A week in Cusco. Or, the time I didn’t go to Macchu Picchu.

my favorite little park in the San Blas neighborhood

my favorite little park in the San Blas neighborhood in Cusco

After my adventures in the Colca Canyon, I was sort of at a loss for what to do next.  My ‘plan’ was to stay the hell away from, arguably, Peru’s most touristy destination (apart from Macchu Picchu itself). However, after very little convincing, I ended up there anyways. I figured, if I’m on the backpacker trail, I might as well gringo the hell up.

A little bit of background on why I didn’t even really consider going to Macchu Picchu. In 2008 my dad booked a whirlwind 2 week tour of northern Bolivia and southern Peru, which included all of the ‘typical’ sights you would expect from any responsible tourist’s visit of these areas- La Paz, Lake Titicaca, and of course, Macchu Picchu. I figured there really wasn’t any point in double checking anything off my bucket list, so I headed to Cusco with no plan at all.

see! i was there! (photo taken Sept 2008)

see! i was there! (photo taken Sept 2008)

So if I didn’t go there to do the one thing that everyone goes there for, what the hell did I do for almost a week?

A lot of this,

visit # 4 or 5 to Green Point vegan restaurant, home of the $3.50 4-course lunch

visit # 4 or 5 to Green Point vegan restaurant, home of the $3.50 4-course lunch

this,

waaayyyy too much time spent in the Kokopelli Cusco bar

waaayyyy too much time spent in the Kokopelli Cusco bar

this

sneak reading/internetting photo. for evidence.

sneak reading/internetting photo. for evidence.

and a little bit of this

getting our mise-en-place ready (yeah, i watch top chef)

getting our mise-en-place ready (yeah, i watch top chef)

action shot, mid pisco-sour mixing

action shot, mid pisco-sour mixing

Yup, Cusco is full of backpackers, tourists, and more souvenir shops than you can wrap your head around, but all of this makes it pretty conducive to a bunch of 20 somethings looking to do a lot of nothing in particular. On any given day, you can take your pick of day trips, tours, classes and all types of sightseeing (dying to take a photo of an adorable little girl and her pet llama? If you’ve got soles to spare, you can make it happen.)

i thought i was SO sneaky taking this picture, but she immediately hung up the phone and demanded money.

i thought i was SO sneaky taking this picture, but she immediately hung up the phone and demanded money.

One of the highlights of Cusco was definitely my cooking class, at a new location conveniently and quite literally named “Peruvian Cooking Class.” (I guess they really didn’t want to confuse anyone about the type of service offered.) For just 80 soles (a little under $30) I set off on a 4 hour culinary adventure culminating in way more food than I could stuff in my face.

IMG_4696

apparently, in peru, if you cannot hand-whip an egg white into peaks, you are not ready to get married. if thats what it takes, i may never be ready

first course, quinoa soup and pisco sour

first course, crema de quinua con pisco sour

second course, stuffed peppers, potatoes, yucca

second course, rocoto relleno con papa y yuca

third course, arroz con leche

third course, arroz con leche

Want some of this deliciousness? Buy me ingredients and I may just show you my mad skills. Hopefully next time I will remember that touching peppers then my face is a bad call. You live and you learn, right?

So just when I thought I had had enough and was ready to head back to Lima for some beach time before my departure back to (my) reality, someone else’s reality threw a wrench in my plans. The city of Cusco (well, the people) decided I (and everyone else, I’m not that special) was not getting out that easy. Transportation strikes shut down most of the city for the greater part of two days. Background: Due to some false promises made by the president during his campaign (surprise, politicians lie everywhere!) the people struck back by shutting down all transport and most business in the region.

the beginning- strikers heading to Plaze de Armas

the beginning- strikers heading to Plaze de Armas

Plaza de Armas, day 1 of the strike

Plaza de Armas, day 1 of the strike

I wouldn’t lie to you, for us gringos it was a lovely two days in which we spent as much time as possible walking in the middle of the street and enjoying the lack of constantly beeping car horns, although the many hardworking locals that lost 2 days of wages and spent valuable time participating in the strike would probably not agree. For some information that is a bit more well informed than what I can offer, check this out: Cusco news  (Note: These pieces are clearly written with a heavy bias towards the government- speaking to taxi drivers and local hostel employees in Cusco, it definitely seems like a grassroots movement that was well-intentioned albeit not very fruitful- also keep in mind my knowledge of Peruvian politics is limited at best)

Politics aside (I am way too under qualified and under informed to report on them), we managed to escape Cusco on Thursday (3 days later than planned) and enjoyed a lovely 21 hour bus ride to the great city of Lima.

all fun and games until hour 5 or so

all fun and games until hour 5 or so

Fast-forward three days, and I am on a plane hunched over my computer in the middle of the night, typing this post and wondering why I can’t sleep, am addicted to free snacks, and if my personal strike against reality will have changed anything in my world.

last Peruvian sunset

last Peruvian sunset

Don’t worry! Just because I’m back in the states doesn’t mean that this is the last travel post you’ll read in the near future.. I have some fun ones up my sleeve 🙂

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