OYOP: A Tour of Cusco, Peru
We took a collectivo to get back to Cusco. A collectivo is a public transportation van where the driver crams as many people as possible before taking off, so it’s definitely one way to get cozy with the locals. It’s also much cheaper than a taxi, tourist bus, or train, so it’s been our main source of transportation between towns.
To get from town to town, you inevitably have to wind through the mountains. You should not expect the steep cliffs to have railings to stop you from going over the edge. You should expect mostly fast drivers passing up the slow, cautious, reasonable drivers even on mountain bends.
Even so, riding in a collectivo is fun. Listening to the local radio station includes lots of pop music like Paul Simon and the Beatles played as instrumentals with traditional Peruvian flutes and strings, and you can’t beat the views. You can’t help but laugh when the driver takes a detour into small towns along the way and leans out the window yelling “Cusco, Cusco, Cusco!” to try and pick up more passengers. It’s best to just take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.
Our first day back in Cusco was one of those unplanned, unexpectedly great days. We got a little lost finding our hostel, but once we did, we were pleasantly surprised by the nice common areas and the room.
We planned to visit Saqsaywaman (you can kind of pronounce it “sexy woman”, go ahead, try it!) because it was the last day we could visit those ruins on our 10-day boleto touristico ticket we purchased back in Pisac to visit multiple ruins. We weren’t sure the best way to get there from the city center.
At the last minute we found a free walking tour that included a free bus ride to Saqsaywaman, so we chose it for the free transportation alone and didn’t know we were in for such a treat.
We started in the main Plaza with historical information we’d heard before on the Inka trail. We then visited a local restaurant and got free alpaca samples, yum! We moved on to the main cathedral and learned a little about the religious history.
Then, the fun really started. We climbed up high into the San Blas area to a church & viewpoint overlooking the city that we didn’t know existed.
From here, we caught a bus to the Saqsaywaman area. We visited the Christo Blanco, a large statue of Christ that was put here by the Spanish. As they took over Inkan cities, they mainly did so by converting the Inkan people to Catholism, which is why you see big cathedrals in the city center where Inkan temples used to be and Christian paintings with coca leaves and other local touches added in by locals during the time of the Spanish takeover.
We planned on leaving the tour here to go into the ruins. But we could see all of the ruins perfectly from outside of the entrance, and with the tour bringing us new places, we decided to stick with it instead.
We then walked through the local farmlands and learned more about local agriculture. We stopped at a market and were given a presentation on spinning and dying wool, and on how to tell the difference between baby alpaca wool, adult alpaca wool, vacuna wool, and knockoffs of mixed and acryllic. This was very helpful since the local markets in all the towns we had been so far sell various blankets and goods made out of alpaca wool but they don’t all feel the same since some are knockoffs.
We hopped back on the bus and visited a music shop in San Blas. The owner played us songs traditional songs of the locals on both string and wind instruments.
Last, we stopped at a beautiful, modern bar with a window wall overlooking the city and had free pisco sours and ordered some food. It felt like luxury being in a modern place with a great view!
We don’t normally opt for tours to see a city, but this free walking tour may have changed my mind. We saw a lot of the city, had transportation included, and learned more than I expected.