Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru

Day three marked our second flight during the trip from Lima to Cusco. Cusco is in the mountain region of in-land Peru and it takes about an hour by tiny plane to get there. We had a quick breakfast and met our driver around 8 AM to head to the airport. Driving in Peru is an experience in itself as basically all traffic signals, aka stop signs, lights, yield signs, are merely suggestions. We were in 4 near death situations just on the drive to the airport. Eeek! Thankfully, we arrived in one piece, made our flight, and arrived in Cusco around 12:30 PM.

Our next tour guide, Julio, met us at their airport for our bus transport to the hotel in the upper section of Cusco. The ride was really interesting as Julio explained the local housing structure. Since Cusco has become a more popular tour destination, the cost of living has grown substantially. The locals make very little money and cannot afford to buy fully completed houses, thus, most of the houses in Peru are works-in-progress. There is a bottom floor, and sometimes a second or third floor, in each concrete structure, with metal framing wires sticking out of the roofs that were the hight of another floor. The families typically share the buildings with their siblings and add floors when they can afford it. It really made me feel blessed and thankful to have what I have.

Anyways… we were dropped off at the Hotel San Agustin – a beautiful hotel with a huge atrium and very comfortable rooms. The staff gave us some tea to help with the 11K altitude acclamation before we took off to explore the large square up the street known as the Plaza de Armas. The cobble stone square has an amazing fountain in the middle, is surrounded by shops and cathedrals, and has these adorable little old Incan ladies in traditional garb with baby lambs and alpacas. I couldn’t help by take a photo with one of them.

Plaza de Armas, Cusco Peru

We found a great modern burger place with a Peruvian twist called Papacho’s on the border of the square. It not only had a fantastic view, but the best onion rings we have ever had! In addition to the memorable onion rings, I enjoyed a veal sandwich and took a bite of my father’s alpaca burger – yum! Within a non-bug, reasonable scope, I always try to local food as you never know what deliciousness will surprise you.

With so much food in our stomaches, we took off walking to an alleyway off from the square where most of the local markets were. It was actually quite cold in Cusco, more in the 50’s rather than the 70 degree weather in Lima, so, in addition to gifts for friends and family, we stocked up on scarves, jackets, and gloves. You will probably notice my warm, new, knitted, and somewhat alpaca fashion moving forward in my future Peru posts. I say “somewhat alpaca” because the market sellers claimed their products were 100% alpaca wool but, considering the price and the fact the some of the labels read “30% alpaca”, I was skeptical. All of the items we bought were very haggle-able and we bought most things for $5-$10 USD – some great deals!

After an hour or two of shopping, we walked back to the hotel for a quick nap before our evening plans. The altitude and 7 AM wake-ups really take it out of you! We had reservations at Tunupa, a buffet restaurant in the main square with a traditional Cusco dance show. The buffet was full of ceviche and other traditional Peruvian dishes that were all quite tasty. On top of that, we had some Pisco Sours to lighten the mood and get us ready for the craziness to come.

The band was made up of a singer and two instrumentalists and there were two female and two male dancers. The dancers would dance a traditional piece for a song, run back and change, and then dance in a different style. They did this 6 or 7 times and got the crowd up and about to dance as well. It was a roaringly fun time, especially since they played a catchy song called “Pacha Mama” or “Mother Earth”, which we thought said “Punch your mama”, that we kept singing all night long. My mama loved it so much she bought the CD…

With warnings of the sun’s face-scorching capabilities in the thin Cusco air, we stopped to get some colorful hats for the next day’s ruin tours. My sister and boyfriend came to the conclusion that I look funny in hats, a fact I’ve come to accept over many years of trying, so naturally I bought the brightest hat I could find just for fun! With hats in tow, we walked around the square and admired the city lights before heading to the hotel for much-needed sleep.

Plaza de Armas, Cusco Peru

 

 

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Lima, Peru – Packing List

Lima, Peru – Packing List

The below packing guide is for Lima, Peru in the summer months. We went to Lima in May when the avg. temperature is 75° F. Multiply the clothing suggestions by the number of days you are staying in Lima.

A few things to note when spending time in Lima:

  • You will be walking a lot so comfortable shoes, sun protection, and hydration are very important.
  • The beaches are pretty but very rocky so, if you decide you do want to get in the water, wear water shoes.
  • The weather is warm so, with all that walking, it gets hot. Bring layers for the temperature drops at night, but lighter clothing will work during the day.
  • The views are beautiful so don’t forget a camera to document!
Lima Peru Packing List
Lima, Peru Packing List

 

Lima, Peru

Planning the trip to Peru was easy, but getting there was pretty complicated…

Stage #1: The Move

Our apartment lease came up at the same time as our trip and we wanted to move somewhere with a patio. Conveniently, we found an apartment right down the hall from our current one  – the only catch being that move-in day was May 15th, the same day we were embarking on our Peruvian journey! My roommate / boyfriend Ryan had to work that day so, with the help of our puppy, my taller but little sister, and some movers, we lugged everything to our new spot. My sister and I thought we were smart so we unhooked my 6ft long closet rung full clothes and tried carrying them to the new place in one go. Do not try this at home! Our ambitious plans deteriorated as MY clothes started falling off the rung and were then littered down the block-long hallway. Thankfully there was no lingerie involved for fellow apartment neighbors to see scattered along the halls!

We grabbed all of my rogue clothes and the movers were able to get our boxes and furniture over within a minute of the two-hour window I booked them for. My boyfriend came home to switch spots with my sister so she could go pack for the trip. We cleaned the old place, turned in our keys, and grabbed our luggage to head to Houston for the night!

Stage #2: Houston

I consider myself super lucky as my boyfriend conveniently came with the best perk possible – an adorable dog named Dakota. Ryan’s family was nice enough to volunteer to babysit Dakota for our trip, however, they live in Houston. My family took off for Lima, Peru the night we moved, but Ryan and I decided to drive to Houston and fly out from there the next morning. After a 4.5 hour drive, we arrived in Houston around 9:30 PM, and my adrenaline was still pumping despite the craziness of the day! Dakota’s was too and she took it out on about 10 stuffed dog toys which she found and quickly unstuffed all over the living room floor. Squeakers are her arch nemesis and any toys with them must be destroyed, always resulting in some fun clean ups.

Stage #3 – The Airports

5:30 AM wake up to head to the airport. We got word that my family had made it to Lima, so the race was on to meet them! When we arrived at the gate to learn that a couple with triplets was sitting behind us on our first leg to Miami. Never a good sign when you want to sleep your way through a flight. Apparently the triplets had the same snoozy idea though because we didn’t hear a peep from them the whole time and I got a few hours of sleep in before our Miami landing. Phew!

A quick layover and lunch later, we hopped on the next plane to Lima. Our flight attendant was a Spanish looking Robert De Nero who offered me a mini-bottle (about two glasses) of wine – for free! Of course I took him up on it and we fake toasted to the trip. About 30 minutes later, he passed us again, and this time we both took him up on more wine, a mini-bottle each! Robert was quickly becoming one of my new favorite people. He disappeared for about an hour and came back to us with a long face, exclaiming they had run out of wine – what tragedy! There was a glint of trickery in his eyes though. He smiled and reached into his jacket to pull out one final bottle that he saved just for us! By this point we were in great spirits and cheers’ed him as he walked off. Flight attendants can really make or break a flight! We finished up the inflight movie and I had a wonderful Chardonnay induced nap. I woke up to laughter as Ryan was taking pictures of me sleeping as we were landing.

Ocean view of Peru from the plane
The view of Peru from the plane.

Stage 4: Mia Flores District in Lima, Peru

We landed in Lima at 5:32 PM, hustled through customs, and found our driver to go to the airport. While we are driving through the city, the driver made me put my purse under my legs in the back seat as people could potentially try to steal it while stopped at a light! You must always be aware in new places. We drove all the way to Miraflores district in Lima, Peru to meet my family at the Hotel Britania.

We dropped off our luggage and took off on foot this time to find a resultant called Cafe Cafe for dinner. I got a delicious passion fruit and pineapple salmon dish and Ryan had a very green, but good, shrimp gnocchi. We also all got Pisco Sours – a traditional Peruvian drink made from grapes from Pisco, Peru. A must try while you are in Peru!

In the middle of Miraflores is a big park nicknamed the Cat Park where all of the abandoned cats in the city congregate. It is a beautiful park with local artists lining the outskirts and a chachki market in the middle. We ended the night by walking around the park and buying some trinkets at the market, including the below leather journal for all of our trip documentation:

My Peru leather journal