CUZCO

Backpacking through South America, you generally only come into contact with the handful of other backpackers in your hostel or perhaps on the odd occasion you pass another tourist while walking down the street.  In Cuzco however, “Spot the Tourist” is inevitable and we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by tourists of all ages, nationalities and the stand-out dorky travel outfits.Cuzco_010Cuzco_013Cuzco_011No matter where you may be from, there is one attraction that has most likely brought you to Cuzco – the majestic Machu Picchu archaeological site.  That being said, Cuzco is an attraction in its own right with its picture perfect main square, cobblestone side streets and age-old traditions resulting in regular festivities taking place.  In addition to the highlights however, you do find yourself harassed by tour operators, persistent ladies selling massages (although at $10p/hr it is not a bad option) and men who are all selling the same pair of sunglasses, oblivious to the fact you’re rather content with the pair on your head!Cuzco_020Cuzco_022Cuzco_074Once we had explored the options to travel to Machu Picchu and booked our 4-day trek we were left with some time to enjoy the city.  Will shaved his beard and even got a haircut at a local barber – his wild jungle days were over for now.  We found a fantastic bagel café with some of the best coffee we had had in a long time and took part in a short walking tour that showed us other areas around town. Cuzco_094Cuzco_012Cuzco_070Cuzco_064Cuzco_096We walked through the local market where we were once again graced with hanging cow tongues and pig trotters, a woman selling frogs (I believe to eat!!) along with a man offering hallucinogenic cactus drinks.  I was desperate to try some ceviche (Peru’s national dish) but with Cuzco quite some distance from the ocean, I was advised to perhaps hold off a little longer.Cuzco_032Cuzco_030Cuzco_028Cuzco_037Cuzco_043As we had come to expect from large South American cities, there was a number of different festivals during our time in Cuzco.  We watched as costumed men and women of all ages prepared for a pilgrimage in to the mountains while on another day it might as well have been “Festival of the Cuy (Guinea Pig)” with vendor after vendor plating up your own whole roasted Cuy to eat!  I know this may sound like a cop out but we had just eaten elsewhere when we came across this so I can’t say we were exactly salivating at the mouth nor found the need to try!  Forget what you know about Guinea Pigs from home, these things just look like giant rats on a stick!Cuzco_057Cuzco_061Cuzco_095Cuzco_099Cuzco_055Cuzco_108I felt Cuzco was a good example of tourism working well.  The streets are incredibly clean and although the 16th century buildings may now house designer alpaca wear or perhaps even a discretely signed McDonalds, you still feel that they are working to preserve a piece of history that tourists from every corner of the world can come and enjoy. Cuzco_082

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