Arriving into Peru, we were the tired-est I’ve ever been on our travels!
First off we started in Amsterdam, then carried on to London (transiting for a few hours in London), followed by a 12 hour flight to Lima (Peru) followed by an 8 hour overnight transit at the airport overnight, of which we planned to stay in an airport lounge and at least try to sneak in a nap but as it turns out, we couldn’t pop into any airport lounges because our next flight to Cusco was domestic and the domestic airport terminal closes overnight!
We ended up in a hotel bar across the road, ordered a beer and promptly fell asleep on their awkwardly uncomfortable chairs – obviously the chairs weren’t exactly made for napping guests though we were joined by quite a few other traveller.
Long story short – we arrived into Cusco in Peru, totally jet-lagged, sleep-deprived and absolutely tired!
A quick hotel ride away from the airport (armed with a mouthful of coca leaves given to us at the airport, apparently to help with the high altitude), we arrived at our hotel – Antigua Casona San Blas – one of the best ones we’d found in the city. (The price we’d found at the time was also pretty great!)
The hotel scene in Cusco is different from what you’d find in most cities. You’ll struggle to find any tall buildings here. It’s more about hotels being built into old historic buildings (or indeed, to replicate them) with central courtyards (which does end up feeling a tad more intimate).
Alas, at 6.30am, it was far too early to check in however, the kind folk at the hotel got us nice and comfy with coca teas, plain old regular teas, coffees and even let us have breakfast – all of which totally energised us and got us ready to explore Cusco!
We were staying in San Blas, one of the most important parts of the city so sightseeing was pretty much a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel. Tiredness abated for a while, we hit the streets of Cusco!
By the way, you can totally feel the high altitude as soon as you start walking! Catching your breath is noticeably harder than it normally us and that feeling takes some getting used to.
The streets in San Blas, and around Cusco, are everything you’d expect – winding, cobbled, beautiful and rustic in parts.
There are little shops dotted in alleyways, some of which we popped into to get in on some early souvenir shopping and you can take photos with some locals dressed up with what we thought were baby llamas/alpaca but are in fact, lamb. (Totally felt cheated by that – haha!)
We headed down to Cusco Cathedral (full name is Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption – quite the mouthful, right?) – the Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and definitely worth a visit however we couldn’t get in at the time (there were also police around it) so we made a point to pop back in later.
Outside the cathedral is the Plaza de Armas, the main square in the city and a hive of activity. There are other cathedrals here, restaurants, bars and attractions.
By this point my caffeine buzz was starting to wear off and so we popped into a restaurant/café with a great view of the plaza for another round of coca teas and coffees.
Almost out of the blue, chanting begun on the square and people started marching out with placards. Turns out, we were in the middle of a demonstration though totally unsure what its about (my Spanish is still very much a work in progress). We were so surprised (and slightly amused) to be witnessing this though the demonstration finished almost as quickly as it started – totally peacefully too.
We stopped off at Coricancha, an ancient Inca temple, carrying on to Centro Artesanal – home to a crafts market (another prime spot for souvenir hunting).
The main reason we actually headed down this direction was to pick up our train tickets for Machu Picchu for the next morning so we went to do that bit shortly after. Even though we’d paid for the tickets for months before, picking up the tickets till involved a 30 – 40 minute wait, along with some impromptu, awkward 2 minute nap sessions, as a result of which none of us could fathom the walk back up and just hopped into a taxi back to San Blas.
By this point, it was okay to check into the hotel and so we all checked in (there were four of us travelling together – Me, Lloyd, Georgia and Chris), showered, changed and went straight out for a very late lunch.
Now, when you’re at high altitude, it is usually advised that you avoid alcohol but there was no way we were gonna pass up on a good old celebratory cocktail to go with lunch.
Lunch itself was a mix of alpaca for, lambs, beef and a lot of quinoa – all totally welcome to our very hungry hungry tummies.
Deciding to fight the jetlag, we decided to go for a walk before going back for a nap.
A mere 20 minutes in, I gave up (thankfully it started raining so I kinda used that as an excuse to head back to the hotel) and we made arrangements for dinner for 9pm and all went for a nap.
At 9pm, not a single one of us bothered with dinner. I woke up with my alarm at 8.30pm and thought, “Sod it – I need my sleep”! (I could only confident say this because I knew I had a pack of Chocolate Hob Nobs stashed away just in case I got really ravenous at like 1am or something). Thankfully, everyone else agreed and Georgia rang reception to cancel dinner.
We honestly didn’t get up until the alarm went off at 5.30am the next morning to wake us up to catch our train to Machu Picchu. Talk about catching up on sleep, eh? (And also, whooping jetlag’s as*s!) Wins all round!
Next stop – Machu Picchu! And a lot more on that in my next post! 🙂