Inca Empire Capital
07.05.2011 - 09.05.2011 18 °C
Our time in the city of Cusco was fragmented into single whole days, sandwiched between our voyage to the jungle and then the Inca Trail. We bit the bullet and checked into the 'Wild Rover' hostel, with a reputation for big parties and noisy nights. Once through its doors adorned with patriotic Irish flags, the large hostel stretched out in front of us, a totally 'gringo' world in seclusion from the bustling city outside. Thankfully we were allowed to check in early when we arrived and we crawled into some of the most comfortable beds on our trip to catch up on sleep from the overnight bus ride.
Cusco was once the Inca-time capital of Peru and then demoted by the Spanish who moved the capital to Lima. Cusco wa an interesting city to wander around, with a sprawling green central plaza, old carved stone buildings, winding cobbled streets and a look-out high up on the hillside, which was worth the high-altitude hike to the top for the sunset view and spicy mulled wine. This hilltop neighbourhood was called San Blas, not only were its views amazing, so too were its eateries. We stumbled across a cafe where they bake their own tomato-infused bread as well as mouth-watering chocolate and lemon tarts, which we happily indulged in for afternoon tea.
We took the self-guided walking tour of the city, taking care to dodge the persistent touts and tour operators ready to grab you and ram their product down your throat. The most prevelant were the massage girls, from which a constant barrage of 'massage, massage' was issued. This truly was tourist town. The walking tour took us through the local markets, stocked with fresh and dried foods of all kinds. Most bizarre was the market's "medicinal" section - an aisle of stalls selling parts of animals like intestines, testicles, cow jaws, and most grotesque of all - whole skinned heads of bulls with horns and eye sockets intact.
Our hostel's star feature was its well-stocked bar, which fills up with backpackers every night and even more so on weekends. It was Saturday night, a DJ was spinning some tunes and we took advantage of the 2 for 1 mojitos and hourly free shots.
The next day, in no frame of mind for intense sight-seeing, we decided to get out of town for a Sunday lunch of 'pato' (duck) in the tiny town of Lucre, a bus ride away to the outskirts of Cusco and famed for its duck. This day also happened to be Mother's Day - and no different to any part of the world, the enitre city was taking their mama out for lunch. We stood in a queue with locals waiting to board the next bus that would take us to Lucre. This process took much patience, and evenutally we neared our destination and were told we'd have to get off the bus and catch a taxi the rest of the way, away from the highway and into the foothills where Lucre (so tiny it was not on our map) was nestled.
Once there, we found a garden restuarant in time for a late lunch and ordered two different types of duck. One barbequed to tender and crispy perfection and served with Peruvian specialties of potatoes, corn and stuffed peppers, and the other crispy-skinned pieces of roast duck in a sweet and sour grape sauce with rice. Both delicious. This was topped off with a piece of take-away moist coffee & chocolate cake from the local cake shop, before boarding the bus again for the long ride back to Cusco.
A much quieter night for us, and some much-needed sleep before our Inca Trail!