I took it really easy on day one – partly because I was so tired from Lima and partly because I was afraid of altitude sickness. I bought the vitamins, drank the tea, chewed the leaves. And while I had a slight headache by the end of the evening, I was never sure if it was a tired headache or the elevation.
When I arrived at Eco Packers hostel, a really great place to stay if you want social and quiet, my bed was not ready yet. I asked for a bottom bed because 32 is just a little too old to be climbing up and down a ladder. Plus, I arrived at 6:30 and check in was not until 11. So I found a beanbag chair and curled up for a little snooze. Three hours later, I woke up and ate some breakfast.
I still had some time to kill so I started writing again, only to have my laptop charger die on me. I researched places to buy a charger just before my computer died. It looked like the afternoon would be an adventure. My room was ready and I headed to take a much needed p. It stays in the 50s and 60s in Cusco so a hot shower is much appreciated. Eco packers definitely have hot showers, but you kind of have to be either the first one or take it when the heater has had a chance to reset itself.
I headed into the town to find some food and the places that were on my list for my charger. Fun fact, Cusco is pretty much shut down on New Year’s Day. The only places open are the tourist places. After hiking up and down streets, finding one place closed after another, I stopped at a clearly touristy restaurant called A su Merced. I ordered the fried yuca and the quinoa soup with little expectations. Holy moly! The soup was amazing, especially after adding the spicy sauce they brought me and the yuca dipping sauce was in point. Five stars for this restaurant. I noticed more and more locals coming in, so maybe it wasn’t as touristy as I had imagined.
With a full and happy belly, I walked around a little bit and took in the beauty that is Cusco. Everything is clean and ordered. There were not many people on the street because of the holiday, so I really got to see how the city looks on its own. Beautiful colored doors and cobbled streets back up the city center. There are churches on every corner. And unlike Lima, there is a quaint personality to Cusco. The hilly backdrops make it even mor pristine. And the light rainy haze makes everything feel clean and crisp. It is chilly. That’s the one check in the con corner for me. I have on a jacket and two extra layers with a thermos of coca tea next to me more for warmth than illness prevention. But the people seem to be proud of their heritage and their city here. And while the occasional Starbucks creeps in, there is not the overwhelming US commercialism that I saw in Lima. At least there is much more Spanish here and I am proud to say that I have no had a chance to speak English once yet.
After a much needed nap, I met the bunk mates – Germany, Holland, Argentina and the most delicious man from Italy. English was our only common ground, so I spoke English for the first time since Lima. They are all very nice but are all leaving the following day, so we made surface connections in the room. I decided I needed a little pick up, and made my afternoon mate. In doing so, I found the Uruguayans and Argentinians. We sang along to Argentina rock songs and talked about the Rio de la Plata. Los Uruguayos are from Montevideo AND work in health clinics. Needless to say, we had a lot to discuss. One of the girls from Argentina is an English teacher in a pueblo in the south of the country. She studied in Virginia on a Fulbright. We also had a lot to discuss. And I now pat myself on the back because my Spanish was pretty darn good. I have more confidence speaking here, maybe it’s because the are strangers and I have nothing to lose. But I am infinitely better with the language here and almost jumped for joy to hear the Rio de la Plata accent. It’s so much easier for me to understand than Peruvian Spanish. So when the Uruguayan boys said, che, want to grab some dinner? I was like absolutely. I grabbed the guy from Holland as well because he mentioned that he didn’t like to eat alone.
I ate alpaca. I have no idea what I was expecting, but it was delicious. Tasted just like pork. Dinner was a mix of English and Spanish as one of the Uruguayans spoke no English and the guy from Holland spoke no Spanish, but somehow it worked with two of us translating. Dinner was a lovely end to the first day.
Eco packers hostel Calle santa teresa
ratings: location 10, social 9, quiet 8, plugs 10, bathrooms 8, services 10, breakfast 8, wifi 10