It’s been a tiring but fulfilling 2 weeks. Be prepared for a long post.
Cusco offers a tourist ticket that includes entrance to many of its historical sites that is valid for ten days. We decided that we wanted to make the most out of the ticket so I planned activities almost every day.
Day 1: Birthday
This was the day of Katy and my birthday. We originally planned to have dinner and to see the show at Cusco Center of Native Art, but we found out that the tourist ticket no longer includes the show. So instead, we just had a dinner at Fallen Angel , a “luxury” restaurant that was very abstractly decorated. The food was amazing and it was nice to spend my birthday with great company.
Day 2: San Blas
After work, we were going to visit the Church of San Blas. I got off the bus at the wrong stop and ended up walking 30 minutes to get to the church. When I arrived, we were told that we would have to purchase a separate ticket to go in. We ended up having a chill afternoon and wandered around San Blas District, which is known as the art district.
Day 3: Regional History Museum
The museum was a small but interesting museum and I learned about Garcilaso, an important Peruvian historical figure who’s considered “the first Peruvian.” After the museum, I went with Katy, Gianna, and Masha to watch a free show by the Cusco Symphonic Orchestra. We started waiting in line at 6:15 for the 7:30 show and the theater was packed. The ushers were very strict about seating because they were trying to squeeze everyone into the auditorium. I actually lost my seat when I went to the lobby to meet up with Masha, but it worked out because we ended up snagging reserved seats because of our director, Mili (she had connections). I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show. The orchestra, actors, singers, dancers, and stage production were all very good. After the show, we went to a Karaoke bar and sang our hearts out. It was an unexpectedly very productive day.
Day 4: Moray and Maras Salt Mines
We booked a tour for the Moray ruins and Maras Salt Mines. First, we stopped in Chinchero to learn how textiles are made. Then we went to Moray, which were terraces built in concentric circles. We hiked around the perimeter of two sets of the circles. It was an amazing sight. After Moray, we went to the salt mines in the city of Maras. I was fascinated by how much salt was accumulated in the middle of the Andean highlands. Our tour guide said the source of the salt is a mystery. We lost track of time taking pictures and buying the various salt products at the site. Our tour guide was not very nice about our tardiness and was even going to leave some of us behind. Needless to say, I had a couple things to tell him.
This day was a very exiting day for me because my family came to Cusco. After the tour, I went to lunch with my host mom (my host dad was on a business trip) and real family. Of course, I served as translator throughout the meal. Juggling three languages was not as bad as I thought it would be. After dinner, I showed my family around the main plaza. At night, I watched a parade in the plaza with Sam, Anna, Gianna, and James. It was my favorite parade so far because there was a lot of dancing and vivid costumes.
Day 5: City tour
I booked a Cusco tour for my family and the group. We hit most of the main attractions in Cusco with the tour: the Cathedral, Corikancha, Q’enko ruins, Sacsaywaman ruins, Tambomachay ruins, and an alpaca factory. We were much more satisfied with this tour guide than the one from the previous day. After the tour, my parents treated everyone to dinner at Limo. After a long day, the food was very eagerly anticipated.
We had a reflection session so we decided to take a break with the tourism. It was a big day for me at work because I started to teach my dance classes! I taught third and fourth graders a Bhangra routine to “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. It went better than I expected, but I also had the help of James, so thank you so much James.
Day 7: Pachacutec Monument
By Tuesday, we were all extremely tired out from all the touring and working. Some of us climbed to the top of the Pachacutec Monument. I was so exhausted that I only stayed for 20 minutes. That evening, I said goodbye to my family.
Day 8: Tipon
A few of us, who could muster up enough energy, dragged ourselves to the Tipon ruins after work. We took a bus for about 30 minutes into the rural area of Cusco and took a taxy from the bus stop to the ruins. Tipon was a surprise for me. I was amazed by the vast terraces and calming fountains. We were the only ones at the ruins so we were free to explore the abandoned building with no restraints. We watched the sunset from the top of the mountains before we headed back to Cusco. It was such a fun experience. I felt like I was discovering the ruins.
Day 9: Pikillacta
We made the same trip as the day before out to the rural area of Cusco to explore the pre-Incan ruins of Pikillacta. It was not as amazing as Tipon but still very worth the trip. Again, we were the only ones at the ruins so we took advantage of the liberty. When I cam home, I began packing for Machu Picchu.
Day 10: Pisac and Ollantaytambo
On the way to Machu Picchu, we visited the Pisac ruins, Inkariy Museum, and Ollantaytambo ruins. We had lunch at a beautiful buffet in Urubamba. Overall, it was an awesome day with lots of exploring. If I went into detail about every exciting thing about that day, this post would be twice as long. By the end of the day, we had visited 10 of the 14 sites included on the tourist ticket.
The day started at 4:00 in the morning. We ate and boarded the train at 6:10. After a 1.5 hour long train ride, we arrived in Aguas Calientes and took a bus to the top of the mountain. We entered Machu Picchu park at 9am and left at 3pm. Words cannot describe how beautiful it was. It is no surprise that it is a Wonder of the World. In short, our visit was filled with tough hiking, picture taking, and llama chasing. After the descending the mountain, we ate dinner at a restaurant in Aguas Calientes. Unfortunately, several of us had come down with mysterious stomach problems in the afternoon. Luckily, my stomach problems didn’t hit til the next day. So after dinner, I went to relax and bathe in the natural hot springs (and other people’s filth). We ate dinner at a busy pizza parlor and explored the city after dinner. It was one of the best days here in Peru.