Oh, Cusco has been an adventure! We had no troubles getting to our plane on time, the flight was smooth and we arrived in Cusco around 9:30 yesterday.
Since then, it's been non-stop. Well, mostly. Upon arrival, we dropped bags at the hotel, paid for the rest of our Inca Trail trek and then took off to see the big sights.
We started with Cusco's cathedral where we had audio guides to take us around. It was really beautiful. The Peruvians are very big on their intricate carved altars and choirs. The outside of the building is also very impressive with so much detail in the facade. From there, it was on to Qorikancha, which is a church and convent built on the site of an Incan temple. The Spanish actually destroyed the temple to build their church on its foundation. Kinda rude, if you ask me. We enjoyed the outside the most, I think - where you could see what was left of the Incan temple and see over a good part of the city.
Then, it was on to Sacsayhuaman. We walked up to the site from the main plaza. And when I say walked up, I mean UP. There were lots of stairs and then some more and then a hill. And then we reached the entrance which was at the base of more stairs. It was worth it, though. It's the remains of an Incan citadel. There's not much left now but we wandered as much as we had the energy for, getting amazing views of the city and mountains. Then it was down all the steps we came up, which was much easier than going up. We stopped for some lunch and discovered why second floor patios are so popular here. We must have had two dozen people come up to our table over the course of lunch and try to sell us stuff. We'be learned our lesson.
After attempting a nap and having a briefing with our guide for our zip lining and Sacred Valley tour, we ventured out for some dinner. I was starting to think I was going to get waylaid with altitude sickness - my sister and I both had headaches during the day (expected) but I suddenly felt absolutely awful. But, some fresh air seemed to have helped and I've been fine since. I have chalked it up to the paint fumes in our hotel (which deserves its own post...)
Today, we had our Sacred Valley and zip lining tour. We started in Chinchero where we had a demonstration of how the alpaca textiles are made. We got to see some alpacas up-close-and-personal, which I loved. Then, it was on to the church and the Incan ruins it sits at. We had fantastic views of mountains and valleys, seeing more alpacas and Incan terraces used for potato growing. Once we were done there, we spent some time in the Sunday market, which was a nice bonus.
The next stop was our zip lining - totally, fantastically amazing. It's about 2km long and you can get up to speeds of 120km/h but I couldn't get myself to go very fast. I was definitely the slowest of the bunch. You go right over the valley, dropping a total of about 400m. It was so awesome!
After stopping at a viewpoint for photos and at a delicious buffet for lunch, we moved on to Ollantaytambo, where we ascended almost to the very top of a set of terraces to what remains of the temple. It was a bit tough going in a few places but the views were worth every minute of huffing and puffing.
Our final stop for the day was Pisac's ruins. We climbed to the very top of the mountain to view them. The bus took us most of the way up the mountain, to be fair, but once inside, we got to the top and had the most incredible views of the valley and the towns and the mountains. It was breathtaking. Literally. We were at 3400m so even though it was slow and steady going up, we were still breathing very heavily once we made it.
Then it was back to Cusco for dinner and our briefing for tomorrow's hike on the Inca Trail. We are doing the last 10km and are leaving at 5am for it so I'd better get the alarm set and get some sleep!