a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘cusco’

do you dance? ;)

I do not actually know how to do any dance steps but I must look like a dancer because I am always being dragged onto the dance floor by strangers in foreign countries.  And if there is no dance floor, the aisle on a moving train 😉

In Peru I was asked most days if I liked to dance.  Like Chris in New Orleans, it seems Peruvian men are trained to dance.  A man who can dance is a real treasure.  They lead – so you can pretend as long as you jump around enough to not step on their toes.  That’s my strategy 😉

cusco architecture

cusco architecture

I have already added to my “to do list” – dance at a festival in Peru.  I don’t even need to dance.  I’d just love to participate in a festival.  I think it’s the combination of various cultural religious beliefs.  Cusco seems a bit like New Orleans – any excuse for a party 😉

The calendar seems to be filled with festivals and I regretted my poor planning that I had just missed one.  I never expected to regret being at the Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu instead of partying in Cusco 🙂

In the end I spent only one day in Cusco so it still remains a bit of a mystery – perfect for another visit… But I tried to use my time productively and not succumb to being too much of a tourist.  Cusco is crawling with them.

I had already spent two fleeting evenings in the city but my final visit started on a perfect note.  David, my guide in the Sacred Valley and for my private tour of Machu Picchu, was in Cusco for the night before a “proper” Inca Trail trip so I took him for dinner.  I asked where he wanted to go and he said my new local, Tupananchis.  When you are taking a local to your fave restaurant in their home town, you feel like a traveller rather than a tourist 😉


I tried to continue the theme the next day when I was left to my own devices.  I stayed at the Casa Cartagena – my own luxury apartment in Cusco right next to the Orient Express’s Hotel Monasterio for a lower price tag.  I think the hotel room may have been larger than my apartment!  The bathroom was so magnificent it made you reluctant to leave and I had a lovely balcony overlooking the courtyard filled with modern art.  It is a sublime mixture of colonial and contemporary.


the amazing bathroom

the amazing bathroom

It’s just enough off the beaten tourist path to make you feel like a local – so I tried to follow the hotel receptionist’s directions to the Saturday market without using my map.  You always see and experience more when you wander.

I found the market without any issues and – while there were a few like-minded tourists obsessed with alpaca – it was mostly full of locals.

getting close and personal with dinner

getting close and personal with dinner

Markets in Peru are full of colour – and meat products looking a little more like the animals of origin than the typical North American supermarket.  Naturally I kept trying surreptitiously to get a great photo of a pig’s head 🙂

Lingering attracts attention so I decided to try out the juice bar in the market.  It’s a bit political.  Some will be mad you didn’t choose them but I was as fair as possible and parked myself into a chair at the first lady who smiled in my direction.  This is the tropics so a fresh fruit smoothie is an experience that’s tough to duplicate in northern climes.

I finished my Cusco adventure in a hunt for silver jewelry inlaid with local stones in intricate patterns.  The

colourful cusco market

colourful cusco market

geologist in me loved the concept of polishing stones to shiny perfection and the anthropologist loved the rich cultural history and Inca symbolism.

When I wear my purchases back in Canada they are not just pretty shiny objects.  I know I am wearing the symbolism of the Inca Cross, Pachamama and the Sun God, hopefully having had a little “local” fairy dust sprinkled on me, establishing an authentic view of Peru and further editing my personal world view and cultural understanding.

hobbling around machu picchu…

machu picchu before sunrise

machu picchu before sunrise

It was hardly how I had envisioned my first visit to Machu Picchu.  When one is trapped on a tiny balcony behind a heavy wooden door worried about hypothermia, one tends to kick at the door rather hard trying to be heard.  That might work well in steel toe boots.  Unfortunately, while my Sketcher running shoes are brilliant for travel, they are super lightweight because they are mostly made of mesh…

So my toes looked like a battered housewife the entire time I was in Machu Picchu and I couldn’t take a step without pain.  At least the mesh was stretchy so I had to wince to put them on but the mesh stretched over my swollen toes.  The silver lining 🙂

I did indulge in a debate with myself regarding the day one game plan, especially since I had the luxury of three days at Machu Picchu.  I had already signed up for a 4am wakeup call and 5:30am start before I realized how swollen and bruised my toes would be…  I decided I needed to pretend I was a professional athlete and just suck it up.

Had my toes been in proper health, I could have likely seen it all in the five hours or so allotted by my g adventures tour so I would definitely recommend the independent tour if budget is more limited.

My guide had forgotten his ID so I took the bus from Aquas Caliente to Machu Picchu alone but it is an easy trip and there are lots of other tourists to follow.  It is not a bus trip for the timid – all switchbacks on narrow mountain roads where the drivers almost stop so that they can pass.  But the scenery is stunning – especially in the wee hours of the morning before the sun has woken up.

the bus from aquas caliente to machu picchu

the bus from aquas caliente to machu picchu

sunrise at machu picchu

sunrise at machu picchu

The big highlight of the first day was watching the sun rise.  Wagner, my guide, positioned me in the optimal spot.  My photography skills are not really up to shooting directly into the sun but it was spectacular to witness.

Since I had two more days to experience Machu Picchu I headed back to Aquas Caliente early and discovered a wonderful French bakery.  Then it was back on the train to Ollantaytambo where Enrique collected me.

I felt bad because I didn’t see him at first and was worried I had been left to my own devices again.  But David had told me Enrique was collecting me and they were both so amazing at their jobs it seemed unlikely…

The trip back to Cusco took quite a while so I sat in the front and we chatted while he told me more about Peru, his family and stopped or slowed down so that I could try and get photos.  Connecting with locals makes all travel journeys so much more rewarding.

The official end of the tour struck the same note.  I had left a bag at the hotel and it was already in my room!  Then I went to the restaurant where I had my first meal in Cusco – Tupananchis.  The food was excellent and they had promised me a free drink if I came back.  I was very impressed that they remembered and the food was just as excellent the second time.


Establishing connections – and becoming part of the fabric of a place – is one of the greatest pleasures of travel.  That theme will continue to be explored as we discover Machu Picchu from new perspectives…

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