Back in touristville – Cusco, Peru

A windy road in the mountainside

Part of the road winding down into Cusco

26 October – Day 96

Abancay, Peru to Cusco, Peru
Distance: 189kms

We are back in tourist town, and wow does it show! I think there are more gringos here in Cusco than in, say, Sydney!! Lots of the signs – and menus – are in English, and the prices back up to western levels. By way of illustration, our entire dinner for two last night in Abancay, which included a bottle of red wine and a pitcher of freshly squeezed  papaya juice (blended? I’m not sure you can actually squeeze a papaya) cost the same as one main meal in Cusco tonight – without a beverage. And at a little grocery store in a small town on the way into Cusco today I bought three bananas, a drink, a slice of madeira cake and two little chocolate bars for less than the cost of a single 500ml bottle of water in Cusco!

That said, we’ve found ourselves a cozy little hostel with very secure bike parking only a couple of blocks from the main square that seems to be excellent value. The bike is parked inside the dining room…and to get there, Adrian (again!) skilfully rode up multiple stairs and through a narrow doorway. It’s becoming a bit of a reoccurring theme this trip, the whole parking inside thing… so much so, that Adrian has already mentioned the prospect of Beamsky being in our living room when we get home. I just keep saying ‘Mm-hmm, let’s see..’…!

It was a fairly easy albeit very windy road into Cusco with a couple of unpaved sections towards the end that were unexpectedly rough… so it was good to be riding fresh, rather than having come all the way from Ayacucho as per the original plan. Plus it meant that we had an extra afternoon to wander around Cusco and do the sort of homey things only available in touristy places in South America, like drinking Affogatos!!!

We spent the afternoon perched on the outside balcony of a pub above the main square, just people watching. It was excellent playing ‘guess which country that tourist is from’ and admiring the coordinated ‘I’m a western tourist outfit’ that many, many couples wear. You know the outfits: waterproof hiking shoes or boots – or reef sandals (with white or black socks, for some of the north European tourists. Never the Australians though; they’re more the haviana thongs type of traveller), khaki or grey pants with zip off legs and cargo pockets. A gortex Northface/Katmandu/Marmot/Colombia jacket or vest. Backpack or, for the Americans, a bum bag. Digital SLR. We saw whole groups of people wearing this uniform. It’s so funny – all the more so because we have exactly the same outfits too!!

We spent quite a while in the shelter of the pub even after we’d had our fill of people watching, hiding first from the rain and then the hail. Needless to say, we were SO happy that we’d decided to push on yesterday to Abancay, otherwise we’d have been riding through torrential rain and on muddy switchbacks all afternoon. In Cusco, whole streets flooded – to the extent that walking back to our hostel involved crossing a road in water above my ankles. And sure, my gringo waterproof hiking shoes are, well, waterproof… but not when you submerge the entire shoe!!