Saturday, 21 May 2011

Peru - Cusco

After 5 relaxing days in Sucre, I needed some adventure. My initial thought was to go to a 3-day trip to the amazonian jungle, but I had not been vaccinated for the yellow fever, and that made it a prohibited area for me. You see, Bolivia was not initially in my plans, so there was no reason really to do it. On the other hand, it takes 10 days for the vaccination to become effective, and 10 days I couldn't really wait. So, I decided to go to Peru and Machu-Pichu. I would have to squeeze my schedule a little bit, but seemed visible.

Jumped into the first bus from Sucre to La Paz and from there straight to Cusco, the capital of the Incas empire, and today the starting point for anyone wanting to go to Machu-Picchu. The whole trip, including the border crossing took about 14h but it was during daytime and fairly enjoyable. Also, the road was really nice which made things much easier.

Sucre - Cusco : just 1.500km

at the border town of Desaguadero, at lake Titicaca. These tricycles are really dangerous :)
(no color version of this pic, I must have messed up with the settings of my camera)

Arrived at Cusco at around 11pm, having no accomodation booked as usual. Walking around loaded with all my stuff and I immediately realized the effect of altitude when walking uphill. At 3.600m your lungs are really struggling to find some oxygen.
First night I spent in a nicely looking hostel, which for some reason, the owner considered perfectly normal to have hot water available only for 3h per day. If you happen to miss the two 1.5h timeslots, he needed an hour's notice. And from my side, I considered perfectly normal to find another place the next morning :) So, I settled at Pirwa hostel, which was cheaper and better with a great colonial style.

One of the main plazas in Cusco. Very touristic but manages to hide it surprisingly well

The cathedral square. Very impressive !

some kind of roulette game. You drop a coin on the board and if it lands clear on a square without touching the sides, you win...easy!

Original indigenous Quechua performer in one of the viewpoints of the city. 

Outside the Larco museum. Outstanding private collections of pre-hispanic era. A must visit place in Cusco

Henri Matisse on primitive art:
" the time I used to walk quite often through Rue de Rennes where Pere Sauvage had his shop. He had some old statuettes in his window, which I found of a stunning beauty and purity of line. I bought one and showed it to Gertrude Stein, whom I was going to see that day. Pablo Picasso arrived during that visit and was immediately enthusiastic...after that everybody started looking for primitive art statuettes, which were then very easy to find."

Below some of the pieces of the Larco museum collection:

shining gold. from the jewelries section, one of the most impressive pieces

container from the Nazca region

Art goes to the battlefield. Actual war clubs used by the Incas

The main business in Cusco is hand-made Alpaca woolen stuff (really expensive even for European or North American standards) and tours to Machu-Picchu ranging from 2 to 9 days. I picked one that included Mountain Biking in the first day, some heavy trekking during the next two, and finally going up to Machu Pichu. At $200, I found it fairly reasonable, considering that included accomodation, food, rental of bikes and a guide for all 4 days.
Choosing a tour agency is a bit of a hit-and-miss story, because everything depends on the guide you have; and all agencies have good and not so good ones.
But will tell you more about this great experience in the next post :)