Get a sleep in before a taxi arrives to take us back to Cusco. Let the acclimitisation begin!
Our base camp being Torre Dorada Hotel which we arrive at after an hour and a half drive from Sacred Valley. Back up to the altitude of around 3,300m. Our travel companions for the next leg of this trip are Dave and Lesley who are due in from Buenos Airies. We decide to travel with the hotel driver to perform the pickup, even writing our own sign for them!
Arriving hassle free we are back at Torre Dorada and they explain some tips for coping with altitude such as the local cocoa tea, not great, so Allison and I avoided it. Dave seemed to find it quite good so poured himself another cup. It is certainly noticeable with a general level of fatigue and upset stomach making things a bit uncomfortable.
We decide to take it easy for the next two days before we hit the trails to Macchu Picchu. Not that we have ever needed an excuse to take it easy! Torre Dorada runs a shuttle service to and from the main square (Plaza de Aramas). This most impressive of town squares boarded on two sides by two separate churches. The cobblestone streets and preserved historical buildings and genuine Inca stonework gives the central part of Cusco a cool feel and authentic.
The street sellers are not too pushy, even have tourist police to ensure the hard sell and bailing up of tourists are kept to a minimum. The old buildings are so common place they are used for all sorts of shops not just museum pieces so these structures have stood the test of time.
We have come with a series of tips from a friend who spent 8 days in Cusco recently. We head to the first one, Jack’s, a restaurant on a corner two blocks from the main square. Awesome feed with burgers and tortillas with milkshakes and Frappes. All taste great and finish off with a chocolate brownie! Supposed to be having light meals to acclimatise better but I think we broke that rule! Noting the obvious on how we obeyed the no exertion rule but broke the over eating rule!
Get the shuttle pick up back to the hotel from outside Gato market. Back at the hotel our rooms open out onto a communal lounge area which is great to sit, read books, use the computer and pour cups of tea. A short siesta later we are back in town for another light meal, this time at Tortamundas which is right on the square. Noting the other altitude acclimisation need to avoid alcohol, I feel OK so I decide to risk a Casquena beer, but the others abstain.
Making good use of the hotel shuttle we are back at Hotel Torada for more book reading, tea drinking and general chatter, good this acclimitisation! In the night however I awake gasping for air, the usual involuntary intake of oxygen during regular sleep obviously not enough! It takes forever to gather my breath back and Allison feeling likewise, I also start to get hot and cold shivers which is a bit concerning, regretting the beer immediately and don’t sleep a wink the rest of the night. Wondering if some jungle fever is taking effect or if it is just altitude.
Awake with a feeling of ‘general malaise’. Malaise a term to describe a general feeling of unwellness. Not my choice of word it was Lonely Planet‘s word to describe a feeling you may get at altitude. Having been at altitude before I had not had this feeling so still think it was connected to the jungle. Then again most holidays where you move from work mode to holiday mode there is (very unfortunately!) a high probability that a level of illness will follow. Regardless a hot and cold feeling and nausea follow me round for most of the day, lucky we don’t start till the day after next!
Today is a day of chores though. We go over to meet Andina travel to complete our payment and get a briefing before the Inca trail trek. We are all very keen to hear what is in store for us, Allison and Lesley paying particular attention and asking all the tough questions. Most focus around a supposedly infamous ‘day 2’ where the bulk of the climbing is done and highest altitude reached and longest distance travelled. Sounds fun!
Next stop the local markets, it didn’t take long, to look for some artisian artifacts. I pick up a Cassquena (local beer) t-shirt, Allison and Dave pick up a local artesian beanie. These are commonly known as Cholo’s and are knitted hats equipped with ear flaps and a chin strap. The knitted pattern is very ‘ethnic’ looking.
Back up to the main square now suitably attired to fit in with the locals… well tourists anyway. Two days out of England Dave and Lesley felt a need to pop into the only English pub in town, McCoy’s. Not really, it was another item on our recommended list, apparently good food however we instead had a drink and made note of the trivia quiz they had scheduled for later that night.
Across the Plaza de Aramas for lunch, back for a siesta as well as plan our side trip to Iguazu falls out of Buenos Airies in a week’s time. We head back to McCoy’s for dinner and trivia. And what do you know we win! A bottle of red our prize which sadly we can’t drink, so we save it for our return from Machu Picchu.
Awake feeling a little better, but still gasping for air in the night. Time to load up on energy for the trek.
First stop buffet breakfast, which swiftly moves into lunch in town back at Jack’s cafe, the brownies here are awesome! Main task today though is to pack our trek gear into the supplied bags including no more than 6kg. Given that some poor Peruvian porter will have to carry this, and more, along the length of the trek it is not your cabin baggage type gestimation, it is 6kg and no more, understandably.
Continuing the gastronomy tour of Cusco we head to another recommendation Incanto Italian restaurant. A pretty upmarket (for Cusco). Great food including Dave’s dish which was the local speciality Peruvian guinea pig. I took a bite and it actually did taste like chicken, just a little more bony. Would have been great to have a glass of wine but with the trek starting at the crack of dawn tomorrow we abstain.