Peru- part I
Part II- Cusco and around
We took our time waking up in the morning, stretching, yawning, reading, and finally, heading to some great coffee, and nice fresh fruits for breakfast. Oh yeah, breakfast is provided by our hostel. Once again, there is no “too much” Coca tea. It is always suggested to have more.
We booked a city tour of Cusco and its surroundings for the afternoon, so we had all morning to wonder around Cusco as we pleased. Of course, I already picked a brochure about the chocolate museum, so that’s where we headed. The choco museo is indeed a cute place. Small, humble, BUT you get to taste some real good hand-made chocolate produced from the Peruvian cocoa beans, as well as some cocoa tea (not to be mixed with coca tea), cocoa liqueur, and enjoy the nice atmosphere in their tiny cafeteria, which serves…. all things chocolate. And… it’s FREE! Certainly something kids and adults of our family loved.
Fresh aromatic chocolate with Cusco views (and coffee, and crepes, and hot cacao)
Dahh, of course we ended up buying chocolates.
After we drowned in chocolate, we continued via Marques to Santa Clara, to San Pedro Market. What a sight! We love markets. Everything from clothes, bags, fruits, breads, fresh juices, meat, tailors, and what-not. This is truly a recommended market, as it’s not so touristic and one can find Peruvians dressed in colorful and vibrant clothes. These are the Quechua people, the ethnic group of the central Andes, taken to be the descendants of the ancient Inca. I could have strolled in the market for hours, just looking at people’s faces, at cute babies and kids, at the different vendors selling all kinds of strange stuff.
All roads lead to Mercado Central de San Pedro
Mercado Central de San Pedro vendors
people of San Pedro Market
She weighed the figs that I bought, and I also got a smile
Bread Ladies of San Pedro
I just couldn’t get enough of all the market had to offer. Here’s more:
fruits, free range eggs, decorated breads of all kinds
Peru is known for it’s Maize (corn). colorful, chewier, sweeter
We scheduled a city tour, so by early afternoon, we needed to hurry back. We knew we’ll be back for Mercado San Pedro.
on the way back:
About tours: it’s good to have at least one general tour, to be able to understand who’s against who, in the long Peruvian history. It’s also an opportunity to ask questions, and to see certain things that otherwise, one would probably neglect. Having said all that, a guided tour, from our experience, is also rushed, and was tackled by some impatience on behalf of the guide. So, if you’re staying more than just a few days in Cusco, I would suggest to concentrate on the places you want to see and “feel”, and take a taxi over there, so you get as much time as you want, without being rushed.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and spoke excellent English, which was a big plus. We visited the main archeological Inca sites around Cusco that included: Saqsayhuaman, that like many Inca constructions, is made of large polished dry stone walls, with boulders carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar. How the Inca managed to fit the huge stones is still a mystery. I was very impressed with this place, the ruins and the scenery. Qenqo, a holy place where mummification took place. Tambomachay, a series of aqueducts, a tribute to water as a source of life.
Saqsayhuaman, huge stones, each carved like a puzzle piece
Some of the huge walls held surprises in the form of hidden Inca symbols, such as the snake, guinea pig, condor, and more.
Saqsayhuaman. Can you spot the Llama?
Alpacas grazing in Saqsayhuaman
Cusco, as seen from Saqsayhuaman (click for larger view)
We got back at night, hungry! We rushed off to this fancy-shmancy restaurant, that was really worth the climb up the hill (remember- we’re still under the influence of low oxygen) and the price. It was delicious, and one of the best causitas I’ve tasted.
Golden potatoes mixed with yellow pepper cream layered with avocados, smoked trout, and Andean lake caviar
Since we scheduled a tour for later the afternoon, we had the whole morning free! First on the bucket list: the Choco Museo! Being a chocoholic, I can easily say that this was a highlight of my time in Cusco. It’s a really small museum tucked away on the second floor of an inner courtyard. Their small kitchen is part of the museum, and you can watch how they handmake the chocolates from scratch! This is so much better than going to a large scale chocolate factory, where you just see chocolate coming out of machines. The end of the visit concluded with a delicious mochaccino in their cafe, and many new chocolate bars.
After leaving the museum, we walked a few blocks and reached the Market San Pedro. This market is huge, and offers everything from sweaters, to smoothies, to hot soup. It is very organized with big sections separating the produce. This way, you can walk down a cheese aisle, or a meat aisle of your choosing. All the booths in a particular aisle will all have the same exact thing, so you get people waving you over to buy their things, and there is a lot of commotion. One thing that you should definitely do in Peru is eat in a market. Usually in the back of the market, food stands can be found with huge portions of real local food, nice people, and cheaper than anything you’ve ever seen before! For example, our family of five paid S/. 23 for a meal (about $8). Its so much fun to interact with the local people, and eat the food they make right in front of us!
Later in the day we took the CityTour, which has its pros and cons. The sites we visited (other than the church) were rushed, and its as if I wasn’t even there. On the other hand, I felt like I learned a lot! For example, did you know that the Inca were one of the first peoples to educate women? They had men and women universities, where the girls learned things like housework and nursing (obviously far from perfect, but also far ahead of so many other cultures). It also gives an insight to the history of the Incas, which is really insight to the history of the people! I can understand where much of the resentment for the church comes from, as it ruined (literally) the Inca empire.
Finally, tired, we went out to eat. Highly recommended, Marcelo Batata is a fabulous restaurant, with fabulous food! Very filling, very delicious!
Peru Sacred Valley