After spending numerous hours pouring through over 400 photos from the past week in Cusco and along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, I have successfully managed to narrow down the load to approximately 50 "unexcludable blogworthy" images. Given the lack of attention span from the average blogger, as well as my own desire to avoid spending the next 5 hours in the internet cafe, I have decided to split this blog into two separate parts. Thus, I leave you with part one of this unintentionally-planned two part series: Cusco.
As quite possibly the most popular tourist destination in South America, the once capital of the Incan Empire resembles nothing of the sort from centuries ago, and instead has been replaced by a city that thrives upon the needy, wanty, oh-so-photo-happy, tourist. With Incan ruins and ancient cathedrals sharing lucrative space with a McDonald's, KFC and endless massage parlors for the weary hiker, this once beautiful city, although still incredibly beautiful, can most easily be summarized by the following two words: "No Gracias."
With constant offers for tours to Machu Picchu, massages, special restaurant promotions, massages, any llama-ordained item thought possible, and of course, more massages, it is almost impossible to navigate the busy streets of Cusco without street hawkers bombarding their way into whatever semblance of serenity you would hope to have. A casual stroll down the road involves at a minimum, 85 "no gracias's," and thus, despite the overwhelming amount of amazing touristy sites within the realm of Cusco, I spent the majority of my pre-Inca-Trail time avoiding anything related to tourism. The usually avid "sight-seer" in me instead found more comfort watching English-subtitled movies in the hostel, as well as frequenting the same 10 sole ($3.50) 4-course restaurant day-in and day-out. Nevertheless, I still leave you with what highlights comprised my four days of "waiting" in what, somehow turned out to be, one of my favorite cities in South America:
Stone Walls - With the Incan Empire priding itself on architectural structures that have lasted almost a millennium, one thing that is unavoidable in Cusco are shapely stones that seem to dominate the sides of every building in this city. Stones that fit perfectly with one another, stones that fit somewhat perfectly together, and even stones that don´t fit perfectly at all. All are found throughout the city. Supposedly there is even a stone that has 12 sides, although I could only count 9. I love lamp.
Cuy - With only several days left in Peru, I decided to depart from my 10 sole "go-to-meal," and dedicate my 2nd to last night in Cusco tracking down and consuming one of the most infamous local dishes in this gastronomically-friendly country: Cuy. More commonly referred to as a Guinea Pig everywhere else but South America, Cuy can be consumed in many different ways, but only one way is the ¨true¨ proper culinary style: Whole. Thus, as I sat alone in a quiet restaurant, as nobody shared my enthusiasm to devour their 3rd favorite pet as a child, I stared in confusion as an entire Guinea Pig lay before me (head, arms, legs, even claws). Unknowing how to begin, the friendly owner of the establishment provided me with the encouraging words of "Come todo" (eat everything). Thus I began to slowly devour away at what surprisingly was a very delicious meal, until of course, my fork no longer found meat, and instead found several squishy organ-esque objects located within the Guinea Pig´s now-half-devoured corpse. Several deep breaths later, a heart and 1/2 a liver were uncomfortably settling in my stomach (I did not find any other organs, and thus assume they made a similar path as the aforementioned bits). With the only remaining aspect of the Cuy left to eat, the head, I avoiding partaking in prying this poor critter's jaws apart to sample it's bite size brain, and instead left the restaurant officially removing "furry childhood pet's" from my future to-eat list.
Honorable Mentions - Reunion City (encountered almost 15+ friends from every country traveled to thus far all randomly in Cusco at the same time), Llama Girl´s (see photo below).
That's about it. I leave you with an onslaught of pics:
Next week: The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu