Day 15 – A striking start in the Sacred Valley
We flew from Lima to Cusco and then our driver collected us for the journey down to the Sacred Valley and our hotel, the Tierra Viva Valle Sagrado Urubamba. The views from the car were spectacular in the afternoon light. The sun was going down lighting up the various plateaus and soaring mountains. I managed to get a few snaps out the window. The highest pass was up to 3700m.
Once we got the hotel, we heard there was a agricultural strike planned for tomorrow when we had hoped to go to Ollantaytambo town as well as see the ruins. We talked to other travellers who were also stuck and had a consistent message that nothing was moving . The hotel said even walking or cycling the 8 miles was a no-no. At the moment it’s only meant to last a day but if it goes longer we’ll have to cancel our Machu Picchu visit and change various hotels etc. A real pain – also one not widely published on the internet or news.
Day 16 – Sacred Valley of the Incas
We expected to be stuck in the hotel due to the strike. However, last night we met a Peruvian cardiologist called Miguel, who had a guide who was going to be coming to the hotel and would have to pass any road blocks. He would update us all on the situation at 0930. It turned out that our immediate local area was not joining the strike and it was possible to get a car to Ollantaytambo. Miguel kindly offered to arrange his taxi to come back and get us if we paid the fare for both sides of the trip (sol 60).
Ollantaytambo was an interesting Inca town that had been a bit Disneyfied.
The locals were dressed up for photographers quite often and wanted a few soles for a picture.
We bumped into Miguel in the town and his guide suggested that we should not miss the town’s historic ruins. This was an excellent decision, though strenuous with the altitude effects. Fantastic views of the granary store on the opposite mountain.
We also enjoyed the historic house with a luxurious carpet of live, squealing guinea pigs.
We had a very good lunch at the station in El Albergue.
We arranged for the same taxi driver to collect us at 4pm and we watched life go by in the square until he arrived. We caught up with Miguel and his partner again over dinner and got a useful insight into Peruvian wines and Lima. As it turns out, the strike had some benefits in that the Inca ruins were deserted and uncrowded.
Day 17 – Soroche Happens
We got a taxi to the station and then on to the train which was slow and rattled around through the steep sided valley.
We arrived earlier enough in MP to leave our luggage at the hotel have a walk around and pick up lunch at the Parisian café before boarding a bus around 1200 for our 1300 entry. The queue was quite short and we also noticed many of the restaurants appeared empty.
Machu Picchu itself is spectacular – we had an overcast day so not ideal light but the view as you climbed to the caretaker hut was amazing. Unfortunately Una got altitude sickness as we had rather rushed up to the top. We had to go down to the medical area for oxygen after a shortened walk around.
Day 18 – Discovering Inca Kola
We had planned to walk down to the Inca museum but Una needed a lighter day as you have to walk back up the hill a few kilometres.
We explored the local market on the way to the station and also saw children heading towards a local dance competition all dressed up in costumes.
We realised that the strike day had had a knock on effect the day after as the queue for the bus now stretched the length of the town right up the main street to the last bridge.
The town itself was much busier. After looking at a few options we had a good lunch at El Mapi.
Uneventful train journey back to Ollantaytambo. It was easy to pick up a taxi to Cusco even though we were the last to leave the station. He even had a 4×4 which was much more comfortable. Getting away from the station was chaos with cars, buses, coaches and people all fighting to come and go at the same time. We collected our bags from our previous hotel and the backtracked over a mountain pass (3800m) and on to Cusco. Una negotiated the driver down to 80 soles but after the journey we gave him 100.
The Aranwa Boutique Hotel Cusco was everything we expected including added oxygen in the room. Handy at 3650m as I was beginning to get headaches.
Dinner at the Moreno Peruvian Kitchen which is well reviewed. Booking essential.
Day 19 – Cusco Speculation
We decided to do a walk around the town passing several churches and a market described in the Lonely Planet. Some parts of the walk were a little rough and outside the tourist centre.
There was a parade of local school children showing off their military cadet marching skills.
We also found a historic house which had llamas and alpacas on the lawn.
A light lunch then off to the Museo Inca to see some of the artifacts from MP and the history leading up to the Spanish Conquest. It was interesting to read about the huge amounts of solid gold decoration in the Inca temples and palaces and how this was looted and melted down. Lots of churches have been built on the indigenous peoples previous places of worship and various pagan customs absorbed into Christianity as happens around the world.
Feeling the altitude we headed for the hotel, a rest, some coca tea and then a Pisco Sour making class run by the hotel. The alcohol really hits you quickly at this altitude!
Dinner at Limo Nikkei in the main square.
Day 20 – Lima on the clifftops
A reasonably early flight to Lima which meant we had a chance to explore our lower end of
manicured Miraflores and the neighbouring hipster Barranco district. We stayed in a small hotel, the IFE Boutique. We were near the clifftop parks which run along the shore and we saw the surfers below and the paragliders above. After the clear mountain air and sunshine of Cusco, Lima had a hazy, milky sky and sea like the leche de tigre in a ceviche.
The Miraflores area was upmarket with blocks of gated apartments interspersed with old houses. There are fences, gates and walls everywhere in Lima. Barranco was more laidback and colourful. Dogs in coats, street art and old colonial houses now pricey concept shops.
We walked down to the Parque Municipal de Barranco for a 4pm free guided tour . This took in some of the streets and street art around the Bridge of Sighs (if you hold your breath crossing it your wish will come true according to local folklore).
The walk ended looking at the sunset (not very spectacular today) and a talk about minimum wages and what apartments in the area cost. A lead up to the tipping at the end.
We had dinner at Wallqa near our hotel.
Day 21 – Lima to home
Day in Lima visiting the shops Una wanted to check out in the Barranco district. We walked along the coastal path. The morning always starts misty until the sun burns off the cloud until mid-day.
We followed the same walk as the guide showed us yesterday for the better light on the murals and graffiti. A number of brides were having their pictures taken.
We extended our checkout time to allow us to get back, shower and pack before our evening flight back home via Amsterdam. This was a good idea as it was quite hot.
Off to the airport and then the long flight Lima to Amsterdam and then the connection to London. A long way back but we had packed our three weeks with many unforgettable experiences and memories.
- Camera lenses. Mostly 24-105mm range
- One in four people get altitude sickness in Cusco. We saw a number of people ailing
including one young person who had been here 7 days and not got better – he should have