I FINALLY DID IT! Made it to Cusco and back in one piece and had some incredible adventures along the way. Although it is next to impossible to talk about all of my adventures within the city, I’ll give you the highlights of a few of my favorite events and my thoughts on them.
1. BUS TOUR OF RUINS – I almost would have been just as happy with a simple bus tour of Cusco. There is just an amazing amount of beauty to take in, both natural and man-made! Our bus drove us around the city and made stops at the following ruins: Coricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara, Tambomachay, and Ollantaytambo.
2. ORGANIC FARM TOUR – Our resident director knows of an NGO that runs an organic farm deep within the Andean Mountains in Yanaoca, a province of a city called Canas. Although the drive was around 3 hours from Cusco, it was definitely worth it. We learned about the kinds of plants they grow without the use of chemicals (potatoes, beans, corn, and lettuce among some) and they even made a plentiful lunch for us out of these foods. This farm includes animals such as pigs, cows, chickens, and guinea pigs. I learned how to milk a cow!
3. ALL-GIRLS SCHOOL – The students at The Group Home of María of Nazareth put on multiple dances for us and we had prepared some songs and danced for them as well. Then we bonded by playing volleyball, braiding hair, eating popcorn, and talking. Leaving was bittersweet and the girls hated to see us go, but I feel so blessed to at least have met them.
4. ALPACA / LLAMA FARM – We got to pet and feed (and take “selfies” with) about 30 or so alpacas and llamas! We learned how fabric is made from their fur and then purchased items made from the fabric. Knowing it was real fur (instead of the fake fur sold in every other market) made the pricey purchases worth it.
5. MACHU PICCHU – Climbing both up and down Huayna Picchu (the central mountain near the ruins) took about 1.5 hours total. I felt on top of the world! Also waiting as the fog cleared the main view of Machu Picchu really built anticipation and was totally worth the wait!
6. BUNGEE JUMPING – What a rush…of both adrenaline and blood to the head! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, but I’m glad to have done it (with my fellow blogger, Collin, and our friend Bethany)!
When I got back from this vacation, a lot of people asked me what the similarities and differences are between Cusco and Lima. There are actually quite a few that grabbed my attention…
– Food: You can find uniquely Peruvian cuisine in both Cusco and Lima. The only difference is in the preparation and price (slightly more expensive in Cusco).
– Cathedrals: Churches in both cities are enormous and absolutely stunning, shining with gold and full of famous/sacred Catholic artifacts from hundreds of years ago.
– Markets: I feel like the same touristy items are sold in markets all across the country…which is great, but I would like to find more unique shops where the gifts are legitimately hand-made and not insanely over-priced.
– Climate/Nature: I could actually breathe here! Well, sort of. In terms of pollution, Cusco has far less of it, so that air was cleaner. But in terms of my actual ability to breathe, I found it slightly more challenging to do so because of the high elevation. To put things into perspective, consider this: Colorado Springs, Colorado sits at 6,035 feet above sea level. Cusco, however, sits at 11,200 feet above sea level – almost twice as high as Colorado Springs. So if you have trouble breathing in Colorado, you might want to drink a lot of water and coca tea/leaves before and upon your arrival in Cusco.
– Vendors: In Lima, vendors will call out to you from their stands, constantly lowering the sale prices of their items in an attempt to make a sale. In Cusco, however, vendors place their products in front of your face and walk with you in the streets for a good minute or so, talking about the item they’re trying to sell. If you touch any item at their stand, they will come up to you and talk your ear off about it, even if you say you’re only looking! One has to give them credit for being diligent.
– Nightlife: We were told that Cusco is a city that never sleeps…but our group was surprised to see that even ice cream shops closed around 8:30 pm on weeknights. Bars and lounges were open late on the weekends, but those were only in certain areas of Cusco. I have personally found that Lima has more activities and more easily accessible places at night.
I really hope that the pictures post below this time! Until my next blog,