Mr. Chuckles and I arrived in Cusco, Peru early yesterday morning to begin our final ‘big trip’ of 2019. We will be spending the next 12 days in the Cusco Region and Amazon Basin of Peru. We are joined by two of my old housemates from Vancouver, who will be with us for just the Cusco part of the trip.
This is all of our first times in South America. The trip has been many months in the making, as we had to book our Inca Trail trek about 6 months in advance in order to secure our permits. I’ve tweaked the itinerary a bit since I last blogged about our plans and made some edits to the original post to reflect this.
Welcome back to the family and friends joining me on my travel blogging venture! 👋🏼
Chilled to the bone
We took an overnight direct flight from Toronto to Lima, and then flew with LATAM on a one hour journey to Cusco. Upon arrival at 6 am, we were greeted with the sharp morning chill. It is winter here in Peru and temperatures in Cusco drop as low as 1 degree Celsius in the evening and early mornings.
We are staying in a hotel just a 10 minute walk away from Cusco’s main square, Plaza de Armas. Our room felt like an ice box in the morning, which was quite shocking despite our experience with Canadian winters. 🥶 Fortunately, we finally figured out how to get the space heater working and our room became more comfortable by the time we returned later in the evening.
Beginning to explore
We kept our first day in Cusco relatively light in order to manage our travel fatigue and acclimatize to the altitude.
In the early afternoon, we took a wander down toward Plaza de Armas, passing some steep hills along the way. We also caught part of a cultural dance performance, which as far as I could discern was being hosted by a group from Bolivia.
Then, we went on a free walking tour with Inkan Milky Way. We joined a group of tourists from Germany, Netherlands, France, and Australia on a 2.5 hour stroll around a few notable sites in Cusco centre.
Of course, our trip to Peru would not be complete without a thorough gastronomic exploration.
For lunch, we found a little place called Inkazuela, which serves a variety of stews. I had a delicious coconut chicken curry, served with warm freshly baked bread. Mr. Chuckles and I agreed that this was the best stew that we’ve ever had.
For dinner, we joined our travel mates at Chicha, a fine dining spot owned by chef Gaston Acurio. He is an award winning top chef who has fashioned himself as an ambassador of Peruvian cuisine. In fact, he was a mentor to Virgilio Martínez Véliz of Central, which we will be visiting once we get to Lima. Acurio himself also has a Michelin star restaurant in Lima called Astrid y Gaston.
We ordered three classic Peruvian dishes to begin our food journey in Peru: trout ceviche, alpaca with quinoa, and fried guinea pig. Yes, you read that correctly, we ate alpaca and guinea pig! The restaurant also serves a roasted and stuffed guinea pig, known as cuy, but it requires a 24 hour advance order. I’m secretly glad we didn’t do this because you can actually make out the dish as being a guinea pig. I don’t qualify myself as an animal activist but that is perhaps a bit much even for me!
Coping with altitude
We called it an early night after dinner, hence why I am writing this blog post in the early morning. I was feeling pretty rough and a good night’s sleep was in order.
Cusco sits at a very high altitude of 3399 metres (11,152 feet), which causes many visitors to feel quite ill with symptoms of altitude sickness upon arrival. I visited my doctor prior to this trip and did obtain a prescription for acetazolamide and took a couple prophylactic doses the day before our flight.
I think I was feeling unwell yesterday mostly due to poor sleep on our overnight flight, and also the shock of the cold weather here, so I don’t believe the altitude is having too drastic of an impact on me. No headaches or nausea so far. I’ve decided to chug coca tea in lieu of popping acetazolamide (and dealing with the annoying side effect of tingly hands). Wish me luck. 🤞🏼
Today is our final full day in Cusco, so we will be doing a bit more exploring before we head off to the Sacred Valley and then the grand finale of our Andes adventure at Machu Picchu!