How to Peru in 2 weeks – Day #8: Getting to Cusco – Iglesia de San Blas – Plaza de Armas – The Cathedral – Templo del Triunfo – The Church of the Holy Family
Happy to get on the van, finally, I was all ready to relax and admire one more time the superb landscape of Sacred Valley where the main road would take us through, from Ollantaytambo (where we had our base for 4 nights) to Cusco.
The cheapest way to get from Ollantaytambo to Cusco was to get one of the many vans that run all day between these cities for a cheap rate of 10 soles. Our luck arrived before we even got to the main plaza; one van stopped and asked us “Cusco?” Before saying “yes” we jumped in the van right away, as a policeman was making signs already to the driver to keep moving.
Shortly after our first relaxing moments I noticed that the van had crossed Urubamba River and started ascending a hill that soon looked more like a mountain. Beautiful views, however both direction and landscape didn’t look right. Hmm, have we gotten on the right bus? Yes, we specifically asked a second time after settled in our seats. Where are they going to? Are they kidnapping us? What is going on?!..
I’ve always wondered why these names got stuck in my head since my elementary school. Like Machu Picchu, Titicaca, Popocatépetl, or Vesuvius. Maybe for the way my geography teacher pronounced them, or the way they resonated in my brain? They dwelt in my head for years, feeding my imagination and desire to see what is outside of my little box, making me dream of this beautiful world. And one day, the dream became true..
After a sleepless night, and more headaches in the morning, I realized that one can’t play with the nature, and with the human nature. I was still reticent, and careful not to exert myself too much, but hopeful I could continue the trip, especially that our schedule would continue to higher altitudes.
Many people use Ollantaytambo as a stopover for their Machu Picchu adventure. But this little city is underappreciated by many, in their excitement to head to the great fortress. There are so many free activities that you can do in this small and cozy town, if you just have an extra day.
Dragging a foot after the other one is not a problem, if I can only get a grasp of air. My heart is racing like crazy, trying to pump more air. Thin air. I can’t believe how quickly my heart rate went up after not more than 20 stairs. I suddenly realize what our driver told us in his broken English about an hour ago. Chinchero is our highest point of the day, over 3700 metres altitude. Like a miracle, a bench appeared in front of our eyes, but we still have to climb few more stairs. I only have to keep moving, a step at a time: four, three, two, one. I almost collapse on the bench, trying to stabilize my heart rate: breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out.. Continue reading →
After 3 busy days in Lima, we decided to have a lazy morning in Ollantaytambo. We could see the sun was already up through a narrow gap of the dark curtain, and as soon as we pushed it aside I had the joy to spot immediately a hummingbird feeding from a hibiscus tree in the inner court of our hotel. Such a sweet way to start a day!
The third morning in Lima was sneaking quietly, and we had to decide if we should visit some museums we had on our list, or get to Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sights) in Barranco, while seeing more of the Lima’s street life.
The first stop was in Kennedy Park, so famous for its inhabitants: 60 cats. Located in the heart of Miraflores, the park is well known to the tourists, even though it looked like there were more locals at the time we stopped by. A little oasis in the middle of a bustling city, the park is much smaller than I imagined. Welcomed by a huge Pucara Bull, we had a chance to learn about this symbol, not knowing yet we will actually have a chance to visit the town of Pucara in the following week.
Second morning in Lima found us asking the street vendors for some change near the Ricardo Palma station in Miraflores, where we had to take the Metropolitan bus to Lima district. Taking another public transportation was out of discussion, as we couldn’t manage to deal with the chaotic system of private (mini)buses. Since this was The Palm Sunday, grabbing a cab was also out of discussion because Arequipa Ave is closed as every other Sunday, which left us to the only rapid and easy solution to take the Metro, a rapid bus that runs from Barranco district up to Lima district in North. Purchasing a card for a ride would double the cost of it, but the need of more change was more of an issue, since we had to have the exact amount of money for the vending machine located at the entrance of the platform. Since no street vendor was willing to spare their change, we decided to ask a local to swipe their prepaid card and let us enter one by one. Offering an extra sol, and using the international sign language, we kindly asked a lady with her son to help us enter the gate while showing her the 6 soles for both of us. Glad we could resolve so easy the issue of getting in, we headed to the front of the bus to have a full view of the route. In about half an hour we arrived in Lima district, not before acknowledging the fact that we would never dare to drive a car in Lima, after watching the drivers’ attitude and recklessness on the streets.
Getting over the anxiety I managed to acquire a couple of days before our departure, due to some rumors about kidnappings and pick pocketing in Lima airport, I found myself in the same mentioned airport waiting in the line to obtain my tourist visa beside few other hundred tourists. The fact we landed a little bit more after midnight didn’t take away my excitement, and, while I was standing for a photo session by the airport officer, I remembered a similar situation when we were taken pictures entering to Cuba. Tourists from all over the world, backpackers, bikers, in groups or alone, there was such a variety of people in that enclosed space I haven’t really seen anywhere before. I suddenly felt at ease, one more crumb beside over 4 million tourists that visit Peru annually. Continue reading →