Deciding to see Machu Pichhu in one day, we woke up at 5am on Thursday to get to Poroy, 20 minutes by cab from Cusco to catch our train to Aguas Calientes (3 hours by train). Once in Aguas Calientes, a tiny town in the valley below Machu Picchu we took a 30 minute bus up the hill to the entrance. Even though its the rainy season (the main reason we opted against hiking the Inca trail up) we were lucky enough to have a nearly clear day! The first thing we noticed, was the lack of security. While there are guards and a few ropes suggesting you ought not to go in certain areas, there weren’t many. Essentially, you could wander around at your leisure, clearly, we weren’t in the US any more…
For example, this bridge used to be open to walk across, until someone fell to their death…which doesn’t seem surprising given the bridge is on a sheer cliff face…But we did feel pretty lucky to see the ruins in their current condition, because of minimally regulated tourism they are worried about degradation of the site and likely will increase security in the near future. Overall, it was absolutely beautiful, many people found small hill side patches to have picnics or lounge in the sun.
|Alex makes a friend|
But, what was MOST exciting…the alpaca! They roam around the ruins, and are clearly unconcerned about the multitude of tourists wandering around. They also, have the best facial expressions of any animal I’ve encountered. I think Alex agrees.
Yesterday and today we spent wandering around the city, and of course, eating. We went to Ciccolina last night, which according to chowhound is supposed to be the best restaurant in Cusco. We’d like to agree. We got a few tapas (including duck proscuitto) and a squid ink pasta, all of it was absolutely delicious, so much so, we’re going back tonight! And probably tomorrow morning before our flight for a fresh baguette to go. But of course, the best part? Because of the exchange rate, you get to divide your bill by three! a $150 meal (appetizers, entrees, dessert, and a few glasses of wine) turns into $50, and tipping? 10% is considered very generous. Basically, we’ve been eating VERY well, for VERY cheap. It’s pretty amazing.
We also went to the central market, which is near our hotel. While we didn’t buy a pork head, we did get some fresh bread, fresh squeezed orange juice (24oz for less than $1), and local chocolate. For lunch (at 3pm-which is the norm) we went to La Chomba, another chowhound req. for a local experience.
And it certainly was! Being the only “gringos” in the place was of course a plus. To get there, there is an entrance on the street that leads into a courtyard where a bunch of locals are hanging out and people are drying their laundry. You then enter a small hallway that leads you to the restaurant of several tables all meant for communal meals. Plus, lunch for two-we were warned the portions are so huge that we ought to split a plate, and even that was a lot-plus chicha roja (local corn beer made in house) cost us $6. And, of course, it tasted amazing. We got Lechon (roasted suckling pig) which came with potatoes and a sweet tamale, along with a spicy green sauce that seems to accompany everything here (and that Alex has developed a significant affinity for).