Mi amado Cusco. I already miss you so much now that I’m back in Australia.
Here’s the story on how Cusco became my beloved.
After a whirlwind stay in Lima, it was time for us to move to Cusco. We had the option of traveling to Cusco via bus which would take approximately 21 hours. I was getting ready for that bus ride when my friend manage to find cheap tickets going to Cusco. We saved a lot of time with the plane ride but some may struggle with the altitude upon arrival in the city. It was not the case for me, coca leaves did the trick and kept me healthy throughout my stay there.
Cusco is often the starting point for people who are going to Sacred Valley or Machu Picchu that it may struck one as a “touristy” place. On the contrary, Cusco had that relaxed vibe. It is a beautiful city and has lots to offer from food to places to see. The weather was better for me in Cusco as it was colder and less humid…lovely for an afternoon stroll and a bit of reading at the park.
Luckily, the hostel I stayed at is located near the main plaza and the market. It was easy to walk around and just watch how daily life pass by for the locals. The place itself has an extensive history, an intriguing one which could make someone envision how it was back then.
Plaza de Armas or the main square of Cusco was originally a swamp and was dried up during the Spanish occupation. Many of the significant, historical events took place in the city such as the announcement by the Spanish of their conquest of Cusco and the execution of revolutionaries, Tupac Amaru and later on his grandson, Tupac Amaru II.
The Spanish built stone arcades around the plaza which can still be seen up to this day. The Cusco cathedral and the Church of La Compañía are both located within the plaza.
Cusco Cathedral or the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin is the first Christian church to be built in Cusco. The cathedral was built in 1559 with the Incans employed as the laborers. The stones from the Incan sacred site, Saqsaywaman was used to build the church, a move purposely done to desecrate the Inca’s religion. The cathedral houses many artifacts during the colonial time.
Before the monastery of Santo Domingo was built in its place, Qorikacancha was the most sacred site for the Incans. It contained the Temple of Sun and was dedicated to the most important gods of the Incan empire. During the Spanish conquest, the gold found in the area was taken for the Spanish Crown.
There are so many options to travel around the city: local transport, tour bus or if you are up to, by foot.
For the duration of my stay, I had my daily lunch inside the Mercado Central de San Pedro. Everything inside the market is just vibrant for me. The colorful handicrafts, the varieties of potatoes and arrays of fruits and vegetables. Oh, sometimes you can even spot some locals holding a bag full of guinea pigs’ meat.
But, you can never leave the market without eating. For about 10 soles, you can have a big bowl of lentil soup, a meal of pork chops and rice (heaps of it), a soft drink and a cake. How amazing was that? Another thing I enjoyed was sharing tables with locals and having small conversations with them (with my broken Spanish). After my meal, I stroll around the stalls to window shop. I try to just browse but I still end up buying handicrafts or jumpers because of the affordable prices. Some say that you are supposed to haggle in the market, I used to do that during my first days but later on, I refrain from doing it unless I think it is overpriced. I prefer to think that I’m helping them by buying their goods. For me the prices were already ok in Cusco. A sweater can cost you 30-40 soles (12 AUD) and keychains are around 2 soles (0.8 cents) each and you get a good quality, alpaca sweater for that. If you go to Aguas Calientes, you’ll know what overpriced is.
You cannot leave the Andean region without at least trying Cuy, a roasted guinea pig. We had our cuy in La Cusquenita, a local pikanteria in Cusco. When the cuy came out, we were kind of freaked out. Not to fret, the cuy was actually good however, I found one variety of potato served with it, as really horrid. The restaurant also had dancers who performed traditional Andean dances, and band who sang traditional songs.
I found my experience in Cusco to be very enriching. The cultural heritage and its history only heighten the beauty of the place. The more I learn about it, the more I became entranced with it. Some places just leave a mark in you and Cusco was one of the cities I fell in love with. Sadly, most of my photos of Cusco were lost ( lost memory card). Nevertheless, these memories will always be etched in mind.
When it was time to leave, I just would not budged. I felt so attached to it.