Published on January 23rd, 20182
More Peru: Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and… a CONFESSION
Still more pics to share – visuals of my romp around the Sacred Valley, as well as some highlights of Cusco. Plus a zany “stow-away” confession along the way…
First up – my cozy digs at Janaxpacha Hostel in Ollantaytambo – just $15 sgl. private room with shared bath including… I dare say breakfast with my own personal French press coffee? I’ll TAKE it! 😉
Exploring the Sacred Valley
As noted in my “9 Tips for Your Machu Picchu Trip” post – while there are a myriad of $30 round trip tours of the Sacred Valley originating in Cusco, alas the reverse is NOT TRUE. Luckily I met a couple of fellew gringas at breakfast in Ollyantaytambo, and they’d already hired a private taxi (for $65) to take them back to Cusco (with stops at Moray, Maras, etc. along the way). Split three ways – it was just $22 each.
Chinchero was one of the (customary on most all Sacred Valley tours) stops we made. Though the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles was a good bit touristy, nonetheless it was fascinating to see the natural dye process and weaving up-close.
Speaking of “touristy” (a condition that the TravelnLass generally strives to avoid in her travels), after visiting the textile cooperative, it was nigh time for lunch. (Naturally) our taxi driver chose to take us to the most gringo-centric restaurant in Chinchero (no doubt – like every other touristy corner of the Planet – because he gets a commission for bringing us there). But when I saw the white linen table cloths, along with the overpriced (a.k.a. “gringo” priced) options on the menu – I couldn’t help but ask him to please take us to an authentic “almuerzo” joint instead.
Ten minutes later we were all happily seated in a tiny restaurant nearby – surrounded by working-class Peruvians and enjoying a full lunch (incl. soup, salad, the requisite Latin American rice ‘n beans, plus a freshly fried fish entree) for just *5 soles* (about $1.50). Needless to say, my fellow gringa companions were delighted to experience an authentic Peruvian almuerzo – far from the tiresome tourist-trap restaurants.
My Main Quarry: The Maras Salt Flats
The truth is, I’m honestly not all that keen on making sure I see every blessed Inca ruin on the Planet. We have a lovely Inca Sun Temple not far from my home amid the Andes mountains in Ecuador – and indeed, a beautiful Inca site (Pumapongo) within walking distance of my front door in Cuenca. Thus – especially after gazing upon THE most spectacular Inca ruins at Machu Picchu – I really had but a single must-see quarry within the Sacred Valley: those ancient pools of salt at Maras.
And two final Sacred Valley collections – the Inca ruins and the amazing souvenir market at Pisac. Pisac is yet another customary stop on the standard $30 Sacred Valley tour, but I opted to DIY for but $3 (the price of a collectivo taxi to take me there):
And even better – but a small sample of the colorful assortment of goodies at the huge Pisac market (the best place to bargain for all those yummy Peruvian textiles):
Which leads me to…
A Peek at Cusco
First up – a little collage of the usual fast-food suspects. Note that I didn’t actually eat at either Cusco’s McD’s or the Mermaid, but I did succumb to the lure of a Big Mac while waiting to board my flight to Cusco at the Lima airport:
Which leads me directly to – a pictorial assortment of my local Cusco eats. Circular image at left: salmon pizza (y.u.m.) Collage below – clockwise from top right: cuy (a.k.a. guinea pig); “Rocoto Relleno” stuffed peppers; (several) dinners plus cervezas overlooking the twinkly lights of the magnificent Plaza de Mayor (a.k.a. Plaza de Armas ); alpaca steak (hadta try it, no? Um, meh.); and grilled “anticuchos” (spicy beef heart kababs – on most every menu, delish, really!)
Just around the corner from the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption on the Plaza de Armas, entry to this tiny gallery filled with exquisite tapestries is free, and not-to-be-missed!
The Mercado Central de San Pedro
And finally – a potpourri of pics of the central market, filled with all manner of local eats, fresh produce, and cheap souvenirs (including… yup, a most gruesome desiccated llama fetus hanging from the rafters!)
Be sure to get there in the morning, and approach the mercado from the south (Calle Trinitarias) so as not to miss the bounty of indigenous lasses selling bundles of medicinal herbs and bouquets of flowers.
Th-th-that about does it for my inaugural skip to Peru. Still plenty of tales and pics waiting in the wings from my epic 6 week solo backpack through the Balkans and Turkey of course (I left off at Slovenia, but have boatloads of pics from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Turkey – including a video of my amazing balloon ride at dawn over the fairytale landscape at Cappadocia). Hopefully I’ll get to those over the next couple of months – before I head to…
…my 50th country come April: Japan – Woo-HOOO!
P.S. But seriously – about my nutso criminal caper at Pisac. Raise your hand if you too, would have stowed-away – just for the fun of it.