John and I went for a short walk around a nearby park. It was very hot and humid and there were stands on the street corners selling Inka Kola, this yellow soda pop. After seeing it everywhere, John bought a bottle to try. It tasted like a combination of bubble gum and cream soda. Not my favourite.
|The ubiquitous Inka Kola|
Reynaldo picked us up and we were off to the airport for our flight to Cuzco. For a Sunday morning there was really heavy traffic. Reynaldo explained that today was a day for college admission exams. Students can receive free college education but there are over 25000 applicants for 1500 spots.
Our flight to Cuzco was quick and uneventful and we grabbed a cab ride to our hotel, the Terra Viva Cusco Saphi. When researching hotels on TripAdvisor, Booking.com and other websites, I had noticed that at some hotels the cab had to drop you off at the bottom of a hill and then you had to hike upstairs to the hotel. At such a high altitude I knew I didn't want to be doing extra hiking, and I was thrilled when the cab dropped us off right at the front door.
|our room with traditional alpaca decoration|
|the front of our hotel in Cusco|
It was a great hotel and only $100 per night - close to the Plaza de Armas but far enough away that it was quiet at night. Our room was big and bright, and there was a lovely interior courtyard where we could sit outside and relax. In the lobby there was a pot of coca tea as well as loose coca leaves to help combat the altitude sickness that many people experience.
|Image from theculturetrip.com|
We went for a walk downtown to Plaza de Armas and there was some sort of water balloon and shaving cream battle going on. I'm not sure why, but everyone seemed to be having a great time. There was a large crowd gathered to the one side so we went over there and watched some sort of dramatic presentation that involved two men in costumes having a pretend battle. I really need to learn more Spanish so I can ask more questions!
|Some of the shaving cream fight participants|
|wearing a hat of shaving cream|
Plaza de Armas was beautiful and I'm glad we stayed nearby. I loved all the cobblestone streets, the historic buildings, the gardens - a great homebase for exploring Cusco.
|Shops and restaurants along the perimeter of Plaza de Armas|
|The Inca fountain - a new and controversial addition to the Plaza|
The Plaza is beautiful and filled with restaurants, shops and people offering massages. I guess they figure you need a massage after all the uphill hiking that you are doing in and around the Sacred Valley. Facing the cathedral is a tall golden Inca statue which was added in 2011 and caused a great deal of controversy. Some residents feel it is helping to restore the Inca presence to the city and others feel that the Plaza is a colonial area and the fountain should have been left in its original form. I guess there used to be a statue that someone brought from New York with a Native American Indian with a bow and arrow at the top of the fountain. I think that would look weirdly out of place in Cusco, but that's just my opinion!
We settled on a patio for a leisurely dinner overlooking the street and then were off to bed. After all this walking and fresh air, the bed felt wonderful!