A bit of Lima and a lot of Cusco
10.06.2012 - 15.06.2012 20 °C
Hi! Anastasia here
We were still in Lima when we were posting our last blog, and it was very nice. There are a few things not to miss in Lima besides all the traditional sites and one of them is Cafeteria Manolos, which is close to Parque Central in Miraflores and has been there since the fifties. I think Ryan had the biggest sandwich he has ever eaten (sorry, NY city!) and I tried a fabulous new desert – churros and thick hot chocolate, which is the trademark of this place. It was hard to leave Lima, because it was great and so comfortable, but we needed to push on to one of the most visited places on the planet – Cusco, and subsequently Sacred Valley. So, after shopping around for a bus we found one. Luckily, a lot of the bus companies are very close to each other and we were able to check out at least five companies by foot. It was interesting that Cruz del Sur was by far the most popular company, which everyone and their brother travels by, but it is very expensive (S 185 Lima – Cusco), and the other company Cial with the same style of bus was S 85 and only had five and a half passengers on it. So, do not go for Cruz del Sur, but shop around! Anyway, it took us about 23 hours on the bus to get to Cusco, and we were very tired afterwards. We checked into one of the cheapies that was recommended to us by another traveler, but soon found out that none of the rooms had toilet seats, though equipped with TVs. That did not sit well with Ryan, who threatened to buy one (toilet seat, not TV) and start carrying it around with him, so we checked out the next day and found a better deal.
Cusco was a pleasant surprise – even though the place is definitely touristic, it is also kind of nice to just have a good ol’ burger and beer and listen to some rock’n’roll tunes in one of the gringo bars around here. And of course there is beautiful colonial architecture, grand and overpowering. Cusco was an ancient Inca capital and after the Spanish conquest in 1532 it became the first official capital of Peru. The streets are paved with cobble stones and there are beautiful churches and buildings anywhere you look. So, on our second day in Cusco we set out to walk the streets and see the sites. Just a little walk from our hostel we found the most important square in the city - Plaza de Armas - and, what do you think, there was a parade on it! So, of course we stopped and watched the great festivities with children performing traditional Peruvian dances for a few hours. I have never seen such an explosion of colors before, and of course all was made better by the surrounding scenery of mountains and grand cathedrals. After watching the parade, we browsed around the multitude of craft shops and ended up in a gringo bar with a happy hour watching Euro football cup.
The next day we decided we should go see inside some of the monasteries and churches. So we took a long street called Loreto lined with ancient Incan stones and came up on Santo Domingo monastery and adjacent church. The church was free to visit and had some beautiful paintings, though fairly recent, as well as the old 17th century frescos. The monastery was a great treat for within its walls it had remnants of the ancient Inca temple site Qorikancha, which, according to historians, was the richest temple in the time of it being sacked by Spaniards. Now all the gold is gone, but the stones are still there, bearing witness to time. The monastery also houses a nice little exhibit of colonial art from the Cusco school with commentaries in Spanish and English, which was great for us. After exploring Santo Domingo we walked out and stumbled upon an archeological site housed in the yard of Cusco Ministry of Culture, which had some remnants of Inca houses and even the burials! The highlight was a couple of vicuñas (relatives of llama) running around and spitting on people. We wisely stayed away and took pictures of the cute animals from a distance. This little adventure was free of charge as well. Upon returning to Plaza de Armas we were in for another great surprise – the festival of Corpus Christi, one of the most important events of the year in Cusco. Needless to say, it was absolutely spectacular and continued well into the evening and you may see more pics in the gallery, because we took thousands of them. Unbeknownst to us we timed our Cusco adventure well, for the month of June is the month when most of the festivals happen here, there is something happening here almost every day in June, plus the weather is beautiful and sunny. After enjoying watching the parade we went to a local spa and Ryan got his cheapest massage yet of the trip at only $8 while I got a pedicure. The rest of the evening was spent eating well in the restaurant just around the corner from us called Sumaq and listening to local musicians, who imposed on us during our dinner of alpaca steak. On the third day we explored our first archeological site in The Sacred Valley called Pisac and were back into Cusco, but I will let Ryan describe it in our next entry. Hasta luego!