The historic district of Cusco was a welcome contrast to our time in La Paz. While in the city we usually stayed within the historic district where we could wander the relatively clean, quiet, and quaint cobblestone streets, many of which have been pedestrianised. There are many squares and plazas throughout the city to serve as places of relaxation (i.e., people-watching) and recreation, plus plenty of good restaurant options within a few blocks of anywhere.
Prior to our Machu Picchu hike, we visited both the Inca Museum and the Machu Picchu Museum. This served to refresh and boost our knowledge of the Inca culture and of the expeditions of Hiram Bingham in the early 20th century which led to the public awareness of Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in either of these museums so there is little to share, other than saying both had interesting artifacts and were worth a visit.
One of Alastair’s favorite attractions within the historic district of Cusco was a 12-sided rock shaped to fit into the foundation of a building. This rock was easy to find, we just wandered down a side street until we saw a group of tourists elbowing their way to have their picture taken with said rock. There was also usually a man dressed in an (supposedly) Inca warrior costume in this location so people could get their picture taken with both him and the rock (then subsequently pay him for his services).
One of my favorite parts of Cusco was a (belated) birthday massage! My best friend, Jackie, had surprised me on my birthday with a gift certificate to what was possibly the nicest spa in Cusco. I made an appointment for the day after we got back from our Machu Picchu hike which was a (painfully) good idea. I got a couple knots worked out and enjoyed relaxing in a calming and beautiful environment. The massage room had extra high ceilings with wooden beams, and the floor had a large plexi-glass section below the massage table to provide views of the river rocks and stream running beneath the building. Jackie knows I don’t tend to treat myself to such luxuries but that I’m fully willing to partake in them when an opportunity arises. She’s an amazing friend. I think I’ll keep her.
We spent our last day in the area (Sunday, 3/19) going to Pisac, a nearby town where people from multiple surrounding towns and villages converge at a market to barter and trade goods. Whoever was selling goods at each stall tended to be the person who grew or made the goods, or was a representative from the village where the goods came from. This was an ideal place to acquire some souvenirs and practice saying numbers in Spanish. We had read that bartering was a common practice for these types of markets but the tiny, smiling, and sweet-voiced Peruvian women were quite obstinate in their pricing.
Aside from a couple museums, eating, and general wandering we didn’t do much within Cusco. We got a good feel for the historic district and kept a laid back agenda. We had intended to end our trip with a couple days in Lima following our time in Cusco, but major flooding around Lima made us re-think our plans. We were still riding a high from our great Machu Picchu experience, we had been feeling indifferent about Lima anyway, and we felt content with having Cusco be our final destination. So, we pulled the trigger and changed our flights to skip the Lima portion of the trip (aside from a 12-hour layover which resulted in booking a room at the airport hotel to shower, use the pool and sauna, and have a comfy place to chill between flights; we came in well under-budget so we figured we’d treat ourselves and enjoy the journey home).
Our flights home were fairly uneventful, aside from sprinting through the Lima airport because the ticketing agent informed us that Alastair needed to apply for entry into Canada which was a time-consuming process (we flew into Vancouver instead of Seattle or Portland because it saved a bundle on ticket prices). Had we needed an extra minute or two for the approval process to be completed, the ticketing agent would have closed the gate and not let us through. This would have added another 24 hours to our layover so we were happy to have dodged that schedule change. After a 7.5-hour flight from Lima to Dallas and a 4.5-hour flight from Dallas to Vancouver, we arrived in Vancouver right on time. We rented a car to drive from Vancouver to Olympia, then were greeted by my favorite parents who drove us the rest of the way home.
It’s a bit surreal sitting at home now while I finish this blog post. The past few months have gone by so quickly, yet the beginning parts of the trip seem like they happened such a long time ago. We’re grateful for the opportunity to have seen and done so many things, and feel quite lucky that we had a relatively easy time exploring and living our lives in South America. Most of my “what-if” concerns never came to fruition, we had very few “discussions” regarding opposing viewpoints, and we met a lot of great people along the way. We’re both content with the current change of pace of being back home for a couple weeks as we hit the reset button and prep for the next phase: roadtrip!