Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cusco - Part 1: Around the City

After our quick stop in Nazca, we boarded a bus the next night to head to Cusco. It was a grueling 18 or so hour ride, but the bus was rather comfortable with semi-camas and small meals served in transit.

Upon our arrival, we quickly found a great little Spanish school in the San Blas Plaza area and signed up for a few weeks of courses. After a day of apartment searching, we thought we had a great little flat just a few flights of stairs up from our school. However, when we went to see if it was move-in ready (the owner promised to finish it within a few days to make it livable), we found that absolutely no work had been done... We then remembered that promises aren't taken very seriously in Peru and were very glad that we hadn't put any money down. So, we sadly had to move on and found a decent hostel with nice views (yet very poorly run) up the hill that gave us a discount for a month-long stay. Luckily, it came fully-furnished with pets, so we felt a bit at home!

The San Blas area is absolutely beautiful, set atop a hill with a great panoramic view of the city and with Cusco's oldest church from the late 1500's (sorry, we were prohibited from taking photos of the elaborate work inside) and this gorgeous water fountain outside. The bad part about the area is that because it was the rainy season during our visit, this particular area of Cusco had water restrictions... Yes, water restrictions because there was too much water... We are still trying to figure that one out! So we would have tap water between 6 and 9 am, then if we were lucky, between 9 and around 11pm at night. We survived with the aid of a large bucket in our shower! Yet, this fountain continued to run all day long...

Part of the San Blas Cathedral.

When we first arrived in Cusco, we purchsed the two available bolleterias (passes) for city attractions. The Lonely Planet advised that these tickets were good for a month, as they include a large number of sites and museums, but we found they were only valid for 10 days (not the last time the Lonely Planet lies to us during our trip). Thus, our first week in Cusco was a whirl-wind of visiting as many sites as we could to get our money's worth!! This first site is Sacsayhuaman (pronounced almost like "sexy woman"). It was the first of many Incan sites we would soon visit!Some pretty flowers hidden beside the stones.We met a couple of interesting characters along the way!It started pouring with rain when we arrived at these Incan baths of Tambomachay, so we felt as if we had been swimming like the Inca's did by the time we took this photo.A courtyard in one of Cusco's many beautiful museums (and quite frankly, the most interesting part of this particular one)!A city view at dusk.Cusco has many surprises and breathtaking views around each and every corner. However, due to its hilly layout, even a casual stroll is like walking on a stairmaster!
We were lucky enough to catch Cusco's version of Carnival. This consisted of a parade with floats, traditional costume and dress, beer, foam and water balloons!A traditional Cusquenian - drinking a Cusqueña cerveza!

The crowd gathered in the Plaza de Armas to watch the festivities.

We ventured to two of Cusco's art museums. This one had some very interesting biblical depictions...
...And this one had some very interesting works as well... What an odd aspect of life to find inspiration for a, uummm, masterpiece! The Plaza de Armas is a beautiful place to sit and people watch. It isn't overly relaxing for tourists, as you get bombarded with people selling mass-produced paintings, trays of candies, shoe shines, and really annoying nut cases that they click in your face like false teeth. Yet, as you can see, the locals can relax and even find enough peace for a quick nap. Fountain in the Plaza de Armas.
This is a giant monument on the outskirts of town that can be climbed for a nice view.

This is a nice view from the monument of a Peruvian coat of arms carved into the hillside.

Plaza de Armas at dusk.
The main Cathedral haunts the square at night.

We were very lucky to catch a song and dance performance at the Cusco Native Arts Centre. The band was fantastic, and the dancers\singers were captivating!

This is part of one of the 3 types of traditional Peruvian Marinera dances (the most romantic one - maybe we should break it out at the wedding! Wait, haven't gotten that far yet...).

This was a folksy native dance, which consisted of lifts and yodel-like noises by the ladies!

Tyrone felt inspired by the performances, so he decided to change up his look with a 'stash and sport his panama hat...

So I fed him some crack nuts, which brought him back to reality...

Unfortunately, one of the resident dogs also got into the crack nuts and decided to steal a box of our Kraft Dinner and roll around with it in general happy-doggy manner.

Another of our adopted pets, Licky Skittles from Huanchacko, spent most of his time sitting on the balcony and admiring the view.
Licky wanted to send a special shout-out to a friend and give you guys a look around Cusco:

Another pet, Rambo, liked to laze about on the porch as well during the afternoon sun.

Our adopted kitties, Rambo and Rosie.

We made it to a soccer game in Cusco - the local college team, the Ciencias, played another Peruvian team, from where we cannot remember.

The Ciencias mascott (or biggest fan, not sure which) dressed up in traditional gear and threw candy and cheers into the crowd.

A very supportive fan.

Tyrone captured the shot that got the Ciencias their first GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL!!!!

When we left in October, many people told us to "enjoy the spam and water back-packers diet"; however, we have eaten no such things!!! (Well, water, of course...) Anywho, we had some of the best food we have ever eaten in Cusco and were informed that the best Peruvian chefs go here to cook, most likely due to the tourism.

This particular meal, a take on an English breakfast, filled even Tyrone up to the brim of his wellies!

Real gourmet Peruvian dish: alpaca meatballs with honey-balsamic glaze.

My favourite: Asian chicken with yoghurt dressing on a bed of yam chips... drooooooool!!!

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