Peru Unique souvenirs, Cusco, Peru

Published on January 23rd, 2018


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! 😉

My sweet Janaxpacha Hostel in Ollyantaytambo.

Exploring the Sacred Valley

The stunning Sacred Valley in Peru.

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.

Dying the yarns at the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles, Chinchero, Peru

Traditional weaving at the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles, Chinchero, Peru

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.

Authentic almuerzo lunch in Chinchero, Peru

My Main Quarry: The Maras Salt Flats

Click on any pic to enlarge the image.

Panorama of the Maras Salt Flats, Peru.

The Ingapirca Inca Sun Temple, Ecuador.

Ecuador has remnants of the Inca too: the Temple of the Sun at Ingapirca, Ecuador


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):

Collage of the Inca ruins at Pisac, Peru.

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 Confession

Indeed, quite possibly one of the craziest (and most embarrassing?) capers of all my solo travels (and believe me, there’s been some DOOZIES!)

O.k. so… first, bear in mind that I was mainly only interested in the Pisac market – not personally gazing at yet another terraced slope of minor Inca ruins.

Still… stepping out of my $3 collectivo bus in the dusty town of Pisac, I was (naturally) swiftly accosted approached by one of the many mom ‘n pop tour operators eager to take me up to the Pisac ruins (about another 20 minute drive up the mountain).  So I listen to his spiel, and for less than $20 I figure: “Why not?” I mean, “I can’t see the ruins from here, and they might just be spectacular.”  So I agree on a quick $18 tour of the ruins.  Ah but then, I remember the part about a site “entry fee” and ask if it’s included.  “Oh no, that’s separate, an extra fee.” says he.  So, says I: “¿Cuánto más?” (How much more?)

Turns out – even the partial “Boleto Touistico” costs 70 soles (about $25) and I had no interest in visiting a boatload of museums and minor ruins.  I was mainly interested in browsing the nearby Pisac market, and only (mildly) interested in taking a peek at Pisac.  So with this new information (that the “tour” would actually cost me $43 for a single ruin) – naturally, I declined the persistent lad’s offer.

Ah, but clearly he wasn’t about to let his $18 tour fee so easily fly away.  He swiftly countered with – at first I didn’t quite grasp the rapid string of Spanish, but eventually…

I gathered that he was offering to HIDE me in the back seat of his SUV so that we could pass the ticket booth – without paying the entrance fee!

Now seriously.  I’m not THAT desperately poor that I need to stow-away like a common criminal just to save a few bucks.  I mean, I wasn’t even all that keen on seeing the Pisac ruins, and I really only wanted to browse the nearby Pisac market.

BUT, I *AM* ever up for a little adventure, and this poor tour operator clearly didn’t want to lose a sale.  Sooo… long story short?  We hopped in his SUV and took a little drive up to the ruins, and when we neared the entry ticket booth…  Yup – he instructed me to duck down in the back seat and we sailed on through without paying!

Stuck in a Peruvian Prison.Judge me harshly if you will.  And it was most definitely not my most shining moment.  But the intrigue and suspense of it alone was worth it.  And you must admit – it DOES make for a jolly-good travel tale, no?  I can see the Peruvian headlines now:

“Dodderin’ Stow-away Gets Kicked Out of Incan Ruin”

Seriously.  Not unlike hiding in the trunk with our cousins at one of those ancient Drive-in movie theaters when we were young – am I the only one that’s this C-R-A-Z-Y???


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:

MdDonald's and Starbucks - the same the World over.

Cusco (salmon) pizza


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!)

An assortment of the local dishes I enjoyed in Cusco, Peru.
The Maxima Laura Textile Museum

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!


And you can even tote home a desiccated llama fetus as a souvenir - eeeeew!

The ultimate Peruvian souvenir – eeew!

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.

About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

2 Responses to More Peru: Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and… a CONFESSION

  1. Sounds like a gringo price to me, Dyanne, so I’m (shamefacedly 🙂) raising my hand in solidarity with you, especially since you didn’t want to see the main attraction! As a former quilter and knitter, I’m always fascinated by textile exhibits and would have gone to the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles no matter how touristy it was. And OMG, I’m totally blown away by the skills and artistry displayed at the Maxima Laura Textile Museum. Dazzling!

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