Cusco, Peru

The overnight bus ride to Cusco on our anniversary was pretty horrible. We bought seats in the lower deck and settled ourselves in to sleep, but I woke up around midnight when the heating in the bus was in full effect. It was like an inferno! Other guests were asking them to turn the heat down, but nothing ever happened and next to the heaters at the windows, I was dying.

With my pants and shirt rolled up and shoes and socks off, I sweated the whole night and barely slept. I only managed to not completely overheat by keeping my arm on the cold window to the outside. So I was especially livid when we arrived to Cusco, unlike Kay who had managed to sleep alright in the slightly cooler aisle seat. Lucky guy.Cusco is a colorful old town, originally used as the capital by the Incas but later changed radically when the Spanish took over. The Incas planned the city in the shape of the sacred puma and it was supposedly a very special place where leaders around the country were supposed to come live for part of the year.Cusco today is still vibrant, but as a tourist you should be mindful of your things. There are many pickpockets in the city and a female colleague of mine was once harassed by four men on her way home late at night and mugged, so do be careful if you stay out late.We had planned a few days in Cusco before our trek to Machu Picchu so that we could acclimatize, but since Puno ended up being so high up, altitude wasn’t such a problem. Not that I didn’t get sick… On our second day I was having a hard time and became violently ill for a little while. And maybe it was due to the altitude, but everything was a bit worse and I nearly blacked out a couple times while we hailed a cab on the way home from the church above, including the ever-fun darkening and blurring of the vision in broad daylight.On the first day though, we ate a small breakfast at our AirBNB rental, provided by the sweet Claudia, slept for awhile since the bus ride was tough, and then we had lunch in town before heading up the hills to Sacsayhuaman.It was actually our host who told us to visit Sacsayhuaman. Kay was talking with the host’s son and all I heard was something like “Sexy woman” in Spanish and two men looking at a screen and going “oooh, yeah… that’s nice!” You can imagine what I thought they were talking about…It turns out that Sacsayhuaman is actually a citadel on the outskirts of the city, with the crazy huge Inca stones forming the mouth and eyes of the puma that is Cusco.The day was gorgeous and in the sun it was nice and warm.In the distance below we saw Cusco’s statue of Christ, but considering that we were going to Rio de Janeiro later this year, we decided to skip the extra costs and focus on Sacsayhuaman.On our way up, someone is happy about the views. 🙂Sacsayhuaman provides a fantastic view over the sweeping city, filled to the brim with little red-roof tiled houses.And the photos show just part of the beauty of Peru, which is quite breathtaking.Below is pretty much how I pictured Peruvian weather. Perfect.The only thing a little disappointing about Sacsayhuaman is that there is not very much information about what you are actually looking at. It would be lovely to read some placards or brochures about what everything means, because you already get the sense that this place is quite special.There’s also the other part of wondering just how those Incas moved all these stones and where they all came from. I think according to our guide on our trek later on, the stones for Sacsayhuaman were actually sourced in the area, unlike the stones for the Inca trail which were brought from all parts of the country to Machu Picchu.There’s Kay enjoying my new waterproof Exped backpack that I bought for this trip. He was really jealous and wants it for himself. 🙂Below we were enjoying the fine stonework when some other tourists asked us for a photo.At first Kay thought they wanted him to take a photo of them, but no… they actually wanted to take a photo of the girl next to Kay, who is basically a giant. I thought it was very funny and couldn’t  stop laughing.We enjoyed the weather until we saw rain clouds moving in and decided to head back down, also because my stomach was starting to give me problems.Pro tip for the ladies: Always have toilet paper with you even if it’s tissues. For the men, you never know when you need TP either. Better safe than sorry! 😉Back in Cusco, I wasn’t feeling so hot. We sat down on a bench before my blackouts started coming on and then I begged Kay to get a taxi and take me home where I slept and used the bathroom while Kay explored Qurikancha, which he said wasn’t that interesting.By night, I felt well enough to go to dinner, plus we had our trek briefing that night, on Halloween.It was a little funny meeting everyone else in our trekking group while I still felt “off”. I didn’t really want to let the guides know how sick I was that day because I hoped that I was fine the next day. I’ve blacked out often enough that it doesn’t scare me, but it hadn’t happened in a long time.It was actually funny being in Cusco on Halloween. Because it’s still not a very common holiday, but because they are starting to celebrate it, there were scores of Peruvian kids dressed in costumes and going around the main square collecting treats from businesses. It made getting to and from Alpaca Expeditions a little tricky!When we arrived back in Cusco, we had to leave the next morning, but I wanted to make sure that Kay could meet the other future INSEAD classmate traveling around South America before school.

So, although we had just returned from trekking five days to Machu Picchu, we showered and went for a late dinner and drinks! Trying to stay in INSEAD tradition by working hard and playing hard.Unfortunately again, all three of us had bad ice at the restaurant and we all had food poisoning the next day. Kay had it a little less than me, but I was keeping it classy by laying next to the bathroom in the Cusco airport, which fantastically did not have any running water behind security. When the electricity in the airport went out briefly as we were lining up to board our flight, I broke down and threw up on the floor in front of everyone.

Pro tip: Always have a plastic bag on hand to throw up in, but maybe check if it has holes or is sturdy enough for a good hurl. You’re welcome. 🙂

More from our trip to Peru:

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