…Cusco and the road to Machu Picchu (the easy way).

Oh Peru Hop, a 5.45 am pick up again! The shining light on this bus was our guide Nilo, he left us to have a sleep for a bit before waking us for a breakfast stop then gave us a load of DVDs to watch (recent ones not old fratboy ones). He was great craic anyway and made sure we enjoyed our long trip to Cusco (estimated journey time was twelve hours, the buses are not that comfortable- think Megabus or Bus Éireann).

Just outside Puno in a place called Juliaca,  Nilo suggested we stop and have a look at the lake below. It had some strange story attached to it, but I can’t for the life of me remember it. Anyway other than to have a look and stretch our legs the other reason to get out was that we were once again back over 4,000m (4,174m), so it would help us acclimatise a bit. Pretty enough spot though for a few minutes. Bloody cold though.

The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful. We had a lunch stop in a little village a few hours later and then it was on to Cusco.

So Cusco, all in all we spent 6 days here but in two night chunks, we had such a nice time chilling out here we took very few photos and I took very few notes. We also stayed in three places here our first was a little far out but quiet with very steep stairs and lots of cats (Barrio Inka B&B), the next was right in the centre, freezing and again full of cats and a rabbit (Jamuy Chilling House), both of these had decent breakfasts. The last was only for one night as we couldn’t get the room at Jamuy. No idea what the name of that was, we just walked in off the street.

Our first look at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, one of the biggest we have seen in quite some time. We liked it here, it was tourist central though.

As usual we spent ages in the main local market, the Mercado San Pedro. As Cusco is quite a highlight of South America you had an interesting mix of backpackers, flashpackers, tourists and older travelers. It made for a more even mix- a little bit like San Pedro de Atacama, and like we did in South East Asia, there were numerous tours you could take of the market. However it was much more fun just to wander round and interact with people on our own though.

*La Paz

Cusco is wall to wall cool buildings but there was one we definitely had to see. The Convent of Santa Domingo, build upon the Incan Sun Temple.

We also went to see the crypt of the Franciscan Monastery- no pictures from there though.

We also found quite possibly the best chocolate cake in the word. In a little deli called La Rabena, we went back twice just to make sure. It was superb.

So two days here and it was off to the Sacred Valley and our next stop- Ollantaytambo. A small village deep into the Valley and often the starting point for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is easily accessible by minibus from Cusco from near the San Pedro market for around 12 soles (£2.50/$3.75). They are constantly going so very easy to get and 2.5- 3 hours later we were in Ollantaytambo!

A full day is more than enough to see all of Ollantaytambo and the following day we had our train trip to Machu Picchu.

So that was a rather condensed account of our time in Cusco, Ollantaytambo and the majestic Machu Picchu. I have to say that were we to do this again we would opt for Choquequirao, a smaller and less crowded Machu Picchu. It was just so busy, and that was even with limited numbers and it being the off-season. There was also Rainbow Mountain and if you are feeling flush there is the Skylodge of course. We loved Cusco and we still have one last adventure here- the forests of Manu National Park- the Peruvian Amazon and two days later we were off into the jungle with Bonanza tours….


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