Friday, June 15, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 2: Lima to Cusco

May 4, 2012
Peru Day 2: Lima to Cusco

Arrived in Lima! And now to Cusco...
And the adventure begins! We arrived in Lima after 100 bazillion hours on the plane and were punched in the face with a gloriously rank odour of fishy sars. I am not sure why/how/what the heck was going on, but seemed like maybe low cloud cover? Anyway we were happy to just be in Lima for a couple hours cause outside on the runway it smelled like a dirty fish shop. Sorry Lima, I'm sure you are usually beautiful. Today, you smelled like my feet are gonna smell on the Inca Trail.

Things were pretty quick-quick and efficient in the airport which was great since we pretty much hadn't slept all night. We met up with Kev (since he had come in on a different flight) and walked pretty directly through the terminal, checking out the food court on the way. There was a McDonald's there (anyone who has read my trip blogs before knows that I LOVE seeing all the localized foreign McDonald's menu items in other countries - it was kinda cool but nothing super weird and wild like Japan. A ham sandwich/tostada thing on the menu, otherwise it looked pretty standard). There was a Dunkin Donuts, but didn't have hilariously unusual garlic or avocado donuts like they did in Dunkin Donuts in South Korea. Meh. :) The place that did rock was one of the souvenir stores which had chocolate covered passion fruit, macadamias, bananas. We helped ourselves heartily to the free samples! Then on we went to Cusco.

On the way to Cusco
More awesome mountains

We arrived in Cusco and the air felt a little thin but not too bad. Jose from our hostel was already there and waiting and very organized. He sorted out the cab for us and off we went towards the city center. There were so many buildings up on the hillsides, so amazing! It was just so inspiring and exciting to arriving in a new country, so many unusual new things and unexpected surprises. You really feel ALIVE at a moment like this! That was nice given the lack of sleep the night before, haha.

Kev and I chillin' with some Coca Tea at the hostel
We got into town and arrived at Amaru Hostel, the place we were staying at in the San Blas neighbourhood. They were immediately very helpful and welcoming and nice. There was hot Coca Tea there waiting for us, to help acclimatize to the altitude. It tastes a bit like green tea, a little bitter, but good. We relaxed for a bit and took pictures. It was quite hot in the sun! We were pretty exhausted from the general schlep of travel so we took a few hours to nap and regenerate.

After a good nap we got rollin' and headed out to "El Buen Pastor", a pastry shop a few doors down which is run by nuns! It was amazing!! I got a queso empenadea (cheese) and it was great. The winner though was the peach custard pastry - man!!!!

Awesome selection of pastries near our hostel
Kev excited for breakfast
Pastry-fest at the "Nun" bakery!
From there we wandered San Blas square, and took a bunch of photos. This was a nice and picturesque place with some locals playing music and selling handicrafts. It was a great vibe.

Plaza San Blas
Cusco hills from Plaza San Blas
VWs seem REALLY popular here
After this we headed to Plaza de Armas, the main square. People were selling stuff pretty intently and were directly targeting tourists (of course), it was ok at first but quickly got annoying. There was some cool stuff like people walking around with baby llamas and you could take your photo with them, that was very cute and the girls/women were all wearing traditional clothing, so that was pretty nice. But so many people were selling junky postcards or offering massages (a bit dodgy?) but at the same time you clearly couldn't fault the locals in the ultra-tourist town of Cusco in the most touristsy downtown center... there are certainly a lot of foreigners here and you can't blame people for trying to make a comfortable living. But anyhow, it got to be a bit too much and we learned quickly that the phrase "No, Gracias" was the one to use. People seemed nice and friendly, but a few people were a bit too forceful. Oh well. Lots of "No Gracias's" today though.

Taking photos, note the girl with the baby lamb (or llama) in the background
We walked to Dos Manos, the place that organized the Huyana Picchu tickets for us. That was very organized and they gave us some bank advice - to take out USD from the ATM and then change it with a local private money exchanger person/store. That seemed a bit strange since they were so hardcore about only being able to take perfect USD bills - anything wripped or torn they weren't able to take, so who knows what quality of USD bills you'd get out of the ATM. Seemed like the "perfect condition only" rules only were for USD, if you have Peruvian Nuevo Soles, anyone would take them. So I ignored the advice from the travel agent and just took out Soles from the ATM and it turns out that was an excellent decision. Other than the $5 USD per-transaction fee from Wells Fargo, I was getting roughly the exact international exchange rate for USD to PEN. Amazing!!!

haha, "fanny"
This was amazing
and in English... "Soursap" juice. It was sweet and weird and good.
After getting our Billeto Touristico (so we could get into a bunch of Inca sites), we went to a grocery store (Gato Market) and then back to the hostel for a bit. This Guanabana (Soursop) juice was excellent!! So good, kinda like guava and pineapple together. Wikipedia calls it a "Brazillian Paw Paw". Either way, it was delicious!!

Back at the hostel, we were so tired so we slept for another few hours. Lonely Planet suggested it was very important to take it easy on the first day at high altitude and we were certainly chillin' out.

Then we headed to Peru Treks to pay the remainder of our hiking fees for the Inca Trail in a few days. We talked to the lady for a while there and she was very nice. She helped answer a lot of our questions. I joked about a few things, like the form asked us to check "Male or Female" and "Male" said "Masculino". I laughed and said, "Si, Muy Masculino!" trying to play-on-words Masculino with "Masculine". I have no idea if that translated but she laughed at my effort in any case. :)

Then off to dinner! The guidebook suggested this excellent chicken place called Los Toldos Chicken. It was some AMAZING BBQ Chicken!!! Or, shall I say, "Pollo Brassa". It was BBQ'd style, rotisserie, char-broiled. Amazing stuff. The salad bar was free and epic - pickled carrots, veggies, potato salad, salad with this great olive dressing... awesome. We got a 1L coke and it was so good too.
To Peru treks to check in
Salad bar at the BBQ restaurant
The dressing was made of black olives, so frickin' good
Sauces for the chicken
Amazing place
We wandered the town after that, seeing some city sights. For some reason, all the mannequins in Peru so far have been terrible and scary!! I don't know what's up with that.

One of many insanely scary mannequins we saw
Another terrifying mannequin... why?!??!?!?!
We saw a pie shop and some other cool stuff. Then we headed to Marcelo Batata, a coffee and dessert place. We headed up to the rooftop for dessert and a glorious view of Cusco city lights. Glorious! This place was very relaxing and nice. It was expensive compared to dinner but excellent quality. I got a "Chocolate Calliente" (Hot Chocolate) which was orangey-tasting and made from chocolate from the Sacred Valley. So good. I also got an Oreo Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae which ROCKED. It was amazing and everyone was jealous but I shared.

Haha, wow so much blantant copyright infringement in Peru
Pie shop
These were suppper good too
The most epic orange hot chocolate ever, made from Andean chocolate
View of the city from our coffee place
Oreo Ice Cream mmmmm
Then we headed back to the hostel, and chatted about tomorrow. Now it's time to sleep cause we get up early tomorrow in time to meet Christy - he flight stuff is all sorted out. Tomorrow we're going to do a bunch of city stuff and then head to the Sacsayhuamán ruins. It should be awesome! What a super fun time already, and it's only the 1st day!

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