Cusco, Perú to Copacabana, Bolivia and the Kasani Border Crossing

Cusco, Perú to Puno

We arrived at Cusco’s Bus Station at 7am hoping for an early bus which would take us across the border to Copacabana in Bolivia. Alas, it was not meant to be as the first bus we could get on was the 8.45am S/.35 journey with San Luis for the 8 hour journey to Puno. You also have to pay a S/.1.30 tax to leave Cusco’s bus station (queue up at the TAME window in the middle of the station). This was a very scenic journey so I’d definitely recommend trying to get the first seats upstairs so you have a great panorama. We saw plenty of snow capped mountains, shaven llamas and those going au natural 🙂 Women get on the bus selling bread just outside Cusco – a lovely German girl bought an enormous bag and shared some with us – so tasty and wholegrain, which is a massive deal as it’s pretty rare here! We passed this absolute hellhole of a town called Juliaca. I have never seen bigger potholes in my life (and remember I’m from Ireland). We were praying it wasn’t Puno. A guy came up to the front of the bus carrying a huge rock and our conductor and bus driver actually got out to fist-fight him and wrestle him to the ground. Insane. So anyway, Lake Titicaca eventually reveals itself coming into Puno (8 hours later). Even though Puno isn’t the prettiest of places you can’t help but admire the lake on the outskirts of town – just next to the bus terminal too. We caught a S/.5 mototaxi to the centre of town and stayed in a random little hostel we found. The heavens absolutely opened that evening so we didn’t see much of Puno, just a quick gander at the Plaza de Armas (yep, another one) and cathedral. We had a pretty lousy dinner at Mojsa on the plaza and retreated to the freezing temperatures of an evening in Puno. We may have used the hairdryer to keep warm…

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Views on the way to Puno

Puno, Perú to Copacabana, Bolivia via the Kasani Border Crossing

At 7am the next morning we hopped on a tourPERU bus (we had bought tickets the day before) for S/.25 per person to get ourselves to Copacabana in Bolivia. You need to pay another departure tax of S/.2 at Puno’s bus station. We decided to go with tourPERU as I’d read some positive reviews and they would take us across the border into Bolivia. The conductor on the bus gave us some Bolivian Immigration forms to fill out so we wouldn’t have to be bothered with this in situ at the border. Handy. We pulled up at a Casa de Cambio or currency exchange office about 3 hours into the journey. We were told we needed to have some Bolivianos (BOB) to cross the border – we actually only needed 1BOB (about 20c) and I don’t have one iota why we needed this. Perhaps a tip? Random. So we had to queue up across the road from the Casa de Cambio to get our exit stamps from Peruvian Immigration. This took 2 hours. Hoards of buses and 2 immigration officials. Such fun! No bribing either which was lovely. Once we had out exit stamps we walked up a little ways to an arch which marks the Bolivian side of the border. The bus took our bags through for us so no need to lug these around – we could see the bus at all times too so we felt safe enough leaving our belongings in the hold. Half an hour of a queue at Bolivian Immigration for our entrance stamp and we were on our way to Copacabana, 8km from the border. We arrived at a bit of a ramshackle town so quickly decided to purchase some tickets for the 1.30pm boat to Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca (20BOB per person). Bolivia is an hour ahead of Perú so chilling in KM0 Café until 1.45pm thinking it was an hour earlier wasn’t a great idea…still though we were fine – the boat left at 2.10pm. I’d definitely have to describe the Bolivians as relaxed…

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Casa de Cambio at the border

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Queuing for our Peruvian exit stamp

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Bye bye Perú!

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Bolivia’s in there

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Queuing for our Bolivian entrance stamp

Next stop: Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

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Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, Perú

We purchased our train tickets with PeruRail at their offices on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco for $198 return (for 2 people and paid in USD). As we were on our way to board our Lima to Cusco flight there was a Perú Rail stand after security selling tickets from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu (or Aguas Calientes – it’s the same place) for $66 return. If we had done any research we would have realised that that was a deal and a half. The only catch is that you have to take the earliest train to Machu Picchu and the latest train back – which we did anyway! Not so savvy. If you’re not going on an Inca Trail trek then you also need to get your entrance tickets to Machu Picchu. You can buy these at the site but it’s mayhem and there’s a daily limit to the number of visitors so we decided to pre-purchase in Cusco. You need to go to the Dirección Regional de Cultural office at 238 Avenida La Cultura and bring your passport with you. It’s about a 20 minute walk from the Plaza de Armas and the office is open until 7.30pm. You can also buy your tickets online but the website barely functions. Basic entrance costs S/.126.

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Dirección Regional de Cultural

Ollantaytambo

We caught a collectivo/mini-bus to with Real Inka from Avenida Grau for S/.10 for the nearly 2 hour journey to Ollantaytambo (via Urumba although we didn’t stop there). The locals call Ollantaytambo Ollanta so I’m going to go with that as it’s easier to type…We were dropped off in the main plaza of Ollanta, spotted a hostel that looked ok and had our balcony overlooking the plaza in about five minutes. We stayed at the Hostal Plaza Ollantaytambo for S/.50 per night for 2 nights.

The town of Ollanta has been immaculately preserved; open Incan canals still carry water through the streets and there are a few things to keep you occupied for a day or two. There are two major ruins within walking distance of the town. The main Ollantaytambo ruins can only be visited with a Boleto Turistico or Tourist Ticket which costs a minimum of S/.70 (but includes a couple of sites). This is really only useful if you’re in a tour or have your own transport which is why we decided to climb up Ollanta’s other ruins, the Pinkullyuna ruins (also, they’re free) to have a view of Ollanta and the main ruins. We climbed up and had a look around over about an hour and a half. Perfect for those only in town for a day!

We ate at Hearts Café (on the way to the Ollantaytambo Ruins, just before the bridge), which is run by a nutritionist from Britain. I had a really tasty sandwich here with some homemade almond mayonnaise – need to look in to how to make that! Delicious ice cream was had at Tutti Amore (just around the corner from Hearts).

Ollanta’s train station is about a twenty minute walk from the main plaza. It’s a pretty dark walk at night though – there’s nothing but a few restaurants to light the way but there are plenty of taxis. Café Mayu at the train station is supposed to have good espresso but alas we had no change so our tough luck.

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Ollantaytambo Ruins

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Pinkullyuna Ruins

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Local Resident

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The streets of Ollantaytambo

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Pretty Courtyard

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Tutti Amore’s Flavours

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Ollantaytambo’s Ruins from Pinkullyuna

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Climbing again…

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Overlooking Ollantaytambo

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Pinkullyuna Ruins

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Aw

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Like anybody would consider rushing up this

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Typical Incan streets in Ollantaytambo

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Some colourful market products

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Not such a shabby setting for a market…

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We found Goldilocks

 

Machu Picchu

 

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Waiting to board at Ollantaytambo’s pretty station

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Arriving at Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Station

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Aguas Calientes

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Welcome

Our train left for Aguas Calientes at 6am and took just over an hour. The train was very comfortable and we just had the basic level. We were provided with tea and a small sweet cake for breakfast – you definitely need something warm at that hour of the morning. There were only about 3 places open in Aguas Calientes for food so we had a quick breakfast in a 24 hour place called Pisco and Coffee and started our walk about 8.45am. You don’t have to walk – there are buses leaving constantly (just follow the queue of people by the river) but we felt like we needed to do some work to get there. Since they went and put it so high up and all. It took about an hour to climb to the entrance of Machu Picchu. It was very wet and slippy but signposted very well. It went a little something like this:

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The track starts from this sign…

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…and you’re here within 20 minutes

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First climb!

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A little straight for a while..

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Up…

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You can’t really miss these

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View from some way up

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Thought we were at the top with this gesture, not so muc

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More climbing

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Gentle incline

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And up again

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Last sign!

We spent about 3 hours exploring the ruins; they are huge and there’s lots to see. It was absolutely packed, by far the most touristy thing we’ve seen so far in South America, so I’d definitely advise trying to get there as early as possible if you want to have it to yourself. It got very cloudy about 10am so there’s a lot of waiting around and watching the slowest moving clouds on the planet to get that picture. There are two mountains you can climb (you’ll need to pay extra when purchasing your ticket) called Macchu Picchu mountain and Wayna Picchu. People say that Wayna Picchu gives a better view but it’s supposed to be very dangerous and slippy. The Incan Bridge is definitely worth an excursion; it’s about a twenty minute walk from the ruins proper along a cliff-side dirt track so it’s a little unnerving. Absolutely nobody you pass will volunteer to walk on the outside either so it’s a bit like a Wild Wild West stand off.

I was very surprised at the lack of llamas at the ruins. Judging by all the selfies people get right next to llamas all over Pinterest and the web you’d think they were everywhere. I counted 10 and only at the very end. Guess they don’t like the rain much either then…

Because we booked the cheap seats we had to wait back in Aguas Calientes for hours upon hours. There’s a train around 4pm you could easily make if you’re looking for the cheaper options but we thought we’d need way more time at Machu Pucchu. Nope! While it’s not the worst town I’ve ever been to, waiting for a 9.30pm train in the ice-cold station is not recommended. There’s a huge handicraft market at the station which could keep you busy for a while though but things are a lot more expensive here than Cusco. La Boulangerie de Paris is a top spot to hang around. Wifi and hot chocolate? Sold! John had a pizza at Incontri del Pueblo Viejo, an Italian restaurant on the towns main thoroughfare, and absolutely loved it. Salami from Italy…

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And this reveals itself!!

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Some climbing in here too

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We lost visibility for a while

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So the Stairway to Heaven is down from Machu Picchu

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Majestic

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The trail to the Inca Bridge

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This is what happens when you wear heels to Machu Picchu

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And in this mud!

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Inca Bridge on the left

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Totally safe

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The money shot 🙂

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Oh so pretty!

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The Three Doorways

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View from Intihuatana

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Intihuatana

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North Terraces

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Temple of the Sun

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Royal Tomb

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South Agricultural Terraces

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Llamas!

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Not such a bad view

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And leaving Machu Picchu

Next stop: from Cusco to Puno in Perú and across the border to Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Cusco, Perú

Ok, so we kind of stayed in Cusco a lot longer than initially planned – 12 nights to be exact. We wanted to stay in one place for Christmas and New Year’s Eve and we’d read that Cusco is a good place for both. We did pop over to the town of Ollantaytambo to do Macchu Picchu although that’s a post in itself.

The flight from Lima to Cusco (with StarPeru; c. $100 each) was just over an hour (or 22 hours on a bus so am…that was an easy decision) and a taxi from the airport to the centre (to yet another Plaza de Armas) was S/.15. We stayed at Casa Suecia II for the majority of our time here; a nice hostel with rooms surrounding a courtyard (although no kitchen) for S/.70 a night. Most of our days were spent breakfasting at the very popular café, Jack’s, which had the most delicious porridge with apple and cinnamon compote. I shall never forget it! There was always a queue for Jack’s so if you’re going just pray it’s not the afternoon when the heavy downpours start. It rained every single afternoon in Cusco, and not just a small downpour – I’m talking Irish-style; flying in your face from all directions. There was also some seriously heavy hail that bloody hurts when it hits you! The Plaza de Armas is definitely the focal point of local life. It’s flanked by the cathedral on one side and another church, La Compañía de Jesús on the other. Lovely colonial buildings with wooden balconies overlook the green plaza too. Cusco takes some getting used to altitude-wise; it’s 3,400 metres from sea level and it’s so difficult getting your breath back here if you exert yourself (or just generally take a 5 minute stroll). A lot of hotels provide oxygen tanks to help with altitude sickness but you definitely need a few days taking it easy to acclimatise properly.

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Cusco’s Santo Domingo Cathedral

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Locals taking a break

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Plaza de Armas

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Give me back my llama!

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Check out that strut

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Oh so pretty!

You need to look in every doorway in Cusco as there are lots of tiny alleyways leading to huge courtyards filled to the brim with multicoloured Peruvian handicrafts. We’re talking woolly llama key-rings, art, embroidered shoes and boots, blankets, cushions, scarves and hats. Anything you can fix up with some coloured thread really. Everybody around Cusco wears these woolly sweaters that are sold in pretty much each building you pass. John doesn’t care much for them but I obviously needed something with some llamas on it. I picked up a jumper from the most lovely (read: sales savvy) girl called Gabriela whose store is just on the right after a 12 cornered stone (yep) on an Incan path up the side of the cathedral (paid S/.25). Speaking of the cathedral, you can visit for free every morning from 6am – 10am although there are services going on then so you’d really need to join in so as to not be disrespectful.

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Spot the 12 cornered stone

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Life in Cusco

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Love their street signs

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So much colour!

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Aren’t they the happiest feckers?

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Peruvian alpaca…wait, dog

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Dollies!

Christmas in Cusco

We spent 3 days over Christmas in the oh so lovely Andenes del Cielo hotel; in an apartment on the top floor with a fireplace and a guitar for John ($130 a night). Blissful and the best shower we’ve had in a South America so far. Happily, we got a number of films in over Christmas. Hadn’t seen ‘Its a Wonderful Life’ before but it was great. Obviously ‘The Holiday’. I also have to admit I also watched Donald Duck as Scrooge on the Disney channel…

Christmas Eve was very special in Cusco. There’s a famous market called Santurantikuy all day Christmas Eve in the Plaza de Armas selling souvenirs, Christmas decorations, candles and food. It’s jam-packed and definitely worth a wander around. At midnight on Christmas Eve the entire city just lights up with fireworks. It was insane and went on for over an hour and there were still huge cracks going off all Christmas Day. We ended up having Christmas dinner in Jack’s with all the other gringos. Why change something that works? Oddly, lots of shops were open so it didn’t feel like a usual Christmas Day. Good different though.

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Santurantikuy Market on Christmas Eve

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Santurantikuy Market; Christmas Goods

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Such a lovely porcelain crib

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I think I need a woolly Christmas tree next year…

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Locals on Christmas Eve

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Novel way of recycling

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Burnt out from selling

New Year’s in Cusco

Ok, we’re talking party central – just manic. From early evening people tie yellow balloons to the outside of their buildings. The whole place is awash with balloons and I believe you’re supposed to wear yellow too. Apparently at midnight Peruvian families eat 12 grapes – I guess for the next 12 months. At midnight the fireworks start again. I think these people are OBSESSED WITH FIRE. Everybody has to run around the plaza four times and make a wish each time; we managed one…let’s just say crowd control isn’t something they’re too bothered about here – I saw a young chap throw a firecracker at one of the three policemen on the scene (yes,three) and he didn’t even flinch. Tough dude.

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All dressed up and raring to go

We checked out a couple of bars in Cusco too. The best was probably KM0 up the hill in the San Blas district. They had great live music every night. It’s a tiny little spot with a great atmosphere. Paddy’s Irish Bar, apparently the highest Irish owned bar in the world, was also frequented. We didn’t once observe an Irish person behind this bar – just a Peruvian family so I’m not sure how accurate their claim to fame is. They serve huge Irish breakfasts here; although the sauages just tasted like coriander/washing up liquid – no lovely Denny sausages here. Sigh. The Museo del Pisco (pisco is a grape spirit) is definitely worth a visit. It’s a bar that also sells food and is packed to the rafters with different types of pisco for the huge cocktail list. Norton Rats Tavern on the Plaza de Armas (close to Starbucks) wasn’t a bad spot either. Darts, pool table and a balcony overlooking the plaza make to a nice stop. They also sell this beer called Delirium Tremens (I believe voted best in the world) so obviously himself needed to get some of that action.

In a not so alcohol driven spot, Patricia Yep (just a few buildings up from Jack’s) does really comforting hot chocolates (she even has the ingredients in takeaway glass jars so you can make them at home) and delicious truffles in all kinds of flavours; mint, dark, quinoa…just yum.

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Giving take-away hot chocolate new meaning

We found a great soup place nearing the end of our visit, Mr. Soup. Delicious spinach, tomato amd pumpkin soups were had here for S/.16. Super friendly owner and you get seeded bread and croutons with your soup. Perfect spot to hide out from Cusco’s damp weather. Randomly, it felt like we were eating in a spot on the Japanese ski-slopes – all timber, sliding doors and benches.

There’s also a family run place called Bodega 138 which needs to be talked about. Now, I didn’t have a pizza here but John swears they serve up some of the tastiest pizzas he’s had…and he’s had a few. Their huge craft beer selection might have something to do with his opinion here though.

The San Blas area is definitely worth a walk around. It’s a short walk from the Plaza de Armas (uphill) but there’s a lovely main square surrounded by handicraft stores and some cafés. The Meeting Place is a lovely café up here. It’s run by volunteers which is great – the waffles here are the size of your head and they have a fantastic selection of teas. It closes at 4pm though so you gotta get in quick! La Boheme Creperia around this area was tasty too although always very crowded so not really somewhere you can relax with your wifi.

You can walk up from San Blas to the Christo Blanco statue which overlooks the city for some stunning vistas. It’s free to walk up here; takes about 40 minutes to climb though. I have to be honest; I’m kind of disliking the Incas for all the damn steps they put everywhere. There’s a huge population of ferral dogs up here so you need to be very careful. The statue is just next to some Incan ruins, Sachayswamán (which John let me know is pronounced like ‘sexy woman’. Fun fact!). It’s S/.70 to get into these ruins but we were content to see them from the statue.

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Sachayswamán Ruins

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Cusco from above

Postage

We have accumulated a few souvenirs so far on our trip so decided to post some things home to Ireland – 4.5kg worh of stuff to be exact. We walked way down the Avenida Sol street (about 25 minutes from the Plaza de Armas) to Serpost where we had our stuff packed up in a little office for S/.10 and then posted for S/.219 (about $90 – so not cheap). Staff were very friendly and you’ll need your passport details here. Fingers crossed the stuff gets home…

Jack’s had this amazing crockery with llamas painted on it that I just had to have and send home. I’m nesting! It’s by a local artist called Jatum Maqui – love her stuff! We just picked up 4 cups and saucers but you could get an entire set (I believe with 6 of everything) for S/.170.

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Loving these!

There’s a huge artisanal market across from the post office which is really good. You could easily while away a few hours looking through the stalls. There’s a lovely café just up from here on Avenida el Sol called La Valeriana; very pretty decor and a nice place to kick back for a while.

The San Pedro Market up beyond Cusco’s Plaza de San Francisco (which houses another church) is a great spot to refuel vitamin wise. There’s a plethora of stalls selling all kinds of fruit juices for S/.5 – with two refills. So cheap! You can’t miss these stalls – all the sellers will shake their menus in your face the millisecond they see you! San Pedro is more of a food market than anything else; you could get your lunch here for pittance. There are 2 supermarkets just adjacent to the market; Orion and Mega if you’re self-catering. There’s also a brand new Orion supermarket right next door to the renowned Wild Rover party hostel (on Calle Matara). Much better (and cleaner) than the one near San Pedro.

All in all, we loved Cusco. It’s beautiful, there are plenty of cobblestoned alleyways to keep you busy, lots of museums (although we abstained) and some of the tastiest food we’ve had in South America. I’d definitely recommend a holiday to Cusco on its own…although you’re so close to Macchu Picchu it’d be a shame not to fit that in…

Next stop: Ollantaytambo in Perú’s Sacred Valley and Macchu Picchu

Miraflores, Lima, Perú

Lima didn’t start very well for us. I left Monte (remember, my lovely Panama hat from Montechristi in Ecuador?) on the bus and went back to find he was lost forever. After a few consoling phone calls back to Ireland (it wasn’t just a hat Dad!) I think I’m finally getting over it. Whoever took him better give him a good life though. Anyway, we arrived at the CIVA bus terminal in the La Victoria (supposedly dodgy) area of Lima and caught a taxi to the Miraflores suburb for S/.15. We stayed at the Flying Dog B&B (I don’t know where they’re going calling it a B&B – definitely a hostel and with one of the worst kitchens I’ve ever seen…although there was a bar) overlooking Parque Kennedy for 3 nights. It was supposed to be S/.85 a night but we got some laundry done there for a stupidly expensive S/.7 per kg (nearly $3 per kg) and they lost John’s Tommy Hilfiger jumper. John not a happy camper = free accommodation. Result. One afternoon we were walking around and my Havaianas literally split in half. What the hell, Lima?

So, we decided that we should treat ourselves a little in Lima since the universe wasn’t being exceptionally kind. A 30 minute or so walk from Parque Kennedy lies the Larcomar Shopping Centre which is actually built into the cliffside. You can’t really see it on approach but it’s across from the JW Marriott. It’s the perfect location for some pre-dinner sunset viewing. Since we’re on the subject of food…we had an absolutely amazing dinner in an Italian restaurant called Tantu in the shopping centre. Italian food and delicious vino is the perfect combination. Dessert was a little special there too – they brought over a huge tray full of freshly prepared goodies – we went for chocolate mousse and a few macarons. Larcomar is more of an eatery than a shopping centre to be honest. It had Banana Republic, Steve Madden, an awesome OPI spot, supermarket and a cinema. It’s not really somewhere you could shop til you dropped. Still on food…I found an article on Buzzfeed about the top 10 bakeries in the world and one was in Lima so obviously…It’s called El Pan de la Chola (Address: Ave. Mariscal La Mar 918 – a good 30 minute walk from Parque Kennedy but oh so worth it). We went here twice – delicious everything but John enjoyed some avocado with freshly baked sourdough and some craft beers. Him and his craft beers! Himself had his coffee fix at Arabica Espresso Bar (Address: Recavarren 269, Miraflores). I had my cookie fix here. There’s also a little coffee spot called Puku Puku and is quite close to Parque Kennedy (Address: Narciso de la Colina 299). It’s tiny but a nice little spot to while away some time with wifi. There’s a good sandwich spot around the area too – La Lucha (Address: Avenida Diagonal 308). Seriously filling portions. I managed to replace my Havaianas around here too – there are a couple of department stores around here that are ok if you’re in a pickle.

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Art for sale by Parque Kennedy

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Delicious breakfast at El Pan de la Chola

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Walking by the cliffside in Miraflores

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Miraflores Lighthouse

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El Parque del Amor, Miraflores

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Amazing fresh fruit ices at Fuziones in Miraflores

We did not do one cultural thing in Lima. Not ashamed.

Note: If you’re coming to Perú you should use Banco de la Nación (or MultiRed ATMs) as they don’t charge any fees. You should see the length of the queues sometimes though. Insane.

Next stop: We’re flying with StarPeru to Cusco (taxi was S/.50 from Parque Kennedy to the airport and it took 30 minutes)

Cajamarca, Perú

We arrived in Cajamarca about 8am after a 12 hour overnight bus from Chacapoyas. I have to say that the first couple of hours in Cajamarca (and indeed the bus journey) are a bit of a blur as I took a sleeping tablet. I don’t remember getting a taxi from the bus station in to the centre but John assures me that it happened! We had breakfast at Casanuez (only ok) just off the main square or Plaza de Armas and then went about finding some accommodation. We decided on Hospedaje Los Jazmines (again just back from the main square) for S/.80 and it was perfect. We actually ended up spending 2 nights in Cajamarca as we pretty much slept the first day away. I don’t think taking those night buses saves anything in accommodation as you’re always so wrecked the following day. Anyway, the accommodation was not-for-profit and the attached café employs local deaf people so we were happy to contribute. We ate in that café a lot – they had a great tea selection so what you gonna do!

It’s quite a small city but there’s a bit to do to keep you occupied. The Cathedral overlooking the Plaza de Armas is very pretty and there’s a bit of history to the place too. We purchased the Circuito Turistico Urbano Comprendido for S/.5 which gives entrance to 5 different sights; El Cuarto de Rescate (the ransom room – the last Inca king was held prisoner here for a year before being executed somewhere near the main plaza), Iglesia de Belén (lovely albeit small church with a lovely courtyard area and a pop up art gallery during our visit), along with 3 museums that we didn’t visit (Archaeological, Ethnographic and Medical). We took a walk up to the Silla del Inca overlooking the city where the Inca King reputedly would sit and watch his kingdom. Obviously we did this the opposite way to everybody else – we walked up the back, through some beautiful gardens (costs S/.1 to enter). Once you reach the top you have a wonderful view over the city. There’s a very pretty little church, Cerro Santa Apolonia up here too.

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Iglesia San Francisco and Santa!

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Rather inconspicuous entrance to the Ransom Room

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The Ransom Room

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The Ransom Room again; supposedly the King was to fill this with gold

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Cajamarca’s Cathedral – Iglesia Matriz Santa Catalina

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John popping into the Cathedral

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Iglesia Belén

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Courtyard of the Belén Complex

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Walk up to the Silla del Inca; yep, that’s a dude in a tree

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View over Cajamarca from the Silla del Inca

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Cerro Santa Apolonia

The city wasn’t really throwing any great shapes on the food scene in general for is to be honest. We had pizza at a dotie little local eatery which was full of Peruvians and locals alike; a huge pizza oven kept us toasty! We also had ice cream at Café Holanda on the main plaza but again it was only ok.

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Just chilling with my moss

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Such a pretty balcony

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Typical transport in Cajamarca

Best thing about Cajamarca: I bought a travel hairdryer. Why in the name of Jesus did I not bring one? South America is freezing and there’s never a hairdryer anywhere. I’ve been using it ever since to warm up in icy hostels.

We popped out to the CIVA (bus company) office a few blocks from the main plaza to purchase our tickets for the overnight bus to Lima for S/.70 (14 hours).

Next stop: Lima!

Chacapoyas and Kuelap, Perú

Getting to Chacapoyas in the Amazonas department of Perú isn’t the easiest of expeditions but it’s well worth the hours on public transport. Visiting Chacapoyas is more about using it as a base for the nearby pre Incan ruins of Kuelap to be honest.

Ok so getting here from San Ignacio just after the Ecuadorian border: first you have to get to the terminal in San Ignacio and hop on a collectivo to Jaen (S/.15 and about 2 hours); you then get in a moto taxi (S/.1.50) to bring you to where you get your collectivo to Bagua Grande (S/.7 and about an hour and a half). Then you go from Bagua Grande in another collectivo (just outside where the last one drops you off) to Chacapoyas which takes another 2 and a half hours and costs S/.10. You’re dropped off about a block from the main plaza in Chacapoyas. We decided to stay at Chacapoyas Backpackers (S/.40 for a double room). The fantastic staff really made this place for us. We booked our guided tour of Kuelap here for S/.30 (that’s $10).

Kuelap

We took a bus from Chacapoyas at 8am for the 3 hour journey to Kuelap…which John described as a cliff-hugging ride of death. Dramatic much? Anyway, it was pretty uneventful until we came across a few roadworks…no road essentially (see below) so we had to wait for an hour or so for a JCB to flatten some mounds of earth for us to travel through. Only in Perú!

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Sorry lads, hold tough a while

We arrived at the entrance office where you have to purchase your ticket for S./15 (c. $5) and sign a register with the usual details (passport number and the like). We then had to walk uphill for about 20 minutes to reach the fortress of Kuelap. There’s still some archaeological work going on here so little bits are out of bounds but it’s quite a spectacular site looking across the ruins and at the surrounding landscape. One wrong step and you’re over a cliff and on a stretcher though… The Chacapoyans (the people that built the fortress) were known as the cloud people – in all fairness there was no sneaking up on them here!

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Twenty minutes from here

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Surrounding Landscape – that’s the road weaving through the opposite mountain

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Arriving at Kuelap

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Outside walls of Kuelap standing 20 metres high

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One of the entrances; deliberately narrow to avoid more than 1 person entering at a time

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Not easy work! I hate climbing…

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Kuelap’s foundations and the surrounding landscape

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Local Art 🙂

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Pretty pristine

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Kuelap was built on 3 levels

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Left wall represent crocodile teeth and right wall puma’s eyes

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What Kuelap would have looked like

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Life on the edge

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We’re 3km from sea level here

The bus journey back was just as eventful as the way up; this time a flat tyre. Another hour of a delay and the most dangerous tyre-changer/driver on the planet. He was holding the jack up with some stones and hitting the spare tyre under the bus with another big rock to try to get it out from its resting place.

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Such fun!

We took a night bus at 8pm that evening with  Virgen del Carmen to Cajamarca (12 hours and S/.45). FYI there’s also a 5.30am bus to Cajamarca from here on a Monday morning.

Next stop: Cajamarca!