Backpacking in Peru: Cosy Cuzco

Backpacking in Peru: Cosy Cuzco

Ah Cuzco! Good old Cuzco! You cannot comprehend the magic within this city. Cuzco (which is acceptably and interchangeably also spelt Cusco) is a city in Peru. It’s famous and popular. Steeped deep in Inca history, this one time Inca settlement is now the largest “modern” city within proximity to Machu Picchu, the most famous of Inca ruins. Hence the reason most people pass through Cuzco, or stay there, as I did.
It’s situated near the Sacred Valley and is historic, lively and isolated. Plus it’s situated at an extremely high altitude. It was once the capital city of the Inca Empire. And although generations have moved on from Inca times, you can still sense that Cuzco and indeed the Inca Trail, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu all belong in a country of their own. Cuzco still has it’s own flag, so let’s call it the capital city of a country known as Incaland…
My journey to Cuzco was by bus, across the border from Bolivia. A gorgeous but troubled bus journey. Leaving the Bolivian heights of La Paz, my bus swerved its way alongside the dream like Lake Titicaca, passing through Desaguadero, Puno and Juliaca on route to Cuzco. The bus journey included lunch, immense views, pornography on the TV and we broke down at least 6 times on route. I occasionally thought I wouldn’t make it to Cuzco, but we finally did – 6 hours late. All in all a relief in the end to have arrived in dreamy Cuzco. The bus journey incidentally is here: A slow Bus To Cuzco.
The delayed bus couldn’t take the sparkle of Cuzco, but Cuzco was just the starting point for something slightly more special. The high city of Cuzco had soon faded into insignificance even by my own standards, as I edged my way through the amazing four day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, as well as spending time in the nearby settlements of Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes. You could say I was more inspired and a changed man on my return to Cuzco just four days later.
Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes, can be found on here, covered in over 20 separate blog posts such was their impact on this Northern Irish nomad: Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. But Cuzco too, served its purpose and has grown on me with time. I may not have been “blown away” by it, but it definitely has an unidentifiable mystical quality to it.
I stayed for 3 nights in Pariwana hostel. One night before the Inca Trail and for two nights after.
The main square in Cuzco, Plaza de Armas. Photos of the same square appear elsewhere in this report. It’s very instantly recognisable and one of the nicest squares I’ve seen. Apparently it was known as “Square of the Warriors” in the Inca Era. Aside from the fountain and the impressive view looking up to the hills, the square boasts excellent architecture, mainly Cuzco Cathedral and Church de la Companie de Jesus. I took a lot of photos myself, especially in and around the square, but I’ve borrowed one from the internet below because it’s just stunning, it’s a “panorama shot”…

Plaza De Armas in all its glory.
The Cuzco flag, with its impressive rainbow colours. Sadly this flag now seems to give out the wrong signals as a similar flag has been used by homosexual communities to promote gayness. Decent flag none the less.
For the first time ever in Cuzco I met a lady from The Shetland Islands in Scotland (or Shetland as they should properly be called). She was dancing and drinking away in the bar at Pariwana hostel. A cosy wee bar, and the place I had my Christmas Night beer in 2010. I noticed her as she draped her Shetland flag over her shoulder and spoke in a broad accent. “I’m from Northern Ireland” I said, guessing “is that a flag of one of the Scottish islands?” I knew it was but didn’t want to hazard a guess of the Orkneys or Shetland. I had a wee drink with her and a brief conversation on Christmas night just as Boxing Day rolled into our calendars.
Cuzco is a party town, but I didn’t party there, or feel the need to.
I just wanted to see the city then head north.
I drank the forever free Coca Tea at Pariwana hostel.

And Inca Cola.
I did have a few bottles of Cusquena, the locally brewed lager, which isn’t that great, but the flavour or taste of it matters less as you realise you’re in a wonderful place.
A pedestrian street, with some local police.
A flirty local couple get it on, in one of the city’s squares (not Plaza de Armas though).
Another local beer – made of Coca leaves. Cerveza de Coca.
A bottle of Cusquena – the main local beer for Cuzco.
Breakfast in Cuzco. Eggs and ham. With butter and strawberry toast separately. Orange juice and tea. Told you I was taking it easy!
Lunch in Cuzco. Meat pie with Lime and a hot coffee. Plus a sugary chocolate bar!
The world’s highest Irish Owned Pub, Paddy Flaherty’s. Only 4 photos there as I’ll do a separate report on my visit to the world’s highest Irish Owned Pub (I’ve also been in the world’s highest Irish Pub, southernmost Irish Pub and first Irish Pub).
Rainfall levels in Cuzco and the area nearby are high, and I got soaked to the bone while dandering around. Quite enjoyable – a pleasant type of rain there.
I didn’t actually venture outside the city centre at all, which is unusual for me, though I caught it from my bus.

On a bus out of Cuzco just before embarking on the Inca Trail.
My only glimpses of the outskirts (outside the bus) were from the main square where I captured the high gaping hills on this photo.
It’s a walled city, this entrance goes through an arch of where the original city centre once was. Commercialism means there is now an alternative city centre.

Local police.
My bed in Cuzco was cosy and I got a few good nights of sleep there.

A statue. I actually am not sure who this is. Sorry!

The Qoricancha, another Inca style building in the city centre, this area was randomly busy with tourists, though I didn’t bother going inside.

Some art in the city centre.

Some typical poky wee side streets.

I took some random snaps of the city centre, including one from a small park, above.
So I got what I wanted from the city of Cuzco and was ready to move on. I had pinned down Ecuador next, particularly the Equator crossing at Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo as my next stop as I was keen to get back into the northern hemisphere for the first time in well over a year. To get to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, I’d need to move onwards to Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. So I found a direct bus route from Cuzco to Lima, with a bus station change and a short wait, then a long bus across the border from Peru to Ecuador, arriving in Quito (total travel time almost 2 days). This would have been my preferred option, but time was at a premium, and I forfeited money for time here. Rather than spend 2 days farting around on buses, I could fly (on 2 separate flights mind you) from Cuzco to Quito within 6 hours. The main reason I did this was not just time, but I also had no longing desire to visit Lima, Peru’s capital. My reason for visiting Peru was to do the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu, the rest of it didn’t hold that much interest to me on this trip (although the Nazca lines are meant to be well worth seeing too). So I gave Lima a by ball and sure it gives me a reason to come back to Peru – to see their capital.
Reaching Quito was easily rectified by plane, so I took advice on a very cheap flight option from my US room-mate and booked an early morning TACA flight from Cuzco airport to Lima. I would have a 5 hour stopover in Lima, before a direct flight to Quito. This would save me about 39 hours of travel, but cost a wee bit more.
Hindsight would have been a great thing there and then though, as my cheap flight was cancelled due to abverse weather conditions, and I couldn’t get a refund or a later flight from TACA so ended up paying over the odds for a flight leaving in TEN MINUTES time from Cuzco to Lima.
So I spent more money than I expected in Cuzco on the way out, and that left a kind of bitter taste or bad memory at the time, but I’ve got over that now, Cuzco was a fantastic place to see. The city was extremely enjoyable and given the chance to go again, I’d probably check out the nightlife a bit more and the city’s suburbs.
I got a nice view of Cuzco from the airport on the way out, as I boarded it and left it behind, but not forgotten. I later landed safely in Lima, before a connection to Quito. It’s a charmed life, my friends…
Where – Cuzco, Cuzco Province, Peru
Once – Capital of the Inca Empire
Population – 358, 935
Languages Spoken – Quechuan, Spanish
Beers Tried – Cusquena, Cerveza de Coca (when in Cuzco…)
Bars Visited – Paddy Flaherty’s (the world’s highest Irish Owned Pub), Pariwana Hostel Bar, Airport Bar
Strange Currencies – Peruvian Soles
Nationalities Met – (in Cuzco itself) – Irish, Shetlander (Scottish), Taiwanese, Australian, New Zealander, Peruvian, Japanese, US.
(on The Inca Trail) – Quechuan, Peruvian, Australian, Dutch, Taiwanese, Argentinian, Spanish, Canadian, Vietnamese, Phillippeno.
Transport Used – Bus (from La Paz, to Ollantaytambo, from Ollantaytambo), Taxi, Plane, Train (Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo).

Message to Tacky TACA Shit (worst airlines in the world) – You owe me either fifty dollars or a free flight you scumbags. NEVER FLY WITH TACA.
Key Song –

CUSCO – INCA DANCE (what else!):


My Videos –

PLAZA DE ARMAS, CUZCO:

EARLY MORNING IN CUZCO BEFORE INCA TRAIL:

CHRISTMAS NIGHT IN PARIWANA HOSTEL BAR:

DRINKING AT PADDY’S – CLAIMING TO BE HIGHEST IRISH PUB IN THE WORLD:

QORICANCHA INCA SITE:

BUS OUT OF CUZCO TO START THE INCA TRAIL:

CHRISTMAS NIGHT BUS LEAVING OLLANTAYTAMBO FOR CUZCO:

5 am AIRPORT TAXI TO CUZCO AIRPORT:

CHANGING FROM TACKY SHIT TACA TO LAN FLIGHT:

MORE TACKY TACA SHIT PROBLEMS:

TRYING TO GET MY BAG BACK FROM TACA IN ORDER TO GET IT ON A FLIGHT LEAVING IN 10 MINUTES:

FLIGHT PROBLEMS SORTED – OFF TO LIMA…:
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