Day 58-65 of our South America trip
How we arrived:
We got another flight from Lima to Cusco as there was very little price difference to getting a bus which would have taken 30 hours. We flew with Star Peru which is a very budget airline with only 14 rows. Smallest plane I’ve ever been on but we arrived alive in about an hour.
One of the big highlights of a lot of people’s trips to South America is Cusco and the amazing lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. We decided to stay in Cusco for 2 nights before setting off on a trek to Machu Picchu as we were told the altitude is quite tough to get used and the city itself is nice and picturesque. I’m really glad we did as we both found it quite tough for the first day we were there.
Cusco really is a beautiful city and has been well maintained with an Incan and colonial mix of impressive buildings. The days we were there we wandered around the old town and did some walking tours. Food wise we ate a lot of pizza here as it was really tasty. They also offer a serious amount of massages in Cusco. We didn’t get one but felt it was bizarre how much people hassled you to get a massage on every corner.
There was an anti-gay protest in the centre on the second day we were there. Local people were marching and driving cars through the streets to protest against the recent change in the Peruvian education curriculum where it moves away from just teaching children about the Christian teachings of the traditional family (man and woman). The banners and the sheer quantity of people involved in the march was shocking and made us feel uncomfortable. Homophobia still exists in South America but I think the tide is definitely turning and I think this protest isn’t a fair reflection on Peru.
And so to the main reason we came to Cusco… Machu Picchu. We booked a 3 night and 4 day jungle trek with Conde Travel in Cusco. We booked one day before we went on the trip which is the most advisable thing to do as its cheaper and you can shop around in the city.
When you get to Cusco, it’s hard to know what company to go with and what price to pay as there are so many travel agents and they all give you various prices. We did our research by going around to different travel agents and then searching on the internet for reviews. No one seems to put up what they paid and we were trying not to get ripped off! I think overall we did get a lot for what we paid and the jungle tour was a great way to see Machu Picchu.
The first 2 days are spent trekking and doing various activities, which included: Mountain biking, white water rafting, having a dip in a natural hot spring and zip lining. The activities were a lot of fun and broke up the time we had to walk. Please not that going zip lining hungover is a terrible idea. We both regretted the stupid decision to drink the night before a lot!
The day before getting to Machu Pichu we trekked for around 4 hours and eventually arrived at Machu Pichu village. The next morning we woke up super early at 4am to start climbing up to the top of Machu Pichu. We go through just after sunrise at around 6am and it was truly spectacular. It was one of the highlights of the trip without question and worth sweating a bit to get there! We also climbed Wayna Picchu which is mountain beside Machu Pichu which gives you better view of the lost city. It was a touch 1.5 hour climb up but well worth it again.
We then went back to Cusco for 2 more days to recover, relax and wander around Cusco. I’d recommend this as its a really nice town and theres lots of cool bars and restaurants.
See Heather’s review of the trek below in full including prices: Conde Travel Review on TripAdvisor
In total we stayed 4 nights in Cusco and 3 nights on the move to Machu Picchu. In Cusco we stayed in a quiet hostel called Hitchhikers Hostel. It was nice, cheap and comfortable which is what we needed for adjusting to the altitude initially and then after 4 days of trekking. The hostel accommodation for the trek was very basic but we expected that. The first night we stayed at an Eco Lodge which was basic but quite nice. The other 2 nights were spent in places you wouldn’t bring a prostitute back to. Not that I would do that?
There were about 500 travel agencies in Cusco all offering the same treks but wrapped up in different ways to differentiate their tours. It made it incredibly confusing and you never quite knew whether you were getting a good deal or not. They also seriously rip people off if they book online which we thankfully didn’t do. I feel it puts a mark on what is an amazing tourist assets for the country and region.
During the ‘jungle trek’ we stayed at an Eco lodge which was a farmer’s family home with guest rooms purpose built for tourists. It was basic, but very enjoyable. They cooked for us and we got to see how they live. They follow traditions going back hundreds of years and it was stunningly beautiful – although very hot!