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< Sakura & Bonus Wrap-up, Japan - 2015 | The Inca Trail, Peru - 2015 >

Monday, November 09, 2015

Lima & Cusco, Peru - 2015

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 09/11/2015 22:42:56

A "great deal" on flights convinced Pao and I to head back to South America once more to visit her family, so we decided to add Peru and Machu Picchu to the trip to make the long hauls worthwhile. We started off our trip with two nights in Lima and then two nights in Cusco to help us acclimatise to the altitude for the trek.

During the first 24 hours of flights I was constantly stressing over our arrival in Buenos Aires, where we had less than 2 hours to collect bags, clear customs and then check-in to the next flight to Lima with a different carrier. Surprisingly we made it with time to spare, eventually arriving at our hotel quite late without much time to do anything other than sleep.

Why Not?
The kind of behaviour you come to expect from Argentinian travellers. Not pictured is the way they all jump up as soon as the plane lands (still taxiing and seatbelt sign on) to retrieve their carry-on luggage with nary a concern for the protesting attendants

I had heard that inner-city Lima is probably not the best place to spend time, so decided on the nearby Miraflores District for three main reasons: it looked nice from my limited research, it was the location of a highly-rated Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant and it was close to a cat park. What more would we need?

Rocky Kisses
Also close-by was the "Love Park" with this statue of two people making out. Get a room!

Our first meal in Peru was at Maido for a 15-course "Nikkei Experience", combining Japanese and Peruvian cuisine with over-the-top presentation (our first course resembled a pot plant). The serving sizes were small, but when you have 15 of them, you still fill up quickly. The highlights for me included the regional sausage and roasted plantain appetizers and both the "sea" and "land" sushies. Overall a very delicious meal!

Yummy Plant
It looks like our pot plant is also growing a little Peruvian man

Yummy Rock
Another delicious meal, prime wagyu rib, egg yolk and cecina fried rice. They go to great lengths to ensure you can't steal their crockery

After lunch we headed up to Kennedy Park, known locally as the cat park - and we weren't disappointed. Many cats were indeed at the park, being looked after by local (presumably slightly crazy) volunteers. There were also large speakers playing music that some of the locals were dancing to (with many more looking on) - overall quite a nice vibe at the park.

Cat Food
It appears I'm not the only one that is suspicious of the red-shirt guy eating cat food

Dancing People
I'm sure there was a certain style of music / dance they were exhibiting - but it's all the same to me

With only one full day in Lima we wanted to tick off as much as possible, so even though we were still slightly full from lunch we headed to the Huaca Pucllana restaurant which is next to an archaeological site of the same name. Eating our dinner outside with view of the pyramid was quite relaxing, even though neither of us could finish our food.

Dinner View
Apparently this pyramid allowed the elite clergymen to express their complete religious power and control the use of natural water resources back in the day - isn't that nice

After our brief stay in Lima we headed to Cusco so that we could start acclimatising to the altitude. Almost straight away the lack of oxygen hit me and I was having trouble breathing / walking short distances even though we went straight from the airport to the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo's temple hill) which is a tad lower. After a night of restless sleep we consulted a doctor and were taken to an oxygen clinic for the better part of the day. So the majority of our first few days in Cusco was spent in a bed trying to relax. When we returned to Cusco after the 4-day Inca Trail I was far, far sicker and not able to walk much without needing to sit down or run to a toilet. Even so we managed to look around the city a little and get a bit of a feel for it.

Step To It
The terraces of Ollantaytambo - pretty steep as it is, much worse when you are gasping for air

Firstly, the traffic was probably as bad as anywhere I've been (which includes Italy, Egypt and Malaysia). We took a (company-supplied) taxi from the train station to our hotel. Our impatient driver was going about 80 km/h down the wrong side of the road to overtake a bus with a few cars coming directly towards us. Instead of slowing down and merging back into our lane, he continued his course and just expected the other cars to swerve out of our way. Oh, and neither of the back seats had seat belts (almost none did). Fortunately, after a few annoyed honks they did swerve out of our way and we survived - but it wasn't the only close shave we experienced.

The majority of the city had a typical South American feel to the architecture (although the buildings next to the main square had been rebuilt somewhat recently) - lots of stone and plenty of colours. As we were constantly close to the main square we couldn't walk more than a meter without a various commercial opportunities (massage, taxi, tours etc). One thing I did find interesting about the main square is that they had a lot of Western favourites (Maccas, KFC and Starbucks) but there must be a rule about gaudy signs - as each shop had a very simple monotone logo outside their building.

Market
We happened to be in Cusco during The Day of the Living - which amounted to a street market and a punch of annoying fireworks


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