Peru Part I

Happy New Year everyone!  Hope you all had a festive holiday.  I for one had a great vacation with a trip to beautiful Peru.  It was certainly a whirlwind trip consisting of 10 days of hiking, sightseeing, trying new foods and dealing with unique travel issues such as altitude sickness.  And the Peruvian people are amazingly friendly and down to earth.  We’ve got lots to cover so let’s begin.

Our first night was a quick stop in Lima with an early flight the next morning to Cusco.  Getting a cab from the airport is surprisingly simple – the cabs don’t have meters so you can negotiate a charge in advance with basic rates on billboards throughout the terminal.  We’ll go over Lima later on since we spent time in the city at the end of the trip, but I’ll say this one point – our first night did not make a good first impression.  Admittedly, we stayed in an area near the airport because of the early morning flight, so it wasn’t exactly tourist friendly.  But the hostel we stayed in was a little dingy and the surrounding area made me feel like you’re asking to get mugged/raped/kidnapped/take your violent crime pick by taking one step outside.

Regardless, we survived the night and made our way to Cusco, a charming little city high up in the mountains that acts as a starting off point for those who are traveling to Machu Picchu.  You can spend a good few days in Cusco, and you should because the first day in Cusco should be for rest.  The altitude is no joke, and there’s a good chance you’ll experience some form of altitude sickness.  The sickness can range from none at all (for the lucky ones) to puking your guts out all day.  For me, I had a headache, a little dizziness, and my fingers became a little numb.  This discomfort lasted about a day.  So if you’re going to visit, my advice would be to plan a good 24-hours to acclimate.

The weather in Cusco was also pretty hard to predict, in that it could rain at any point ( is pretty useless saying that there’s a 50% chance of rain all the time).  So you have to pack accordingly; keep an umbrella or poncho with you.  Since we had a day in Cusco before our trek out to Machu Picchu, we explored a little bit of the city.  Here’s a rundown of where we stayed and what we saw on Day 1.

Los Aticos Hostel
Calle Quera 253
Cusco, Peru
Phone:+51 84 231710

I would highly recommend staying at the Los Aticos Hostel if you visit Cusco.  The hostel is located very close to the main Plaza de Armas and is within walking distance to most of the sights in the city.  The rooms are clean and have a “cabin” feel.  With the raining coming down it felt like we were camping.  Our room was two floors, with the beds upstairs and a living area/kitchen/bathroom downstairs.  It was a little chilly upstairs, but they provide space heaters which warmed the room up a bit (but you do need to give them some time to heat up).  There is also complimentary breakfast, a laundry machine for guest use, fast WiFi, and they do sell oxygen tanks at the front desk.

Los Toldos
Calle Almagro 171
Cusco 5184, Peru

We stopped by this Peruvian chain for lunch since it was near our hostel and it did not disappoint.  The 1/4 chicken was cooked to perfection – juicy and flavorful, the meat fell right off the bone.  The Washington, D.C. area has several Peruvian chicken joints, and it’s clear that they are trying to mimic what this place does with excellence.  The platter comes with four sauces, which I believe were variations of ketchup, mustard, some green spicy sauce, and a white ranch sauce (maybe?).  The platter also came with crispy french fries and access to the salad bar.  I also took this opportunity to try Inca Kola for the first time, a radioactive looking soda that tastes like cotton candy.  The restaurant is reasonably priced as well.

Choco Museo
Calle Garcilaso 210
Cusco, Peru
Hours: 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM every day

This free museum is actually a branch of the Choco Museo in Lima, but is still well worth the visit.  It’s a great place to relax if you’re trying to get a rest from the altitude.  You get a little tour of the store and there is a fair amount of exhibit reading to be had.  For those that want to partake in a chocolate making class, you can do so for 70 soles (around $25).  If you don’t want to take the two hour class, sample some of their chocolate in the cafe.  Give the Iced Chocolate drink a try.  It. Is. Awesome.

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