February 2017

Being in Cusco is like being in a place where evey single rain drop colored the roof tops of the entire city in red and marked it as an unique piece of peruvian jewelery. Even locals confess that the mysterious energy of the city is enough to keep you mesmerised and happy for a prolonged period of time. It's a place where you start feeling like home within a couple of hours and just don't want to leave.

Plaza de Almas, Cusco

Plaza de Almas, Cusco

I have spent 5 days in Cusco, before and after the trip to Machu Picchu, time which was enough to get a feeling of the city. An unforgettable Inca capital that kept its detailed architecture, exquisite churches and amazingly narrow streets. It didn't matter which way I took, I was convinced I will have a great view. The mountain breeze hugged the city during the day, kept it cloudy and cosy, while during the night you had to find a way to stay warm.

Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru

Traditional style of a peruvian lady

Traditional style of a peruvian lady

From the great variety of museums, cathedrals, squares you can visit in Cusco, I have 3 favorites spots. Mercado San Pedro is one of them, an incredible market where you can find everything you need starting from wool gloves ending with kilos of pork. I actually took the time to buy some snacks for the Inca trail here: like nuts, dried fruits, winter hat, woolen socks. In case you didn't have enough time to prepare for the trip, don't worry, San Pedro got you covered.

San Pedro market

A kid trying to avoid the big umbrella in San Pedro Market

The meat is actually fresh

The meat is actually fresh

you don't need to go too far for some lunch

you don't need to go too far for some lunch

San Blas it's a small square from where you can buy handicrafts, souvenirs, paintings sold by the artists themselves. It also provides a spectacular view over the city during the day time, but also at night. A tiny, nice lady took me to the back side of her gallery and showed me the extravagant paintings of the peruvian beauty and luckily I found a great Machu Picchu masterpiece which I brought back.

loads of textiles in SAn Blas plaza

loads of textiles in San Blas plaza

rain over Cusco

rain over Cusco

that moment when you look back...

that moment when you look back...

And of course Plaza de Armas. It's the downtown of Cusco, all the roads lead to this place. Here you will find a great selection of restaurants, bars, clubs where you can spend your evenings. I had the chance to celebrate New Years Eve in Plaza de Armas and took part in so called "ritual" of the locals. The tradition tells that circling 3 times with your suit case around the plaza will bring good luck in your up coming year and also will make you travel the world all year round. Also wearing yellow underwear on this night will bring some luck in your love life. 

capturing the amazing fire works

capturing the amazing fire works

everything was about yellow on New Year Eve in Cusco

everything was about yellow on New Years Eve in Cusco

a reflection of the countdown on the building

a reflection of the countdown on the building

During the day, there are a lot of travel agents who are willing to baragin some great deals. It was quite hard to choose from the long list of activities, but in the end I had to prioritize. River Rafting sounded great for me since I've never done it, so was worth trying it now. Moray and Salinas is a wonderful archeological site which I booked only one day in advance and they still had the Quad bikes available. Another "must-do" for me was the bungee jumping from 122 m (you can check the video at the end of the article). I would definitely do it again and highly recommend it to you too. Had a sandboard session in Ica and a ride on a massive sand buggy. And of course Machu Picchu, this trip was the reason I flew for almost 22 hours to Peru.  

This buggy definitely doesn't look like the golf buggy

This buggy definitely doesn't look like the golf buggy

this exact quad bike flipped over me when I tried to act cool

this exact quad bike flipped over me when I tried to act cool

Moray, Peru

Moray, Peru

No no, I didn't climb Salinas de Maras

No no, I didn't climb Salinas de Maras

Inca trail, Peru

Inca trail, Peru

When talking about Peru, you can not miss such an important topic like the food. With a great influence from spanish, italian, german, chinese, japanese cuisine it makes it the best example of fusion cuisine. What else to expect when the country has more than 3000 types of potatoes. The main dishes will usually be served with staples like: corn, quinoa, legumes. Trying to stand out, a lot of restaurants have an imacculate decor and a very wide selection of national and international food.

legendary peruvian ceviche

the legendary peruvian ceviche, Uchu Restaurant

Lamb on a bed of mashed potatoes

Lamb on a bed of mashed potatoes, La Feria Restaurant

My number one dish: Lomo Saltado

My number one dish: Lomo Saltado

Causa- potato roll

Causa- potato roll, Limbo restaurant

Getting around the city is easy and quite cheap. Most of the taxi drivers don't speak english, but they know the city very well. You can see a lot of old cars and buses which look like they are not going to make it to the top of the hill, but guess what? They do. A short taxi fare will usually start from 5S-10S (1-3$) but in case you want to go for a day tour you'll have to negotiate rates in advance. Taking a bus in Peru is cheap, comfortable. When I went to Ica, I booked a VIP bus ticket with PeruBus for 50S (~ 15$, 5 hours drive). It included everything you need for a comfortable trip: AC, TV, headsets, reclining seats and refreshments which were served twice. Local rides on a city bus are about 0.60S which is equal to 0.18$. I missed this experience but I've heard it's fun. FullSizeRender (70)

very pleasant trip by train from Aguas Calientes back to Cusco

very pleasant trip by train from Aguas Calientes back to Cusco

Cusco is one of the places which I would definitely like to visit again. The ambiance of the city in a mix with a great welcoming from qusqenians is just the perfect reason for a come back. The amplitude of the old architecture and hystorical ruins can brings you back in time and make you imagine the thrilling past of the South American lands. Next time I will try to bring back at least a tiny amount of mountain energy and spread it around. Maybe people will be able to heal their souls just the way I did...in Peru.

"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are."

Samuel Johnson

Tips:

  • Peru is a country of cash, that's why it's better if you have cash on you because most of the ATMs charge a fee (10-18%).
  • If you need to buy hiking gears, Cusco is a great place to find some cheap yet useful stuff.
  • Bargain on pretty much everything.
  • If you want to visit more than 2 sights it's better to buy the tourist ticket, it's a lot cheaper and usually available for 10 days.
  • Most of the hotels agree to keep your laugage while you go for hiking, so don't worry about that part
  • Cusco seems to be a safe place, but never leave your stuff unattended.
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When I took out my passport from my backpack at the Machu Picchu (MP) check point I have realised that the things are getting real. With all my stuff on the ground trying to organise them by priority, I suddenly understood that I know nothing about hiking. I didn't even know where to start. One thing was for sure: there is no way back.

the only good shot I have at Machu Picchu

the only good shot I have at Machu Picchu

With a little bit of confidence and hope, I left Cusco and began the journey to the most incredible and famous trek in South America. A peruvian glory which is considered to be one of the best-known archeological sites on the continent. Sitting 2430 m above the Urubamba river, the Inca citadel breaths mystery and adventure. I have been very lucky to get to step on the 40 km trail that has been once walked by the Inca emperors and local quechua people.

an unexpected guest, lamas everywhere

an unexpected guest, lamas

There are a couple of options to get to MP but the most famous one is Inca trail. I have been offered a two and a three days trip by bus, bike but nothing sounded more exciting then hiking up the snaky ways through the cloud forests, aggressive rivers and snowy mountain peaks which have made this trip so unforgettable.FullSizeRender (18)

I have approached a local travel agency about the tour and have been offered a good deal despite the fact that it was a last minute thing. Usually, in the busy season you need to make a reservation at least six months prior the trip. It cost me 500 USD for 4 days and 3 nights tour which included breakfast every morning, lunch and dinner, the sleeping bag, the tent, the entrance to MP and the train ticket on the way back from the hike. What was not included in the price was the water and snacks you can by along the way, the service of the porters that can carry your stuff in case you have too many kilos (I gave 5 kg to one of the guys and payed 40USD) and sometimes the extra fees you pay for using the restrooms or showers.

it was the first time to see a double rainbow

it was the first time to see a double rainbow

In case you think that you need to be extra fit for such a hike, honestly you don't. The first day allows you to warm up a little bit and adjust your equipment accordingly. After you get a feeling of what is like to live in the wild, get used to it. You'll have to do this for 3 more days. Each day gets better promise. It's very important to eat well and drink plenty of water. After each day of completing an average of 10-12 km I was visibly loosing weight even though I kept on snaking all day long. But in the end it all pays off when you stop for a moment, look around, take a deep breath and get mesmerised by the incredible view of the Andean beauty.

first day of hike, the backpack is still full

first day of hike, the backpack is still full

In one day you can witness 3 seasons since the peruvian weather up in the mountains is so unpredictable. I did the trip in January, month which is considered to be the beginning of the rainy season. But don't get intimidated, even in dry season you'll have to deal with temperature below 0. It was funny to have a little game with my jackets, I was putting them on taking them off, over and over again. Thing which I can't say about night time. I made sure I had as many layers on as possible.

it is a blessing to way up with such a beautiful view

it is a blessing to way up with such a beautiful view

The highest point of the trek reached 4200 m above sea level at Warmiwañusca Pass ( Dead woman Pass). After a knee- jarringly decent to an altitude of 3600 m above sea level we stopped in one of the campsites at Paq'amayo and spent the night there. That was the time when I had to put on 3 layers of clothes, gloves, scarf and still woke up in the middle of the night to cover myself with a jacket. It was really cold. But other than that it was ok. The coca leaf tea served early in the morning by our tents definitely helped to warm up.

i could stare at this viewall day long...

i could stare at this view all day long...

Taking in consideration the advises from your guide will definitely ease your way when climbing. Zigzagging along the path puts less pressure on your muscles and makes the process more enjoyable. Most of us had green teeth from chewing coca leaves all day long. It is considered to be a natural remedy for high altitude. And plus it gives you a nice relaxing feeling, maybe it's also intended to make tourists smiling. Usually in the pharmacy you can find pills for altitude sickness like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Our guide P, was generous enough to give us all a shot of Pisco (the local traditional alcoholic drink) which he claimed to help even more. Try it.

this is the relationship between Lamas and peruvians, P is feeding a Lama with biscuits

this is the relationship between Lamas and peruvians, P is feeding a Lama with biscuits

Ladies might be a little bit concerned about the hygiene in specially during such a long trip. Me too, I was so worried that I will have to get to know the scary feeling of being in the jungle in the middle of the night. But trust me, it's not that bad. In some camps you have showers and toilets. You just have to pay around 5-10S and that's it. Good to go again. If you can handle the ice cold water than you have pretty much shower all the way till the end of the journey but who is crazy enough to do that! My advise is to take extra t-shirts (not cotton) and keep changing them every day. Also thank the once who invented the wet-wipes and carry a pack or two with you. It actually feels good to be make up-free for a couple of days so, ladies, enjoy it. Don't forget to reapply sunscreen though. The sun is burning even if you don't see it.

stunning morning view over the Andean peak

stunning morning view over the Andean peak

I must mention about our lovely cooks that did an amazing job preparing all that delicious peruvian food. The meals were freshly made with the products carried by the diligent porters. High in protein and fibres, the dishes helped us to stay healthy and fit for the entire trip. There was not a single meal without the traditional hot soup (usually quinoa or chicken), a main course that consisted of: fish, chicken or beef and of course dessert (we even had a goodbye cake). It was a great way to get to know the traditional peruvian cuisine prepared in a homy style. For those who ordered vegetarian meal or any other special requests, the chef made sure they got their meal at the same time as the rest of the team.

cooking some goodies with our generous chef

cooking some goodies with our generous chef

Sometimes it was getting really tough, the backpack felt heavier and heavier, the abundant andean rain was filling my boots with water, my hands were cold and wet but still I was happy. Just having a set up goal to reach the majestic MP was giving me strength. Once arrived there, everyone could tell that we've been hiking for the last 4 days. We were dirty, maybe smelly, full of mud on our shoes, carrying huge bags covered with plastic to protect what was left from our clean stuff but also we were content. Standing in front of the grandeur MP, I have realised that all this effort was totally worth it. Maybe if I didn't do the hike, I wouldn't probably appreciate the power of the humid woodlands so much and the splendid history behind the historical walls of the Inca citadel.

yes, we did it!!!Machu Picchu view

yes, we did it!!!Machu Picchu

It was a great experience which definitely pushed my powers to the limits. One thing I can tell about hiking: the harder- the better. You will feel such a great achievemt at the end of the jouney that will make you addicted to the beauty of the world. 

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

Lao Tzu

Below you will find a collection of pictures that I took along the way.FullSizeRender (40)

green terraces used for plantation durink Inca times

green terraces used for plantation durink Inca times

a beautiful orchid that grows all year round

a beautiful orchid that grows all year round

racing with the local lady...she was fast

racing with the local lady...she was fast

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after a massage in Aguas Calientes, such a massive muscle pain, bu the hot rocks relaxed them very well

About 3km descent on the way to the campus

About 3km descent on the way to the camp

one of the ruins on the way to Machu Picchu

one of the ruins on the way to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

perfectly shaped rocks of the citadel

perfectly shaped rocks of the citadel

Royal Tomb in Machu Picchu

Royal Tomb in Machu Picchu

temple of the sun used for astronomical purposes

temple of the sun used for astronomical purposes

finest stone work

finest stone work

the moldovian flag all the way in Peru: red, yellow and blue

the moldovian flag all the way in Peru: red, yellow and blue

The way these rocks are cut it's just incredible

The way these rocks are cut it's just incredible

Practicing the photography skills on the mushrooms

Practicing the photography skills on the mushrooms

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16 members of a wonderful team

16 members of a wonderful team

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