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A round up of Cusco Cuzco, searching for the bargains

As mentioned, we arrived in chilly Cusco on Tuesday night at about eleven pm and the streets were deserted, it was so cold! It is still is, it’s quarter past eight in the evening and I’m smothered in blankets with absolutely no intention to go outside again tonight.

So back to our arrival, I had booked a few nights in Hostal Casa del Inka which I read good comments about when I was looking it up on Tripadvisor for parking, needless to say it was selected due to their parking facilities. Those facilities don’t exist, so all in all it wasn’t that good a choice.

Here are my pros and cons for Hostal Casa del Inka;

The good

The room was spacious and had a big bed with lots of necessary blankets, because it is cold cold cold in Cuzco.

Most of the staff were extremely helpful and very polite (I’ll explain the most part in a sec)

The breakfast is included and has the standard tea, coffee, cereal, bread and PANCAKES, delish. And you can eat as many as you like, bonus.

The view of the extravagant Plaza de Armas is a great photo op and equally as impressive whilst you’re eating your breakfast or at nighttime (although you can get the same view by continuing up the steps before Calle Resbalosa)

The not so good

Heaters are advertised, but the added cost to rent them isn’t. Cheeky.

If you’re in room number eight (the one with the lovely view outside) breakfast is served outside your room, not so good if you don’t want to wake up at seven in the morning.

The shower wasn’t hot (in these temps, that is important) the bathroom was also a bit stinky. Sorry to sound like a moaner but I’m being honest.

And then there’s the mystery parking. When we contacted the owner and said that we’d received an email confirming the parking as well as it being publicised on Tripadvisor, she just denied it and got a bit defensive. All we wanted to suggest was that she could change it, but she became quite hostile so we decided to say chao for now. It’s a shame because the ladies that we had met working in the hostel were dolls, maybe the owner was having a bad day.

That view from the hostel balcony

That view from the hostel balcony

Budget accomodations in Cusco

After a little searching, we found a place to leave the van in a closed car park on Saphi where the lovely Don Juan lives with his family and is charging us 15 soles/3.60 gbp/5.47 usd per day. He let us stay a while to fix the window, it seems that it was installed in a rush and became a bit wonky, not ideal.

I scouted around the area for the best deal, I was basically going for as cheap as possible and found the following options along Saphi;

Backpackers: for 28 soles/6gbp/ 10usd per person per night for a shared dorm of eight people, breakfast, kitchen and wifi included but no lockers. It seemed quite nice. It was an option but I decided to keep looking just in case.

Hospedaje Amargura: 50 soles/12gbp/18usd per night for a private room, shower and wifi or 35 for a dingier room downstairs. No breakfast and a very simple kitchen with no pots or pans.

Hostel Conquista: Just along from the carpark,  40 soles/10gbp/15usd per night but there was a distinct smell of damp in the air so it was a no no.

Magaly: Across the road from the carpark, 30 soles/ 7gbp/ 11usd for a private room with wifi, a simple kitchen and four single beds. I tried to bargain and got away with having the room just for us. It’s simple but very budget friendly. The hot water was being a bit temperamental this morning but seems to work, the wifi signal is ok but sometimes the receptionist is a bit naughty and turns it off to save bills, although he switches it back on straightaway when asked. Everyone here is very nice, they don’t speak English but there’s nothing a bit of miming can’t solve.

Extreme internetting (yes that is a made up word) in Magaly hostel.

Extreme internetting (yes that is a made up word) in Magaly hostel.

Eating

After contracting salmonella in Bolivia nearly two years ago, I have to be a bit more careful with what and where I eat as I’m still a bit prone to a bad tummy which is annoying because I used to enjoy being able to eat like a local.

Our first meal was eaten in Govinda, a vegetarian restaurant which was a bit pricier than what I wanted to spend but we decided to treat ourselves because of the crazy drive the day before. A shared starter, a main each and a juice came to 40 soles/10gbp/15usd which I thought was a bit pricey! Maybe I’m being too vigilant with the budget, I don’t know. In the evening you can ask for the ‘menu’ which is set for 7 soles, now that’s a bargain. The food was nice but not incredible, but I’m convinced that could have something to do with the altitude.

San Pedro Market: A typical South American market where you can always find a good bargain, we had a plate of fried fish, lentils, rice and a mini salad for 3.50 soles each which is more my kind of price. We don’t eat meat so were a little bit more limited than others, soups, mashed potato with steak, pasta and cebiche (although I wouldn’t go for it because we’re not close to the sea) were also available as well as juices and deserts. We also did some food shopping and bought a big bag of vegetables for 20 soles/5gb/8usd. The market and it’s surrounding area is great for anything you may want to buy, from hats to rope.

Market yummies

Our lentils, fish and rice

Valeriana is a beautiful coffee shop across from the grass on Avenida el Sol where we spent all of yesterday working. A yummy hot chocolate, a latte, two croissants and two vegetable lasagnes came to the grand total of 53soles/13gbp. Probably a little bit more than I was hoping to spend but we spend the best part of a day there. Fans of Amy Winehouse and Adele will especially like the limited musical repertoire (i.e. about five hours on a loop).

Relaxing in a little corner in Valeriana

Orion supermarket across from San Pedro market is great for a few things to cook which totalled another 20soles.

Street food: last night we crept out for a late snack and bought a fried cheese and salad sandwich and another with extra egg for 5.50 soles/1.30gbp on the corner of Saphi and Amargura.

Tamales: a delicious snack made with dried corn and served either sweet or savoury either boiled or steamed in a corn leaf for 1sole/24pence each. There’s usually someone in the Plaza de Armas selling them. If you can, try humitas which are a heavier version made with fresh corn.

Coincidentally, we arrived here just in time for the Corpus Christi festival which means there has been a lot of music and dancing around the city for the past few days. Whenever there’s a religious festival in South America, it’s ok to have a beer in the main square, so we decided to have a little sit down in the Plaza de Armas with two large bottles of Cusqueña and a giant bag of crisps for 12soles/2.90gbp until the cold was too much, and then we skipped home.

15 effigies of saints are carried to the Plaza de Armas

15 effigies of saints are carried to the Plaza de Armas

The effigies were accompanied by lots of singing and dancing and a bright blue sky

The effigies were accompanied by lots of singing and dancing and a bright blue sky

There was food and beer galore which was even more glorious in the sunshine

There was food and beer galore which was even more glorious in the sunshine

The two nights out that we had in Cusco were spent in Mushrooms which overlooks the previously mentioned Plaza de Armas. Luckily our drinks were free because Rulo was expertly spinning his vinyl (as usual), but looking at the prices the drinks weren’t too expensive (I wouldn’t recommend eating there) and it was nice and warm. Local DJ Jon Aragon is joined once in a while by guest DJs such as Rulo and Jaime Cuadra, who is the ambassador for Peruvian culture.

Pricier than we originally thought, Cusco can be done on a budget if you are wise.

Next up: Finally heading out of the cold and down to see the Nazca lines.


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An unexpected start to our trip i.e. someone broke into our van

As mentioned last night, our plans had to change more or less as soon as we’d crossed the border from Arica, Chile to Tacna, Peru due to a little mishap that we would never have expected due to our familiarity with our neigbouring city.

My boyfriend, Rulo is from Arica and I had been living there for the second time for the past nine months, my mama is Chilean so I have dual citizenship and am considered Chilean over here. Going to Tacna is basically part of being from Arica, it takes about an hour to get to, the crossing is simple and it’s a great day trip, you pop over, have a delicious lunch of cebiche and seafood chaufita, a Peruvian take on Chinese stir fried rice and a juice from the market, buy whatever you need (the most popular items being toilet tissue and clothes detergent due to the difference in price, it’s quite a bit) and then you hit the road and you’re home in about an hour. Tacna is now much bigger than Arica, the amount of Chileans who spend the weekend or holidays there is huge, they even go over to celebrate Chilean Independence Day!

Giant chaufita and cebiche totalling 40 soles/ 14 USD

Giant chaufita and cebiche totalling 40 soles/ 14 USD

So we crossed the border which took a little bit longer seeing as we are taking the van out of Chile for at least six months, a bit of paper work on the Peruvian side and then we were on our way. Rulo had previously been in contact with the Peruvian consul to try and make the crossing trouble free but…they weren’t much help at all, to be honest it was a waste of time considering the amount of appointments and meetings he had to attend to which amounted to nada.

We arrived in Tacna to spend the night, buy insurance and a few last minute bits with the hope of setting off at around 3am to head over to Cuzco, settling in and setting off early the next morning for the beauty that is Machu Picchu- I had already bought the train tickets for a seven am departure but not the entrance tickets to the site. So in Tacna, we stopped off to buy some plastic bottles so as not to keep buying disposable bottles during this lengthy trip and then popped over the road to buy a few more things leaving our van parked opposite. At this point it was about 7pm and had already gotten dark. As we exited the shop, an old man stopped Rulo to say someone was looking for him, which for me was an immediate red flag so I crossed the road straightaway. Then a taxi driver who was immediately next to our van said the same, I kept walking and then I saw this

Our broken window, if you look closely you can see the hole where the steel ball hit and cracked it.

Our broken window, if you look closely you can see the hole where the steel ball hit and cracked it.

We had heard of this technique from a Bolivian friend of ours, a steel ball in a sock is used to crack the window and then they can break the window properly to unlock the door. Luckily our windows are polarised which stalled them a bit and meant that the glass didn’t shatter completely but they had managed to get the door open. They must have seen us coming and made a run for it, I assume the taxi driver was there to load things into his car. Before you think that we had left a load of stuff for everyone to see, we hadn’t, everything is stored under a wooden platform which has a mattress on top for our bed, the wood has a hinge which we can lift up like a door for easy access (thanks to Rulo’s dad who is a dab hand at carpentry). Rulo was quite upset whereas I was livid, we don’t know if it was because they saw a laundry bag inside which didn’t fit beneath or because of our Chilean number plate…but it is what it is. We drove back to the closed car park courtesy of our hotel and left our van there knowing that the next morning we would have to find a window and get it polarised.

Our home before we loaded it with six months worth of supplies including our bicycles.

Our home before we loaded it with six months worth of supplies including our bicycles and a load of vinyl.

So the next day we managed to set off at about midday with a serious drive ahead of us, eleven hours of nonstop driving minus a stop off in Moquegua to buy some avocados for our lunch which I prepared as we wound our way along the numerous curves. We drove through Puno and hit 4600 metres altitude at which point we both started to feel the lack of oxygen in the air, but the landscape and llamas along the way really do make up for it. You wonder how the Tiwanaku people lived in such harsh conditions hundreds of years ago, they really were light years ahead of western civilisations in terms of survival.

4000 metres up, at which point I gave up trying to take photos and focused on not having such a severe headache.

4000 metres up, at which point I gave up trying to take photos and focused on not having such a severe headache.

At at about 11pm we finally arrived in Cuzco, got to our hostel which we had been told had free parking…it didn’t, so we had to drive around looking for a car park which proved to be rather tough- owing to the cold all of them had shut up shop for the night. And then, a little twist of fate happened, as we were driving along with our GPS sending us God knows where, someone shouted out “Rulo!” a local DJ by the name of Jon Aragon who Rulo had brought over to Arica a few months back just happened to be walking down the road at that moment. Amazing.

I was dropped off at Hostal Casa del Inka and immediately jumped into bed smothered with blankets whilst Rulo and Jon were off finding a car park. When Rulo arrived past midnight, I knew it would be cruel to ask him to wake up in a few hours to head to Machu Picchu, the drive had completely taken it out of him and he was absolutely exhausted. Furthermore, our late arrival meant that we hadn’t been able to buy our entrance tickets, so Machu Picchu has been put on hold for now which is a real shame but I know we will back to climb Wayna Picchu and marvel at the sites built so long ago by the Incas. Good things come to those who wait.

Next up: Arriving in pricey Cuzco and matching it to our budget


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The travels have begun: Driving Chile to Colombia

After a year of planning (mostly looking at photos of beaches), saving and moving to Chile to be with my babe, we have finally set off for our drive to Colombia, yesh.

The idea is to drive up through Cusco/Cuzco/Qusqu/Qosco to finally go to Machu Picchu after many years of waiting, and then head down to the coast and drive the whole way up to Ecuador before going northeast to Bogota. Along the way, Rulo will play a few nights here and there and from Colombia we shall fly to London and spend three months hopefully enjoying a scorchio summer, travelling around and eating…I am not being ungrateful about Chilean/Peruvian food at all, but sometimes I would just love beans on toast with melted cheese on top and a Dairy Milk bar on a Tuesday evening when I’m feeling lazy, yummy.

However, if this happened:

Llamas and Machu Picchu

I will stop thinking about food, because really, there is nothing better than a llama photobombing your picture of Machu Picchu is there? He looks like he’s smiling and I absolutely love his ears. Llamas are just too cute for their own good.

So off we go….

Ps due to lack of internet and a lot of unforeseen circumstances, I have actually had to write this post after we set off, we’re actually already in Cuzco. There is a reason for that, and you shall soon find out why.

PPS Check out how gorgeous he is on the flyer for his night in Cuzco at Mushrooms in the Plaza de Armas, I find the spelling mistakes…charming

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