The adventure continues with us heading back to Cuzco for 2 nights before continuing onward to Brazil. Last time we travelled with Matt we managed to move through Italy and Spain primarily by train and only took one flight, but to do a whirlwind South American jaunt requires flight after flight. In our 1.5 weeks with Matt we’ve already taken 4 flights and there are more to come. Anna hates flying and is finding it rather stressful because we seem to keep hitting turbulence which puts her on edge. We had the worst flight of our whole trip this week which is probably I’ve started this post by complaining about flying. I’ll move on…
The train ride back to Ollantaytambo was just as scenic as our first journey but it was slow. Everything continues to run behind schedule or with delay. Once we arrived at the station we had to find transportation to Cuzco which is a two hour drive, but we scored the last three seats in a collectivo which is a minibus full of locals/tourists. The driving was a little hectic and resulted in a young girl vomiting in a plastic bag but considering it only cost AUD4 per person for the journey we were pretty happy. The funniest part was the driver didn’t even stop and her mother had to hold the bag the rest of her way.
Once we arrived in Cuzco we had the challenge of gaining entrance to our 3 bedroom AirBnB apartment as the host only spoke Spanish and the place didn’t really have street access. We arrived at the front of the building but we could only see signage for a Jewish restaurant. We walked to the store on the corner and asked whether she could contact the host. After a few minutes a suspicious looking man turned up and lead us into the apartment. We didn’t realise that we had to enter through the restaurant door, pass through 2 metal gates, then through the restaurant courtyard and then one last security gate. After getting settled and receiving our handful of keys we decided to venture out and see the historic centro of Cuzco.
Being a Sunday afternoon the town was a little quiet but we went exploring to get our bearings. Our apartment was one block away from the San Pedro markets so we headed there first. We took a quick stroll through but nothing really grabbed us. It was mainly souvenirs, fruit juice and some suspicious looking eateries that my sensitive western stomach couldn’t manage. From here we headed to Plaza de Armas which is the central social centre of Cuzco. It was a nice plaza but Lonely Planet had dubbed it “Latin America’s nicest plaza” so I quess we were expecting a little more. We walked around for a while but we were tired from the early start so we headed back to relax.
Through Lima and Machu Picchu our food experience wasn’t that impressive, so we were delighted to receive some solid recommendations from a colleague before we arrived in Cuzco. The first was a dinner spot called Fallen Angel which had a very funky decor of love hearts everywhere and tables made from bathtubs with gold fish inside. The other was a cafe called Jack’s and we loved this place. They had coffee that tasted like coffee and they had an all day breakfast menu just like cafes back at home. Considering we were in Cuzco for 2 nights but we ate at Jack’s 3 times just goes to show how much we enjoyed it.
On the Monday we set out with exploring Cuzco by doing a walking tour of the historical centro and then heading to the Incan ruins of Saqsaywaman, conveniently pronounced “Sexy Woman”. This Incan stronghold played an integral part in the Spanish invasion because whoever held Saqsaywaman held Cuzco. It’s situated high up on the mountain overlooking the city which provided a fantastic view but considering the altitude of 3,700m the walk up was very exhausting. From here we headed down to Casa Concha which outlines the history of Machu Picchu and exhibits artefacts that were collected from the site. Most of these items had been taken to Yale University in Connecticut in 1911 when Machu Picchu was first discovered and it was only a few years ago that they were returned to Peru. The museum definitely clarified some questions that had remained from our visit to the site and it really put into perspective just how big the Incan empire was. In the height of its power their reign stretched from Colombia down to Chile and is said to have been more influential than the Romans… although that part I’m not so sure about.
Since we had a 5:30am taxi to the airport on Tuesday morning, we decided to have an early dinner on Monday so we could get back and pack our bags. We walked about one block from the apartment and it started to rain. We pushed on one more block and then it started to bucket down with thunder and lightning. With our rain jackets on we shuffled our way towards the Jack’s cafe seeking shelter under awnings when possible and dodging cars as we jay walked across busy streets. When we arrived our upper bodies were dry but our jeans and shoes were soaked. It was good fun though and we definitely laughed about it.
Our flight back to Lima was delayed which made us nervous about making our connecting flight to Brazil, which only flies twice a week, but conveniently our second flight was delayed as well. Now the first flight was fine but the second flight was the worst one we’ve had so far. It was from Lima to Iguazu Falls which crosses over the mountains of Bolivia on the four hour journey. When we reached the mountains it started to get a bit bumpy so everyone was seated with seatbelts fastened. It progressively got worse and worse, but peaked when the left side of the plane suddenly dropped with drinks hitting the ceiling met with screams from the passengers. Anna was very brave and hung on tight but I could see in her eyes she’d give anything to be off that plane. The pilot deviated the course and we headed further north which gave a smoother flight.
We had 3 nights on the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls which allowed us to spend two days at the falls so we could see both the Brazilian and Argentinian side. After a 50 minute bus ride with the locals we arrived at the Brazilian National Park where we bought tickets and then boarded a double decker bus to take us into the park. Once we arrived at our stop and walked to the lookout point we were blown away by how grand the falls are. Anna took me to Niagara Falls in November 2015 and they were very impressive, but Iguazu Falls contain so many different falls that are all spread out. We made our way along the scenic falls trail stopping to take pictures where we could. It was very crowded and the people here were so obnoxious. They kept pushing in front and taking like 10 selfies each. One of the highlights of the walk was the walkway that extends along the bottom of one of the falls so you get a real bottom-up view. You get absolutely saturated but the temperature was about 30 degrees so that was fine with us. This was the best place to feel the power of the falls as the soundwaves pounded into your body.
After having lunch we went on a boat tour of the falls. This was more of an adventure boat tour where you drive up along the river and then look at various falls from a distance. Then the captain manoeuvres under the waterfall so everyone gets pounded by the water and completely saturated. It was so much fun and I’m glad we went in and out several times. I didn’t get any pictues of us under the waterfall but I did get some entertaining video which Anna will include in the monthly video. After the boat tour we decided to go back to the walking trail to do it again without the crowds. It was much more enjoyable without wannabe models taking their 100 self-indulgent selfies. People are the worst!
Next day we visited the Argentina falls but since this involved border crossings we decided to join a tour to make it more seamless. The Argentinian park is much bigger and has lots of walking trails with overwater walkways. We did the three main walks on tour being the Devil’s Throat and the lower and upper trails. The Argentinian side wins for variety of different falls and different vantage points. There were on and off rain showers though which was a bit of a dampener on the day. We really enjoyed the falls but by the end of the day we were tired so Matt and I had a little snooze on the bus ride home.
One thing that has really impressed us with Brazil so far is the food. We went for pizza the first night and it was the best traditional Italian pizza we’ve had since we left Italy. Then we went to a Brazilian BBQ the second night and the third we went to a burger place that also made epic kebabs. I really miss the classic Aussie kebab.
So next week will be all about Sao Paulo and Rio in Carnival. It will be very interesting!
Fail of the Week
The flight from Lima to Iguazu Falls was definitely a low point of the week. Considering the screams when the plane dropped and the applause when we finally touched down, I don’t think we were the only concerned passengers. Matt chose that flight so we’ll blame him.
Meal of the Week
The Brazilian BBQ in Iguazu wins this week. The fried chicken pieces and tender steak cubes were succulent, but what makes this meal the winner were the three beer towers we shared and the free shots of Cachaca that the waiter gave us. I think he just enjoyed the looks on our faces after the shot.