Resting up in Cusco
June 12, 2011
Our long series of flights deposited us in Cusco at about 9 in the morning, leaving us the rest of the day to relax and wander around town before we took off the next day for Machu Picchu. But before wandering, we crashed at the hotel for about 2 hours, figuring to catch up on just a bit of sleep so that our afternoon would not end up being little more than an effort to fight off the fatique for the 22 hours of flights we'd just completed.
A couple of hours sleep found us refreshed and ready to wander about the colonial heart of town, which was about 4 blocks downhill from our hotel. Cusco is a great wandering town, much like Antigua, Guatemala but larger, having a population of about 400,000. Our hotel was on a narrow cobblestoned street on the hill above the main square, in a part of the old town known as San Blas. We wandered up the street to the calle that dropped down to the main square and when I say drop down, I mean like a rock for cars and foot traffic alike. We hoofed down to the main square and found what we really needed without any hassle . . . an ATM to get some local soles and a grocery store to get something cold to drink and some snacks to carry us over during the ride to and from Machu Picchu the next day.
As anticipated, the ATM proved to be the seamless way to obtain local currency without any lines or other conversion hassles. We'd earlier completed our final logistical funds transfer in U.S. dollars but from here on our all the daily small purchases would be in local currency. Onward to food and drink . . . old town Cusco is not conducive to the large grocers one might find in Lima but we found a place that covered all the essentials right on the main square. Two basic needs were covered in no time. Next stop . . . lunch. We wandered up a street that Carlos had mentioned had a place that served a good Lomo Saltado and ducked into a places that looked good. The Lomo in Cusco is not as hot in the spice department as that of Huaraz, but we were in Peru eating Lomo, what more did we really need?
Given its pre-colonial Inca origin Cusco is made for walking and, for me, that leads to the fun of semi aimless wandering. Granted the streets are narrow and the cars fill all but the narrow sidewalk on many calles, there are interesting things to see around most every corner. We found grassy parks, shade trees surrounding small squares, and of course, the large churches that surround the Plaza de Armas. We didn't go into any of the churches this afternoon but instead poked around the various craft stalls and took in the Inca stonework, which to this day is so tight one cannot slip a card or piece of paper between the blocks.
Between our hotel and the Plaza was a particular popular stone, that has a dozen sides . . . and a half dozen locals who will latch onto you the moment you stop to look, giving you a four minute dissertation in exchange for a few soles.
After an afternoon's walk we retreated to the hotel for another hour or so before thinking about dinner. We'd not found "the" lomo joint that Carlos mentioned but we did find a pizza place on the perimeter of the Plaza de Armas that looked good and offered pizza and beer. It may not have been anything other than tourist fare but after a night on the plane and a day of wandering up and down Cusco's hills, it was comfortable and good.
With dinner in hand, or more correctly in stomach, we were back at the hotel and ready to get a night's rest before meeting John the next morning at 6:30 to start the ride to Machu Picchu. The sun soon set on Cusco and, after taking in the townscape from the patio atop the hotel, we called it a day.