Cusco was a really fantastic city. I ate incredible food, hid from the daily afternoon rainstorms with cards, coffees and pan au chocolat; and walked through the markets, inspecting the freshly butchered meats and the almuerzo lunch specials. I love towns where you’re able to spend your days walking through the streets, finding markets with women selling their fruit on the street, little back street clothing stores and dipping in and out of churches.
My first night in Cusco I went to the most incredible cafe, Organika, where I ate a fresh sesame prawn salad with a zingy lemongrass dressing. I strolled over at 8pm, but the cafe was so popular I waited for about half an hour, only to share a table. I love these experiences, waiting for an excellent meal – and met some really lovely Canadian travellers along the way.
Cusco is undeniably touristy, but in a really relaxed way. Aside from the near constant calls for massages and trips to Machu Picchu, it is littered with really lovely healthy, vegetarian cafes and cake shops – just the thing you need in a cloudy and cold little town.
Every morning I would stroll down to the public market, with cuy (guinea pigs) displayed atop small buckets by women on the side of the road – plucked hairless and disemboweled, displayed on their backs in a way that makes it seem like their final moments were those of terror. (Probably were). Walking past the alien guinea pigs, I would enter the markets to seek out arroz con huevo y palta, a traditional Peruvian breakfast of plain white rice, half an avocado, a tomato and onion salsa, some fries and a fried egg. Although probably not the most nutritious, it was a beautiful, delicious start to the morning – Peruvians line up on benches in rows behind their favourite breakfast stall, starting their mornings with a little local conversation. I imagine that there are people who visit the same stall every morning – the true definition of a regular. In fact, when I went to the same stall two days in a row – I was met with a cheery smile and a slightly larger serving than the day before.
Before you ask — I didn’t go to Machu Picchu. I decided that if I was to visit, I would want to do the Salkantay Trek – that’s the thing that interests me more, rather than the actual place – but I wasn’t able to do that because of time restrictions, so visiting the site wasn’t worth it to me. I’ll just have to come back to do the whole shabang in full.