Cusco and Maras!

After our last night in Arequipa, we hopped on a night bus to Cusco. Thankfully we booked far enough in advance that we got some seats on the nice bus line (Cruz del Sur) which was all tourists! It was pretty funny because it felt like everyone we met in Peru was at the bus station with us, including a nice Canadian guy from Winnipeg from the hostel. When we arrived in Cusco, we saw him at the bus station but he was not friendly at all – we figured out that he must just not be a night bus and morning person. We saw him a few days later in town and found out the truth though – he got super sick with altitude and pneumonia and had to be hospitalized for 2 days! He even apologized for not being friendly at the morning bus station which was hilarious because we noticed he was acting different. He even had to cancel his fancy Salkantay Trek he booked in advance but luckily his company had him going on a train trip to Machu Picchu instead (more on seeing him there in my next post). Even more than in Asia, all travellers are going to the same places – it is so cool! We keep seeing the same people all over again. Though it’s mostly Kristy seeing them as I am terrible with faces and we discovered this in our time together that she is very visually oriented and I am very spatially oriented.

We got to Cusco on Sunday morning (August 12) and were zombies for most of the day due to the night bus. We went to this adorable cafe in the main square of Cusco though which brought us life with their delicious coffee and pastries! It’s called Valeriana and a bit more on the pricey side, but worth it!

We spent the rest of the day figuring or our game plan. Due to all the stuff we’ve wanted to do here, we decided to stay in Cusco for the rest of our trip! We booked a flight to Lima for the day before we leave for Canada and then hung out with friends we made in the hostel. I made friends with this Welsh guy which was exciting because that rarely happens when I travel (I studied abroad in North Wales for a year). Some of us went out to a local dance place and had a great time! Though every song was in Spanish we are starting to get to know them and love them. They sure like playing the Spanish non-Bieber version of Despacito!

The next day Kristy and I went on a walking tour that was suggested by our hostel. It was awesome – our group was really small and our guide was very informative. He took us into this square where we watched a man perform a traditional song with about 10 different instruments, and we had a Pisco Sour sample at the top of this awesome rooftop patio! Obviously it’s part of the network with this walking tour company but it was still great – the worst part was the stairs up to this rooftop place, with the altitude our breathing was quite heavy.

The 2 other people on our walking tour had just done the Salkantay Trek, so we were grilling them about what to bring and what company to go with. The girl of the duo gave us valuable advice to make sure that the tour operator has a certificate and told us that she had gone to 5 different agencies before she could find the best deal. We ended up asking where her operator was and who he was and decided to book with him because this girl said she had no problems on the tour and really enjoyed it!

We then looked around for Willy for our tour. Our instructions were that his name is Willy and his office shares a hallway with a Tattoo parlour near the Plaza De Armas. What we didn’t realize was they his office didn’t have signage for his agency, just this other agency called Glacier Travel. It felt like we were on the Amazing Race trying to find him – we ended up finally finding him after asking another operator in the area where he was. We booked our Salkantay Trek with him for the Wednesday August 15 for $185 USD which was a good price considering we were supposed to be getting our trek plus going on a zipline. We were told to make sure everything we got was on our receipt so here it is for your viewing – it will come in handy for my next post but did NOT come in handy for us on our trek – but that is a story within itself!

The next morning we ventured to Maras to visit the Salt Mines and Moray. I did some research and found it was very easy to do ourselves and much cheaper than booking a tour. We asked the woman at the desk in our hostel for how to access Maras by bus and she was so helpful! We ended up taking a 15 passenger van bus to maras which took just over an hour for 6 soles (about 2.50 CAD). The bus dropped us off at this junction where we haggled with a taxi driver to drive us around for 3 hours for 60 soles in total. We were told not to pay more than 40 soles total but I have such a problem haggling with money sums less than $10……. I always think that the money is more important to them than to me especially if it’s still great value!

First the driver took us to the Moray ruins which were a bit outside of town, probably a 20 minute drive. The roads were so sketchy but we made it! We paid the entrance fee of 70 soles which also gets you into some other sites near the city of Urubamba but we just wanted to see Moray! It was beautiful! We asked an older Italian man to take a photo of us and it was important to him that we take one “feeling the energy” of the ruins – can you guess which photo it was of the following?

After Moray, the driver took us to the Salt Mines! They are about another 30 minute drive from Moray in the other direction of the bus junction so we buckled in. There’s a really adorable community vibe that goes on in Peru where random people who need a ride just hop in with tourists in their taxis to get where they need to be if it’s on the way! It’s all part of the fun.

The Salt Mines only cost 10 soles to get in and were unbelievable. I’ll let the photos explain for themselves:

Our driver drove us back then we had to wait on the side of the road for a bit for a bus back. The first private bus that passed was full so we were nervous it would be a while, but a big city bus pulled up and brought us back to Cusco for 4 soles each! It even dropped us off right near the hostel we were staying at as it was the end of the bus line. This one was a bit slower as it passed through all the smaller towns but I didn’t mind – it’s fun to see how the locals do it. Taking public transport is one of my favourite things to do while travelling and I try to do it when I can! For more transport stories check out my blog post about the boat bus in Bangkok from May 2017.

We got back to Cusco and prepped for our Salkantay Trek! We had to rent a small backpack to give to the mule for the hike and other small housekeeping things. We ate at a delicious Italian restaurant near Plaza De Armas and it was so nice to eat something that I knew wouldn’t give me stomach issues – I had a lot of trouble with that in the Colca Canyon. It was an early morning the next day so we conked out early for our next adventure! Get excited for that blog post as I can only describe our Salkantay Experience as a gong show.

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