On our second morning in Cusco, we got off to a bit of a late start. We had been travelling so much that we tried to make up sleep whenever possible and today we didn’t have too much planned. For breakfast, we headed back to our favorite restaurant, Green Point, for some amazing vegan food.
We decided we would go to the second floor to have our breakfast. Here there were windows and skylights all around, and we could actually see where we were planning on going next because it was high up into the mountains. Sacsayhuaman is a very famous ruin complex overlooking Cusco. It is also famous for it’s name, which in English sounds very similar to “sexy woman” a common pneumonic device for anyone trying to memorize the name. This was a huge citadel back in the time of the Incans, and now it is a site for tourism and the Inti Raymi festival. We thought it would be a great opportunity to check out the ruins, but we underestimated just how many people would be there during the festival. This restaurant is so incredible, you really can’t go wrong with what you order. I had the cashew yogurt with raspberries, which was absolutely delicious and came with mixed fruit and muesli. I also got an avocado toast with tomatoes and arugula. This sandwich was amazing on its own, but they also brought out a hot pepper and tomato sauce, which made it even more delicious.
After breakfast, we started searching for a taxi to get up to Sacsayhuaman. The only problem was that most taxis weren’t permitted to drive up to the mountain during the festival. It looks like we would be walking up there! For some reason, this morning the altitude was hitting us particularly hard and we were dreading the 2-mile climb up hill. Luckily I still had the extra coca leaves stashed away in my phone case. These would come in handy later on.
We headed through town and then started to climb up some steps. It was easy to find our way around because we could just follow the huge crowds of people going to Sacsayhuaman. On the way over, we stopped at a sign that said “bano” to see if we could use the restroom. A lady came out and led us basically into someone’s house. This was a weird experience for us, but it also presented a unique opportunity to see how some people live. The floors were completely made of dirt and the house did have electricity but it was all loose wires hanging overhead. They didn’t have running water, so there were a few buckets around the house. I’d like to think that I could get used to this way of living, but I think it might take some time.
A little ways up the path, we stumbled upon this amazing restaurant called “San Cris” which had to have been one of the best views I had ever seen. Here we sat out on the deck overlooking the entire city of Cusco and the mountains in the background. We sipped some Coca tea to prepare for the final climb.
This whole day felt like a circus, there were massive crowds of people all around, people dressed in crazy costumes and it seemed like everyone was trying to sell us something. The one positive thing about all the festivities is that it meant everyone was able to get in for free. If you go to Cusco during one of the festivals, I would actually recommend to not go to Sacsayhuaman when all the people are there. We were recommended to go during the festival, but all the people there really took away from the experience. There was almost nowhere to just sit down and enjoy the scenery. We got to see all of the ruins, but we weren’t able to walk through them because they were really trying to control the flow of people.
We watched the festivities from a pretty far distance and could see a few people gathered in some tribal clothing. It was really the same type of stuff we had been seeing in the parades in the main square but in a different place. The cool thing about being up here was that you could see panoramic views of the surrounding areas. All of mountains were visible from up here. After weaving through the crowds for a few hours, we decided to start to go home. The sun would be going down soon and we had been outside for almost the entire day.
The path we used to get here had now been blocked off, so to get home we would need to cut through a few peoples back yards. Here we got yet another glimpse into how the locals lived. People were out cooking food on grills and playing small games of futball in their backyards. This was really nice to see, and it provided a nice break from the chaos that existed just a few hundred yards away. Eventually, we joined back into the crowds and started walking back into the city. We did however stop at San Cris again to grab a quick sandwich. The views here are really incredible, and it is well worth the time if you are on your way to Sacsayhuaman.
On the way back to our apartment, we got to see some brand new streets and alleyways we hadn’t seen before. I always love taking pictures of some of these streets because I think they are far more beautiful than people give them credit for. This really gives you a sense of what the city is actually like, rather than just looking at the highlights.
That night, we ate at a pretty nice restaurant. Most of the food there was quite fancy, but I ended up getting the vegan chili. It was this beautiful bowl of beans, tomatoes, avocado and salad. This was perfect for me and definitely a great way to end our time in Cusco. We would be back here, but only briefly. In the morning we would begin our long journey to Machu Picchu.