Cusco; Above & Beyond
Travelling to George Chávez International, we woke early to get our flight to Cusco. Mornings in Lima are generally chilly and cloudy. We read that the altitude is very high up in the mountains of Cusco, elevation reaches around 3,400 m (11,200 ft), we were strongly advised to take travel pills, especially for children, well, we forgot… We flew over the Andes Mountains into the historic capital of the Inca Empire; the view was spectacular with the sunlight illuminating the mountains with shadows adding the defining touch. The flight from Lima to Cusco is a short 50 minutes with several airlines operating the route, the most reliable and professional companies are LAN and TACA, Star Perú is however the cheapest but slightly somewhat risky as their early morning flights are prone to cancellation mainly due to heavy fog and cloud. We flew Star Perú and took our chances, all went smoothly and we touched down in Cusco.
This is an impressive view of the valley to the southeast overlooking Cusco; seeing housing artisans, workshops and craft shops, it is one of the most picturesque sites in the city. The streets of Cusco are steep and narrow with old houses built by the Spanish over important Inca foundations. It has an attractive square the oldest parish church in Cusco was built in 1563; it has a carved wooden pulpit considered the epitome of Colonial era woodwork in Cusco.
Cusco From Above
Cristo Blanco also known as ‘The White Christ’ is situated on a hill above Cusco, it was a gift from Christian Palestinians in 1945. They were in Cusco as refugees, and donated the statue before they went home. The statue is a 10 minute hike from the Sacsayhuamán ruins and is made from white stone, the statue is also illuminated during the night.
Saqsayhuaman is the most famous archaeological site around Cusco. It is a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city and the former capital of the Inca Empire. Like many Inca constructions, the complex is made of large polished dry stone walls, with boulders carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar. Peruvians celebrate Inti Raymi, the annual Inca festival of the winter solstice and New Year. It is held near Sacsayhuamán on 24 June.
Arriving At Cusco Airport
At Cusco airport there are lots of information desks, several companies approached us offering their services, we chose one based on readiness to take us to their office and run over the itinerary in detail. We took the car 5 minutes away from the airport to their office, the scenic views of the mountains were just stunning, who’d of thought me, a single mum and young child would be all this way far from home embarking on such an adventure, it was thrilling!
We arrived to a road and were told we had to walk the rest of the way, approximately 5 minutes because of the road resurfacing; this was fine, we saw many stray cats and the air felt thin and cool. When we arrived at the office we freshened up, drank some cool water and sat down to arrange our trip to Machu Picchu; we needed train and entrance tickets. Entrance to Macchu Picchu can only be brought from tour operators and travel companies registered to sell them, there is one online site you can buy them from but I thought it too risky plus the prices were much higher.
We were discussing figures and obviously sitting in their office they would give me the highest price and expect me to take it, not a chance, I got them down to a satisfying price, I told them I would only go ahead with the booking if they could also find us a private car to take us to Urubamba where we had a villa booked for 2 nights, they said it was a public holiday (Easter) and that no one would drive a couple of hours to take us.
Driving To Urubamba; Sacred Valley
I told them to find someone and that I didn’t mind paying double, (our currency Sterling means that virtually anything in Peru costs ¼ of the price). The lady had called several people who stated they wouldn’t take us, she tried a final guy she knew who agreed to do it for 100 Soles (£20) this was a bargan price since the drive was about 2 hours each way. After agreeing our train, entrance fees to Machu Piccu, tour guide around the site and 1 nights accommodation in Aguas Calientes we shook hands, paid and off we went for a 2 hour scenic car ride through Cusco, and the Sacred Valley.
Overlooking Cusco rooftops.
Mist over the mountain tops.
Always Inca cola..
Joshua slept much of the way, obviously tired from the early flight and thin air, surprisingly neither of us felt nauseous from the high altitude and ultra thin air, partly due to driving into the valley where the elevation declines. The road was twisting and turning, we were travelling very fast, and our driver was excellent. When we arrived to Urubamba we stopped off at a local store to pick up snacks! Inca Cola, which is the equivalent of Coca Cola but distinctively bright yellow with Inca style branding has a distinctive taste. We got corn chips, chocolate and a range of biscuits for midnight snacking under the stars.
Back in the car we drove for another 20 minutes before arriving at a very steep road, our driver told us a week ago this road would have been impossible to drive up with a car and he had to drop passengers off with suitcases to make the climb alone, wow! I thought, it was a very long way up and far too steep to climb with 2 bags and a child. The car slipped most of the way up on loose gravel, finally making it to the top we passed hidden yoga retreats, awesome, ours was right at the top with the best view of the valley. The car pulled up into a beautiful garden with small rivers flowing beneath us. We got out, paid our fare and were warmly greeted by the staff at the La Hacienda Del Valle.