It’s a different day in a new country!
FROM IGUAZU, BRASIL TO CUSCO
VIA LIMA, PERU
Few minutes after 6 in the morning, I and my fellow passengers of LAN Airlines started to deplane and were welcomed by 4-degrees Celsius at the terminal in Cusco, Peru. The night before our arrival, I left Iguazu, Brasil at almost dusk with 24 degree-weather, and reached the surprisingly massive airport of Lima, Peru following 2 and half hour flight.
With so much excitement and anticipation, I turned myself into something like sleep-deprived-traveler-zombie, as I did not shut an eye over my favourite Venti cup of hot coffee. At 4:40AM, I boarded another flight with LAN Airlines, and arrived at Cusco in a very embarrassing situation. I was the only single soul wearing black shorts and black shirt; while everyone was wearing thermals and warmers, as we all wait for our check-in luggages to collect from the conveyor belt. It was an epic fail moment for me. I traveled from Dubai to South America without knowing it’ll be 4 degrees Celsius, therefore I visited Peru sans a single jacket. Shame, shame, shame! I should’ve checked for the city’s weather forecast (I always do actually, but in this trip, I didn’t have valid reason why I don’t know). I learned my lesson well! Never again!
WHERE I STAYED IN CUSCO, PERU
From the airport in Cusco, I took a taxi cab to my chosen accommodation, Costa del Sol Ramada Cusco. I knew I’ll arrive early prior to regular check-in time, hence I came prepared with itinerary to maximise time. Good thing, my room was available already, and there was no recollection that they charged me an extra cost for an early-check in.
The lobby and the entire hotel made me feel like entering a monastery of a bygone era.
Then there’s their lovely courtyard.
The entrance to the new wing of Costa del Sol Ramada Cusco, on way to my room.
My room : Simple yet clean and provided me much-needed restful sleep.
Spotless. I’m always particular with toilet and bath, aren’t you?
After freshening up, I didn’t waste time and went my way to the streets of Cusco.
MY FIRST IMPRESSION OF CUSCO
Cusco is a place where I can see myself retiring. Like Brazil, I fell in love with Cusco at first sight. While the cool mountain breeze was caressing my skin, my eyes were delighted with all things pretty. From the inviting public parks where one can freely lounge all day long and think of nothing; to its narrow cobblestone alleys that are remarkably paralleled by century-old colonial shophouses. Time stood still in Cusco. It was a town where everything seemed frozen and remained unaffected by modern city’s complexities.
If I perceived Istanbul as an ancient city crowned with domes and minarets, Cusco’s skyline was dominated by bricks and bell towers.
I was literally panting and manifesting labored breathing when I was strolling up and down.
SOROCHE or ALTITUDE SICKNESS
If you’re going to Machu Picchu, better head to Ollantaytanbo train station immediately from Cusco Airport, then take train to Aguas Callientes directly, and stay at MachuPicchu Pueblo for a night or two, before spending a day in Machu Picchu and finally, to visit Cusco town proper. This is to avoid altitude sickness or Soroche as it’s called in Cusco. This is called acclimatization. How? Since Cusco town proper is located at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters), while Machu Picchu is relevantly lower at 7,972 ft (2,430 m), it is best to stay at a lower altitude initially prior going further. Because I didn’t heed to this advice, I must admit, I experienced air hunger as I ascend the famous mountain where ancient Incan civilization was built. What did I do? Deep breathing and taking everything easy made me conquer Machu Picchu (my day in MP on separate blog post).
PLAZA DE ARMAS DEL CUSCO
From the period when Inca Empire reigned until present, Plaza de Armas has been the heart of Cusco. It’s one of the most charming and quaint UNESCO Heritage Sites I’ve been to. The plaza is surrounded by cathedral and churches that mostly demand admission rates before one could enter. Apparently, the fees go to conservation efforts and maintenance expenses.
Cusco Cathedral in Plaza de Armas
La Compania de Jesus or The Church of the Society of Jesus
Fountain at Plaza de Armas with view of La Compania de Jesus
As I continued to walk and looked for my itinerary that morning, I saw some friendly locals clad in their traditional colorful Peruvian attires. I didn’t pass the chance to have photos with them, even if I had to pay them minimal Peruvian Soles.
SOUVENIRS FROM CUSCO
I promised myself to buy only inexpensive fridge magnets and few shirts for my brother and son back home, but my knees were weak to resist these Peruvian art reproduction at an artisan’s shop in one of the streets in Cusco.
The siblings who manned the shop. They were too generous to provide me discount.
Reminiscent of the Cuzco School (Escuela Cuzqueña) during the Colonial era from 16th to 18th centuries when Roman Catholic promoted religion through arts, I purchased an irresistible reproduction painting of an angel that will forever remind me of Cusco, and where my name was derived from.
BELMOND HOTEL MONASTERIO CUSCO
Despite it took awhile walking uphill and downhill, and was delayed a bit due to buying of souvenirs on my first day in Peru, I was not late on my appointment and I arrived at Belmond Hotel Monasterio Cusco at few minutes before 10AM.
I learnt that it’s the most luxurious hotel in Cusco, Peru owing to the fact that it’s rich in heritage and history being a former monastery where school of arts conducted by Catholic church during colonial era flourished to its fullest. I was there for their one hour-curated and guided tour for me to better appreciate the Peruvian paintings and set foot inside its chapel that stood through the years.
The courtyard appeared so picturesque!
The facade of the chapel within Belmond Hotel Monasterio.
The main ratablo or altar predominantly made ornate with gold leaves.
The pulpito is also in gold.
The choir and distal areas of the chapel were never overlooked.
There were so many paintings shown and explained to me, and I really thought 30 USD fee for that one hour tour was so worth it!
BREAKFAST AT BELMOND HOTEL MONASTERIO
How often do you eat your first meal of the day inside a former monastery cum religious art school? I asked myself that simple query. It was not difficult to convince myself to avail of the breakfast buffet at Belmond Hotel Monasterio. Although last August 2015, their rates were at 25 USD per head, they miraculously offered it to me at only 13 USD. And did I already tell you that it’s an eat-all-you-want-breakfast? Oh men, Hallelujiah!
After my tour within the vicinity of a former monastery, now a luxurious hotel, and following my breakfast buffet, I walked my way back to the hotel where I was staying. Of course, the curious adventurer in me decided to drop by another place of interest again. That time, it was one of the most regarded local museum, the Inca Museo. Another vast courtyard, friendly locales, pleasant weather.
Local weavers flashed some welcoming smiles. It felt so warm despite it’s too cold.
I still believe it was one of my worthwhile mornings! And I spent it in Cusco, Peru!
This South American Travel Blog Series includes :
- Brasil : My Lovely Home in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Helicopter Tour Over Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Cristo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro
- Itinerary of Must Visit Places in Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : 36 hours in Sao Paulo
- Brasil : Chasing Waterfalls at Iguazu
- Peru : My First Day In Cusco
- and so much more to follow. Please stay tuned for stories and photos from Peru and Bolivia!
Ignore the hassles and just learn from them. Life is too short to waste without appreciation.