You may have heard about the mysterious and highly developed culture of the Incas. Until the 16th century the Inca empire was THE superpower of Latin America – and Cusco was their capital. The city was located in the middle of the old empire that reached from Ecuador till Argentina.
The Incas were strongly connected to the Mother Earth and for its time, very advanced in medicine, engineering and astronomy. This is the reason why constructions of shrines and places of worship were carefully aligned with the stars.
Cusco is build in the shape of the Puma, which together with the Condor and the snake, are the three sacred animals in the ancient culture. Cusco is truly a city of secrets, history and myths.
We arrive in Cusco (3400 m.a.s.l.) late afternoon the 21st of July. One thing is for sure, the elevation is noticeable. Its quite cold as the sun goes down, we need to catch our breath as we climb the narrow streets, we have sleeping problems, we get headache and I even get nosebleed at several times during our stay. BUT, regardless of all of that, we truly enjoy our stay here! We are glad that we have planned 2,5 days to adjust to the high attitude before our next destination; Salkantay trek, were we will hike up to 4600 m.a.s.l.
The first full day we decide to explore the city of our own. We walk up the steep cabble-stone streets, through the picturesque neighbourhood of San Blas district with a lot of small boutiques and galleries to reach Sacsayhuamán. This sight was part of the Incan city of Cusco and considered the head of the Puma. This beautiful construction with ca. 10 meter high walls is built out of immense Cyclopean blocks of limestone, everyone with its unique look, and still all the rocks suits perfectly to the next. The constitution started 1350 and it was built during 90 years.
Our next sightseeing stop is the San Pedro Market. A lively market with everything from fresh fruits to meat and alpaca textiles. We enjoy a super fresh dragonfruit/orange/pineapple juice, eat a nice lunch and bargain with the vendors to take some nice alpaca accessories with us back home.
During our second day in Cusco we decide to join a full day tour to the Sacred Valley to learn more about the Inca culture and their historical sights. We visit Chinchero, Moray, Salinera de Maras (Salt mines), Ollantaytambo as well as Pisaq. The guide is not as professional as we hoped he would be and he stresses us through the sights to be able to arrive back in Cusco at 19 o’clock in the evening. To make sure we still get the information that we hoped for, we buy a nice book about the Inca attractions and traditions.
In Cusco we also enjoy several good dinners in restaurants with nice atmospheres. It starts very traditional with an Alpaca steak but the following two nights we enjoy pizza and Thai food. Even though the party life in Cusco seams to be one of the best, we skip it to get a few hours more sleep as every day here stars very early in the morning.
During our last evening in Cusco our guide for the upcoming Salkantay trek pass by our hostel to give the information we need for the coming 5 days. After this information we ask ourselves what we have signed up for, as it seams that it will be quite tough. A hike of 61 km and attitude up to 4600 meter above sea level is definitely something we never did before so it’s hard to say how we will react on it. One thing is for sure, it will be an adventure and we are super excited. Next stop; Salkantay trek!