outside Cusco
Cusco, Peru

Q'enqo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by davidx on October 26, 2005

Q’enco is a lovely site that combines extensive use of the natural outcrop of rocks there with brilliant sculpture of a massive "imported" rock. As with prehistoric or historic sites elsewhere based on large rocks, there is a considerable mystery surrounding the methodology of the importation. The work carried out on the natural rocks is prodigious. One street went right through the rock and there was a tomb well underneath. As with all these sites, the photos explain far more clearly than words.
Q'enqo
10 minutes outside Cusco towards Pisaq
Cusco, Peru

Puka Pukara

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on October 29, 2005

Puka Pukara's name means the "Red Fort." As Inca sites in the area go, it is small and in itself not particularly impressive, but the view over the route from Cusco to the Sacred Valley of the Incas from the hilltop site makes it well worth a visit, which can easily be combined with one to Tambomachay.
Puka Pukara
15 minutes outside Cusco towards Pisaq
Cusco, Peru

Guinea Pig's Revenge 1

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by davidx on October 26, 2005

I ate guinea pig. From what my friends on the trip who had tried one elsewhere had to tell me, it should have been a great experience, a wonderful taste with delicious crackly skin. If only! Mine was eaten at a foul roadside "restaurant." By foul I mean foul. There were mangy dogs trotting by, scrounging. By roadside I mean roadside – by the side of the road – with just room for the mangy dogs to avoid being run over by the trucks that were scattering us in filth. By restaurant I don’t mean anything like a restaurant!

As for the taste, it didn’t have much and the skin was like rubber. I think the beast might have died a natural death some time ago. That gave the great spirit guinea pig in the sky enough time to plot a sinister revenge – and he used it. That night I came as near as I have for a long time to athleticism. However, it wasn’t a race track I was running – just the fastest way to the smallest room. I slept badly, largely, if not entirely, due to the worsening condition of my stomach. We were due to go on the first train to Aguas Callientes, ready to go to Machu Picchu the following day and meet our trip associates as they completed the Inca Trail. This meant getting up at about 4am, and we reached the station at about 5:40am.

I felt absolutely awful, so Pam and José, the assistant to the tour leader, who was going with us, took my luggage and went quickly up the steps to find our seats. I followed miserably and looked up the steps. A wave of dizziness hit me, and my heart machine (sort of the opposite of a pacemaker) found it necessary to stop and restart my heart five times in rapid succession. I only felt the pain four times – I think I was momentarily unconscious for the first. As some people find it repulsive to read about medical treatments, I’ll do a separate account of my day and night in a clinic. I can say without fear of contradiction that a visit to Machu Picchu would have been a more enjoyable experience.


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