I’m not sure if it was the altitude or the cold but for some reason I woke up early that morning. There was an older lady living in the next apartment over that would yell late into the night, but she was fast asleep at this point. Everything was quite, so I slipped out of bed and got to work.
The tap water in Peru is not the cleanest in the world, so I brought my own water filter. Every day I would have to pump about two gallons of water, which would take the better part of an hour. It really became a part of my morning routine and I didn’t mind it. The altitude of Cusco was really starting to get to me, and this water pumping felt like a workout in and of itself. With my leftover time, I also had a quick meditation session and sipped some tea I had blended the day before. The beautiful white capped peaks of the nearby mountains were clearly visible from our apartment and on a clear day it was nice to just look out at them.
Once it got to a reasonable hour, we headed out to San Blas market, one of the hidden gems of the area we were staying. This was an indoor market that gad a ton of great options for food. We ended up getting some great smoothies for under a dollar. I could’ve added an avocado toast to that order for another dollar, but I had my sites set on something grander. A man in the back of the market makes a “Green Falafel” that has made him somewhat of a celebrity around San Blas. Everyone attempts to make this “Green Falafel” but I decided I wanted to go with the original. I would have to wait about an hour for him to open because he was deeply invested in a soccer game on TV, but it was well worth it. The chickpea dough was blended with so many herbs and spices that it turned a light green color and he made his own sauce by blending tomatoes and peppers until they turned into a smooth puree. He also Panini pressed the outer wrap until it was as crispy as a tortilla chip. This was such amazing food, but we were already behind schedule so I had to order it to go. We ate it on the steps of the main square as we watched the parade go by.
The parade was in day two, and they were showing no sign of stopping. In fact, the festivities had only grew in intensity! Off of the main square, we could see an armada of paper machete floats just waiting to be deployed. We quickly weaved our way through the crowds on our way over to the legendary San Pedro market, Cusco’s largest. While walking down one of the streets, we heard a loud chanting behind us. “Stampede!” someone yelled. I looked behind and there was a parade of about 200 people coming right towards us. Instead of walking, they were running full speed with weapons and shields in hand. It would seem that during the parade in Cusco, nowhere is safe!
We headed up the hill and eventually got to a beautiful cathedral and the outdoor portion of the market. We got some amazing almond milk chocolate here and tried plenty of other free samples. Chocolate is the one thing in Peru that was more expensive than I would’ve thought. The prices are about the same as they would be in the U.S, perhaps even more. Expect to pay about $3-5 per bar of high quality chocolate. This is well worth the price for a bar or two, but if you promised your family a ton of chocolate upon your return, you may end up spending a little more than you thought. I ended up spending about $40 for my “gift chocolate” by the end of the trip.
When we got into the main part of the market, I was blown away by the sheer scale of it. There must’ve been around 100 shops here, all selling pretty unique things. I saw a few mate gourds and bombillas that really caught my eye, and before I knew it I was suckered into purchasing half a kilo of Yerba. The prices here were half of what I pay to get my Cruz de Malta shipped from Argentina, so I was pretty happy.
For lunch that day, we headed over to “Rucola”, and organic food restaurant that sources all of their ingredients from a small farm in Urubamba. This was not only a great place to eat, but also a way to get away from the main streets and enjoy some nice quiet views of the city. We sat all the way up on the 3rd floor of the restaurant, and I enjoyed a beautiful veggie sandwich with oyster mushrooms as I gazed out onto the city streets. It had been a pretty hectic day already, but it was really nice to have a moment to ourselves and enjoy our food. Cusco is such an amazing city, but we felt as if we had seen a lot of it in just 24 hours of walking around the main part. The real draw to the city is it’s surrounding areas, which we would be exploring in the next few days.
That night, we actually ate at a sister restaurant of “Rucola” called “Organika”. It is located a mere 5 minute walk from the other restaurant and the ingredients come from the same small farm in Urubamba. Here I got an amazing quinoa bowl, which had the potential to be one of my best meals but the portion size was on the smaller side.
Our next day would be quite busy. We would be climbing up into the mountains for the Inti Raymi festival. We headed back to our super warm apartment to get some sleep for the day ahead.