All things Cusco and beyond

We got home quite late to our hotel after we spent a long day at Machu Picchu. We checked in at Hotel Abittare (more details about our stay will be written). We had a very tiring day of exploring and traveling, so we opted to start our day in Cusco quite late. I worked on publishing my MP blog entry, while Nancy went upstairs to the 3rd floor and had breakfast.

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We spent our Saturday with our 1pm tour group (around 10 of us). Our fearless tour guide was Manuel, and he guided us through the different churches filled rich history. It was a combination of visiting Sagrada Familia, Iglesia el Triunfo, and Catedral del Cusco. Pictures weren’t allowed during the visit.

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We also went to Iglesia del Santo Domingo and saw the original architecture dating back in the 1400s. We also saw the Jardin Sagrado where an earthquake claimed many of the houses, and the remaining rubbles stayed as part of the garden.

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To be honest, just walking around these churches was quite taxing. Cusco, known for its high elevation, and the buildings around Cusco weren’t exactly on a flat surface. We found ourselves taking little breaks from all the walking and climbing.

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Manuel guided our way during this city tour and a visit to different ruins

For the rest of our tour, Manuel took us to many different ruins just outside Cusco – Tambomachay, Puka Pukara, Q’enqo, and Saqsayhuaman. It was one historical place after another, each giving us a sense of craftsmanship of the time. We were able to chat with a few other tour group members from California and India. It’s always so interesting to meet new people, and how traveling somehow binds all of us in search of that ever-growing need to be enlightened.

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Cusco, you’re cold

Well, weather-wise, Cusco can be cold. For this time of year, we had a mixture of sun where all I needed was just a plain t-shirt, and then all of a sudden, it was chilly. I was prepared with my North Face windbreaker along with my North Face black jacket, and even wearing those weren’t enough. I wish I had brought with me a scarf and a beanie.

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Me and my Saqsayhuaman

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Restaurante Apu Koricancha

It was already close to 7pm when we were dropped off near our hotel. Manuel suggested that we walk along Pampa de Castillo. So we did and came across Restaurante Apu Koricancha. Earlier during the day, we saw a bunch of restaurants serving chicharron. I had to try it. A big plus was their cuy – or roasted guinea pig stuffed with 7 different kinds of herbs. I’ve been told that I had to try cuy. I was that easy! And so glad I did. The cuy was tasty. It wasn’t like our Filipino lechon, the skin was soft, but the meat was so flavorful. Our chicharron was paired aji sauce – perfect blend of spice. This was one hole in the wall, not too flashy restaurant.
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Classic Chicharron
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Cuy or Roasted Guinea Pig with 7 herbs and spices
One thing I will remember most about this visit was our server. He reminded me so much of my dad when he was still alive. The way he served our food, the way he talked to us and the other guests, so much like my Dad.

Let’s get out of Cusco Sunday

This was our free day, there was no pre-arranged tour group. It was up to us to either stay around Cusco, or get out of town and explore some more. Nancy handled the arrangements with our hotel. They got us a taxi service that would take us to Moray, Maray, Salinas de Maras, and Chinchero. The total cost for the trip? 130 Soles or roughly $41.
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Our driver, Jose Luis, arrived around 11am. For a change, we didn’t have to ride a van or shuttle bus. It was a car this time, something that I preferred more. Jose Luis didn’t speak English, but we were able to communicate with the little español that I knew.

Moray

Moray is an archaeological site in Peru approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) northwest of Cuzco on a high plateau at about 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) and just west of the village of Maras. The site contains unusual Inca ruins, mostly consisting of several terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is approximately 30 m (98 ft) deep. As with many other Inca sites, it also has an irrigation system (Info from Wikipedia)
It took us over an hour to get to Moray. Getting there wasn’t the easiest. Once we turned off from the main road, it was most dirt road that led to Moray. It was a treat to see all the circles in this archaeological site.
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Salinas de Maras (salt mine)

This was another highlight. The salt mine was something we really wanted to visit. It was a sight to see from the vista point, and more so when we walked down the salt mines. It looked like salt terraces. I also noticed the stream of water that was flowing through the salt evaporation ponds.
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Chinchero

Another half hour away was another archaeological site – Chinchero. To get to the site itself meant another hike up. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the site.
Chinchero is a small Andean Indian village located high up on the windswept plains of Anta at 3765m about 30km from Cusco. There are beautiful views overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the snow-capped peak of Salkantay dominating the western horizon. Chinchero is believed to be the mythical birthplace of the rainbow (Source – andeantravelweb.com)
What struck me most about this place was it’s proximity to the mountains. It was picturesque and vast.

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Visiting Inca Design Village

I think this had to be one of my favorite parts of our stop. Shortly after leaving Chinchero, we headed over to a small shopping section and had photo opportunities with the locals with their llamas and alpacas.
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We were also treated to a 5-minute presentation of how they create the different types of fabric taken from alpacas and llamas, how they came up with different colors and tint, and to the actual hand weaving process. We were also able to take pictures with the women and this little girl, Daisy.
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Back to Cusco

After exploring outside of Cusco, Jose Luis drove us back to our hotel close to 6pm. The cost of having a private taxi for this entire 7 hour road trip? 130 soles or roughly $40 + tip. Thank you, Jose Luis. He was very patient, he did not only drive us, but he also walked with us to these sights.
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Our driver for the day, Jose Luis, muchas gracias!

Kion – Peruvian Chinese

We needed a break from Peruvian food and opted for Chinese food at Kion. So glad we went here. The food was abundant, delicious, and the service was wonderful. It was a great way to end our day in Cusco. Thanks for following our journey.

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