Driving to Cusco

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The “traveling” part of travel is often pretty dull, but in Peru it’s easy to get tour buses that make a stop every couple of hours to stretch your legs, grab a meal and see a few sights. And you can watch the scenery go by.

Colorful cemeteries. Like in Mexico, Peruvians celebrate The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) on November 1 with music and picnics in the cemetery. The graves are decorated. In general, those with a white cross indicate a baby who died before one year of age.

Here are a few photos from my bus ride through the district of Cusco, on the way to the city of Cusco. It was dark by the time we arrived to the city, so no photos. From the heights of Puno, we descend a bit into Cusco and it gets greener and warmer as the hours roll on.

This is a terrible photo from the window of the bus, but this was the third, and largest, of the fires we saw along the way. This one seemed out of control and I could even feel the heat from it through the bus window. Fire is often used to clear new farmland.
We are descending lower in altitude, so the crops are farther along here. According to the guide, there are more than 200 varieties of corn and 2-3,000 varieties of potatoes, many developed and cultivated by the Incas. Another common crop is quinoa. The Peruvian diet is high in carbohydrates and the use of cocoa also seems to help in the digestion of these.
Notice the silver-green trees near the bottom of the hill? Those are probably eucalyptus. Though not native to this continent, they grow fast. According to this website: “The Eucalyptus tree (E. globula), a native of Australia, has become a major part of the ecosystem in the southern Peruvian Andes, thanks primarily to a land reform program, and the tree’s suitability for successful growth in this difficult habitat.
Around 1970, the Peruvian government placed a great deal of land in the hands of the campesinos (formerly landless peasants). To help make this land reform work, the government planted hundreds of thousands of eucalyptus trees in the nearly treeless region to give the peasants the ability to stay on the land.
Both the reform, and the eucalyptus forestation of long-bare slopes, are regarded nearly half a century later as successes.”
Once you notice the eucalyptus trees, you see them everywhere, such as theses scattered over the side of this mountain. They cut down on erosion, a huge issue here. Eucalyptus oil has many medicinal uses, foremost among them being as a decongestant. They grow up to 180 feet tall and can grow 100 feet in 10 years.
These are larger farming plots than I saw near Puno. The land seems richer too.

A school and the all important soccer field.

Our first stop was just outside of Cusco to see a lovely church. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside, but was given a CD. I’ve not looked at the CD yet since I don’t own a device that plays them at this time.

We stopped at this small town. The main square–Plaza de Armas, as all the main squares seem to be called–was lovely. These huge trees were in fruit and were far more stunning than the photo shows.
There are always stalls to buy trinkets and alpaca textiles.
Here is the church, the main reason we stopped. Church of the Society of Jesus is a very common name here. Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús.

According to Wikipedia: “The Church of the Society of Jesus is a historic Jesuit church in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, in Peru. It is situated in the Plaza de Armas, the city center. It is built on the site of an Inca palace. It is an example of Andean Baroque architecture. Its construction began in 1576, but it was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1650. The rebuilt church was completed nearly two decades later. The Jesuit college in Cusco was dedicated the Transfiguration of Christ, and the high altar features a painting of the Transfiguration attributed to the Jesuit Diego de la Puente. The most notable piece of art in the church is a painting depicting the marriage of Martín García de Loyola, the nephew of Ignatius Loyola to Beatriz, the great-niece of the Inca ruler Tupac Amaru.”

Just outside the church door.
Even the stones of the church were lovely!
I really admired how clean the rows of crops were.

The small road in front of the lake is part of the Inca Trail–a walking path to Cusco. Actually there are many Inca trails, spanning 5 countries that the Incas built to enhance transportation, trade and communication.

The small towns we drove through seemed to specialize. The one above made a type of local bread. Another had cheese. But they were mostly just wide spots in the road and getting a decent photo was tough. Saylla appeared to be the pork skin capital of the world. All the restaurants seem to feature chicharron.

I found this article: Saylla – the Ultimate Chicharrón Challenge

I was sorry we didn’t make a stop here to try some, but it’s an easy dish to find at Peruvian restaurants.

Saylla was mostly restaurants selling pork skin….
….and not much else.
Notice the icon of the Virgin Mary outside the police station.
A Chicharroneria is literally a place to get chicharron–pork skin. and Inca Kola is the most popular soft drink in Peru. It’s electric yellow in color, a very sweet, carbonated beverage.

Finally, we got to Cusco.

It’s getting darker and we have just hit the outskirts of Cusco.
These are the poorer areas of Cusco, but the old center was the site was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has become a major tourist destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. The Constitution of Peru designates it as the Historical Capital.

According to Wikipedia: “Cusco (Spanish: Cuzco, [ˈkusko]; Quechua: Qusqu or Qosqo, IPA: [ˈqɔsqɔ]), often spelled Cuzco (/ˈkuːskoʊ/), is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cusco Province. In 2013, the city had a population of 435,114. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft).

Most of my trip between cities was by bus. I can particularly recommend the bus line Cruz del Sur (Cruise of the South) as a good way to get from one place to the next, especially overnight. This company has service between many major cities in Peru and even a few outside the country. They don’t make stops between cities, but there are other advantages. The buses have a bathroom, serve a light meal and the seats recline so you can actually sleep. At night they provide blankets and pillows. If your Spanish is good, they also have movies and books on screen and some buses also allow you to charge your electronics and have wifi onboard. One advantage of taking an overnight bus is that you don’t have to pay for a hotel room for one night. I used this service three times, and used other companies for the rest of the travel. I only took one flight during my 15 day, Grand Tour, to Lima. Buses are probably only a good idea, however, if you can speak at least functional Spanish, as these places won’t have English speakers.

It’s not the cleanest section of town, either. Tourists probably rarely come here.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

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