Cusco, Hippies, and Rainbows
Before I write about Cusco I want to mention the road from Nazca to Cusco. This road takes you over 4500 meters and across the great plains of Peru. So far on this journey, I have not encountered very many roads that make you feel small and lonely. This was one of them. When reaching the peak altitude you can see as far as the horizon. With ominous black clouds rolling across the plains, I was fortunate enough not to get wet. Although I put my rain gear on just in case, and to cut the chilling wind.
As i climbed higher, I could feel the engine of my 250 giving it’s best to maintain a reasonable speed. And although I was passing most vehicles. I felt my moto had reached its potential for the altitude. Later I would find that with the elevation and the 98 octane gasoline I was using, I was getting close to 100mpg! Not bad WR, not bad!
The high plains of Peru
It would take me two days to reach Cusco. Searching on Ioverlander for a mid point, I settled in to a small hostel for the night. In the mountains it’s cold at night.
The next day as I descended from the high altitude plains, I would ride through a beautiful valley with magnificent canyon walls swallowing the road and tracing the river beside me.
Arriving into Cusco, I could tell that this was a city for tourism. Everything was clean, there were little or no horns blaring in the traffic and there were restaurants and hotels abundant.
Cusco is the stepping off point for Machu Picchu. Most tourist come and go from here. But, because I am on a moto, I have the freedom to take an alternative option that most people don’t have. Tours from Cusco to Machu Picchu are expensive. To reach Machu Picchu, you can walk or take a train. That’s your options. There are tours that take you on a four day hike on the “Inca Trail”, you take take the train from Cusco, or you can take a shuttle and then take a train. But, I’ll talk more about Machu Picchu in another blog.
Arriving in Cusco, I spent my first night in a hostel I found on Ioverlander. It was listed as a friendly moto hostel so, I went there. I only spent one night there because the hostel was in disrepair, and everything was old and funky. I didn’t even bother to sleep under the covers because I questioned the cleanliness of the place. The owners were very nice, but they were very old, and I could tell they no longer had the energy to maintain the place. My room was funky and smelled.
After settling in, I spent the day walking about, and find another hostel where I could park my moto at a reasonable price. Cusco can be challenging to navigate because of the narrow cobblestone streets and ever changing road closures for events.
Just like most Latin American cities, the heart of the city is the “Plaza de Armas”.
There you will find lager churches, a park, tourist restaurants and bars. I thought I would like Cusco as it reminded me of a larger version of Antigua Guatemala, but it didn’t grow on me. I was irritated by the number of people harassing me for tours, paintings, souvenirs and massages. Yes, massages. There are ladies every 20 meters offering massages. I don’t think I want to know what kind of massage they offer, but nonetheless, it was annoying. Another annoying thing I have found in L.A. is the people standing outside a restaurant shoving a menu in your face trying to get you to come and eat. I have experienced this in many cities. Look, You could have the most amazing restaurant in the world, but you shove a menu in my face, I will never ever eat there.
Now there are definitely some things I liked about Cusco. Cusco was a get shit done city. I had been looking to make a few extra copies of my licence and a laminated copy of my passport. I was also able to get some small repairs done to my Mosko Moto luggage at a place that makes shoes and other leather good. I replace some socks (wool of course) and found a replacement day pack that I lost somewhere between Colombia and Ecuador. I was impressed by the “availability” of things in Cusco. I even found handlebar muffs for my motorcycle. One of the best investments I would spend money on!
Cusco sits on the ancient city of Sacsayhuamán. Sacsayhuamán was the capital for the Inca people in Peru. The city was huge. But what makes Sacsayhuamán famous is the construction. The Incas were able to shape and carve the giant stone to fit with such precision, that you cant even slip a piece of paper in between them. No mortar was used. They were locked together like pieces of a puzzle and gravity. The main part of the historic city sits on top of a hill overlooking the city, but even inside the city, you can see parts of the ancient construction blended with modern buildings.
Sacsayhuamán (pronounced “sexy woman”)
Ancient wall in Cusco
After a few days in Cusco, I headed to Machu Picchu. I stopped in the small town of Pisac. A place that was recommended to me. It was a nice quaint town, with a big stinky hippy community. This is one of those places that was discovered 10 years ago by some Expatriate and built a hippie community from it. The village has been taken over by gringos that stink like fermented dumpster. There are shops on every corner selling “fair trade, organic, crystal energy” crap at ridiculous prices. Organic restaurants with prices to boot. I wanted to have a curry at one restaurant, but the Teepee drum circle and dreadlock white people dancing like zombies turned me away.
Apparently there they use a drug called Ayahuasca, a plant used by the Incas as a hallucinogen. The Incas used it for medical / spiritual reasons. Gringo use it saying the same idea, but we all know that’s bullshit.
Streets of Pisac
Teepee drum circle
After Machu Picchu, I returned to Cusco for a few days and met up with my buddy Steve again. We would spend a few days together eating and drinking and sharing experiences.
Museum of natural history
One more thing to do in Cusco is take a day trip to the Rainbow Mountain. Just a few hours outside of Cusco, I rode there on my moto. The hike to see the mountain takes you over 5000 meters. For most people, it takes about two - three hours. Of course I did it about an hour. Although the elevation forced me to take breaks the hike was absolutely beautiful.
Getting a later start in the day than I wanted, by the time I arrive, everybody was coming down the mountain. I was literally the only person going up. And by the time a reached the vista, I was the only person there! What incredible luck! I mean there were at least 1000 people there coming down, and I had the place to myself. I setup my tripod and went to work taking photos.
It was a quick hike down, and by the time I reached the parking area, my moto was the only vehicle there.
One more night in Cusco, and then I would be off to Arequipa. From there, I will store my moto while I return to Guatemala for a week.