While our first day in Cusco brought us incredible sunny conditions for sightseeing, we woke up on our second day to a chillier morning, cloudier skies and intermittent hail. I’m not sure how hail falls out of a blue sky, but apparently it’s possible. In any case, a little hail wasn’t going to stop us. I had a few things that intrigued me for day two: San Blas, Planetarium Cusco and the Museo de Plantas Sagradas, Magicas y Medicinales. Unfortunately, day two for us was a Sunday when many spots are closed, or open by appointment only. While a few of our agenda items went out the window, San Blas still made the cut. We kicked off our morning with a ridiculous breakfast buffet offered by Hotel Monasterio. We had to handle a few logistical issues regarding our trip to Machu Picchu (more on that soon as other travelers may encounter something similar), and then were off to the races.
We departed our hotel and made a quickie pitstop at the Museo de Coca to sidestep a bit of rain and gain some insight into the history of coca. Entry is free on Sunday which we were pretty happy about… if I had to pay anything more than S/. 3, I would have probably felt slighted. We did, however, leave with a box of coca tea, coca lozenges, and some coca candies for our hike to San Blas.
We’d read about San Blas, an artsy area that’s inhabited primarily by hostelers and backpackers looking to explore Cusco and the neighboring areas. We had also read that there’s a fairly steep, somewhat treacherous hike to get to the area. I had prepared myself: I was going to be huffing and puffing up a steep alleyway and was going to be slamming water and sweating as I approached the hilltop.
Well, fellow travelers, let me say this: yes, it’s a hill but there are stairs. It’s maybe 50 steps to the top and I would never describe it as treacherous. We were slightly out of breath due to altitude, but it doesn’t require an athletic build to scale this thing. If you have severe altitude sickness take it slowly, but for most travelers it’s a simple task. Perhaps living in San Francisco changed our views on walking up and down hills.
The area is definitely more artsy than the main city center. Hostels adorn San Blas and cute, affordable restaurants and cafes dot many of the streets. There were loads of colorful chalkboard signs designating the local fare that each eatery had to offer with many places doling out fresh local juices, crepes, sandwiches and pizza.
We carefully began our descent back into the main area, dodging hail and rain drops as we walked down the steps. The hail did put a bit of a damper on sightseeing, but we felt fairly content with what we’d seen on our first day as well. Scott was feeling the altitude (you can see the post on his soroche here) so we made our way back to our warm hotel and lounged in our ornate lobby, sipping on more coca tea to get our (read: his) groove back.
With the altitude getting the best of him, I let him nap and went out to explore a bit before the sun finally set on our last day in Cusco. The famous 12-angled stone was on our radar but I hadn’t yet visited. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but the experience was a bit anticlimactic. This is the stone:
Now, that’s not to say I’m not impressed with Incan masonry — I get that this is a total feat considering how all of these stones fit together without mortar — but with all of the hype that it got I was expecting something… more, I suppose. In any case, I headed back to Plaza de Armas to take a few snapshots of what ended up being a gorgeous day in the Highlands. After roaming around, I posted up at Starbucks for a quick bit of caffeine. In all honesty, a Starbucks is the last place I’d want to be in Cusco when it comes to coffee shops, but the location was just so killer, I couldn’t help but sit outside and soak in the sunset.
Stay tuned for details from our next adventure! I’m sharing some photos from our journey to Machu Picchu on the Hiram Bingham train plus our first day exploring the ruins.
xoxo from Peru,