We made it to Cusco, 3300m up in the Peruvian Andes! This former capital of the Inca empire, and location of some extreme barbarity by the ‘Christian’ Spanish invaders throughout the mid-16th cenutry, sits at the centre of the ‘Sacred Valley’ tourist industry, and is a transit point for many visitors. It is a city steeped in history, that some claim goes back to 5000BC, way before the Incas emerged. Its history is both fascinating and controversial. Its location is absolutely stunning.
We arrived here by cama-coach on Saturday 22 February around midday, some 22hours after leaving Lima. We were not in great shape at all! Our journey from Lima had taken us south further along the Peruvian ‘desert coast’, before turning inland at Nasca. By then it was late evening as we drove towards the foothills of the Andes, we could see nothing out the coach window, and a long uncomfortable night awaited us.
Unlike Wednesday night when we were on the fairly straight and flat PanAmerican highway, the road up into the Andes twisted and turned and climbed constantly. As we were moved about in our cama-seats, sleep became a luxury we couldn’t enjoy. And not until about 5.30am could we see a damn thing in the black night, just the lights of other (large) vehicles rushing suddenly past. No wonder the sick-bags had been handed out before lights-out!
Daylight brought some relief, although a fag-stop would have been nice too! The stunning countryside passed us by as we continued the slow climb around valleys and over passes. We passed small indigenous communities, saw agriculture on steep hillsides, and watched rivers rushing by below us…and really hoped we wouldn’t end up in one. At times snow-covered mountain tops peeked through the clouds, and shards of bright sunlight breached the clouds. Awesome.
Rounding another mountain bend we saw Cusco, relief was near at last. On arrival we had a quick smoke in the high altitude air (yeah we know, not sensible!), jumped in a cab, and headed for our hostel. Our reservation here, arranged by phone from Guayaquil by our faraway family member, worked a treat, and the hostel owners are lovely – their son even speaks some English.
Our hostel is in the Santa Anna district of Cusco, about 15minutes walk gently uphill from the main square, and just outside the main tourist area. Its great, we’ll tell you more about it later. The pics here, views out over Cusco, are all taken from the back of our hostel on the second floor. The last pic shows the main square ‘Plaza de Armas’ with its inevitable dominating church.