Peru, Part 4: Abancay and Cusco

July 5 – 9, 2010

From Nasca, I climbed back up the Andes, first to spend some time in Abancay before heading over to Cusco, where I stayed on a farm.


Stocking up on some bananas for the road ahead.


Distance board at Nasca. I was heading to Abancay today.


Climbing up in the shadows of the morning sun.


Looking back towards Nasca and the Pacific Ocean after the quick ascent.


Riding across the Altiplano at 4,170 m (13,670 ft).


A herd of wild vicunas, prized for their fur.


Taking their time to cross the road with very little traffic around.


Still altiplano lakes.


The road was straight with a few curves, making for an easy ride.


Coming down from the altiplano.


Llama pens on the hillside.


Looking back at his house. A llama heading down to his pen.


Having a peaceful lunch at 4,000 m (13,100 ft) of leftovers from dinner.


Heading into Abancay at 2,700 m (8,850 ft) having covered a total of 8,068 m (26,460 ft) of elevation changes today.


Having dinner with Tanja and Khalid through CouchSurfing, who are volunteers from Germany. Khalid’s father is Egyptian and he made a traditional bean dish.


The next day Kahlid took me around town. First, we’re having his favorite breakfast: freshly made sweetened pop corn with bananas and fresh sweet yogurt. Very tasty.


Khalid works in a plant nursery and his owner (right) prepares fruit trees to be sold to farmers in the surrounding hills. Khalid is implementing a compost project.


Palto, another name for avocado.


There was a resident parrot, who we took with us on our walk around the farm. Argggh, matey.


Happily eating some fresh fruit. Kahlid mistakenly killed the original parrot by trying to give it a bath, so this is his replacement.


The farm had a river flowing through it, making for this tranquil area, under the shady trees.


Visiting a friend of Khalid’s (center) who works for the local government with disabled persons. We had a good talk about the local politics and her aspirations for what Peru can achieve, but she feels the old school, corrupted people in power are holding them back. She said her boss doesn’t like to pay for special buses to transport disabled people around but will happily reimburse the petrol for a staff trip in one of their SUVs.


Visiting a nearby orphanage.


Where this cute little girl was waiting for her new parents to come pick her up. She sat there quite reassuringly, without making a fuss and being quite brave with the cards she’s been dealt.


Having a cheap lunch for S/.2 of pork ribs with yuca and potatoes, while catching a World Cup football match with everyone else in the little restaurant. Khalid was vowing the crowd with his Quechua (the local indigenous language).


Saying hi to some of his friends who are carpenters, busily working until the bleachers of the stadium.


Heading out the next day. I parked the bike in this nearby warehouse and the owners enjoyed going through my trip website. They wanted to give me a large bottle of water, but due to lack of space, I just asked for a small one.


A wide view of a river valley with interesting geologic views.


Looking up the river valley. Note the v-shaped rock in the center.


Riding along Rio Apurimac.


Seeing these farmers by the roadside, thrashing the grains out of their crops and walking two horses around in circles to stamp on the harvest.


The road flattened out near Cusco at 3,400 m (11,150 ft).


Taking in the expanse of Cusco, the largest city in the Peruvian Andes and a big draw for tourists.


The Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus in the grand Plaza de Armas – the name of the central plaza in most Peruvian towns meaning plaza of weapons because during the Spanish colonial days, this was where everyone gathered when there was a call for arms. Most towns have just one church in their central plaza, but Cusco, being the capital of the Inca Empire has four. I guess the Spanish really wanted to stamp out the Inca culture and impose Christianity.


The sun setting over the Portal de Panes in the Plaza de Armas.


Dusk falling over the main cathedral in the plaza and the really long steps where people gather.


Arriving at Christian and Marisol’s farm outside the city. I contacted Christian through CouchSurfing about staying a few days on his farm where they’re starting some projects to help out the local community and ask travelers who stay to help out a little.


Sunset at the farm, which was located on a hillside with great open views across the valley and towards these snow-peaked mountains. It was very chilly at night, elevation here was 3,700 m (12,100 ft) and the temperature dropped about 14 C (25 F) as the sun set getting near freezing over night.


Some of the other travelers who were passing through and stayed on the farm. Back L-R: Danny from Spain, George (Russian-Canadian), Karan from India. Front L-R: me, Karina from California and Anastasia, George’s wife. I had a good chat with Karan, being the first Indian that we’ve both seen since traveling. He’s from Delhi and used to be an automotive and motorcycle journalist, taking part in rallies. He gave me some good info on Brazil and I told him about the countries further north.


One of the tasks was filling up the water tank with water from a generous neighbor about 300 m (984 ft) away. We had to connect numerous long hoses to get to the source. L-R: David, Carlos (from Lima), Dave and Danny. Both the Daves were traveling together from the States and Dave’s father is involved with Nasa in trying to build a robotic explorer to go under the ice on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Dave is studying for a PhD in High Energy (Particle) Physics and we had some good talks. Also, at night, with the super clear skies, our Milky Way Galaxy was very clear and we exchanged info on some of the cosmological marvels in the sky, like the supermassive black hole sitting at the center of our galaxy.


They had this cute VW bus for bringing supplies to the farm.


Marisol and others digging up the vegetable garden. Things were just getting started.


I helped in sawing up all the planks for this first bunk bed and then hammering them all in. As a reward for the work, I got to sleep on the bed, yeah!


After a hard days work, everyone gathered for a family-style meal. Beautiful views from the dining room.


Simple vegetarian food of rice, potatoes and some veggies.


Local kids that Christian invited to eat with them. Some of the programs they want to implement at the farm involve things like teaching English to some of the poor artisans to help them better sell their wares, educating mothers about nutrition and teaching yoga and meditation to the volunteers. Every morning started with 30 minutes of meditation.


Making some Chicha Morada, a drink from black corn, tasting similar to iced tea.


Marisol putting some finishing touches on the garden as dusk grew into night.


Taking a tour of Cusco’s streets at night.


Beautiful Inca stonework visible all over the city.


Norton Rats Pub, a famous location in the motorcycling community, run by a biker. And note the intricately carved wooden balconies, a signature of the city.


A corner of the Iglesia El Triunfo.


The famous Hatunrumiyoc street, known for its huge Inca stones that make up the foundation of most buildings in Cusco as the Spanish found it convenient to do so. Implying that the layout of the city harks back to pre-colonial days. It was constructed in the 12th century by the first Inca king, Manco Capac on direction from Inti, the sun god, to find the navel of the Earth by seeing where the ground would swallow his staff and there he founded the city that would be the capital of the Inca Empire. Cusco is regarded as the continent’s oldest, continuously inhabited city.


What’s amazing about the Inca stone work is their lack of use of any kind of mortar to join the stones. Each stone is cut to fit perfectly with its surrounding stones and one has to marvel how these structures have stood unshaken with all the seismic activity in the Andes.


Being the tourist and posing with the famous 12-sided stone. It’s a massive block that’s cut to match all its surrounding stones. This stone was part of the palace of the sixth Inca, Roca.


A corner of a building with Inca stones supporting the newer colonial buildings above. The small bits jutting out from the rocks might be places where ropes were tied to move the stones in place. Seeing that some of the stones have them and some don’t, perhaps there wasn’t enough time to knock of the handles.


Heading up to the artsy San Blas district.


A few tables in the open air with some appropriate relaxing live music.


Here’s a nice colonial wall and the hole-in-the-wall in the lower left is a small French restaurant.


Looking out over Plaza San Blas.


The streets of San Blas, lined with fancy restaurants.


Elephant raising its trunk in the window of an Indian restaurant.


Musicians gathering outside a pub just after a gig on a side street in San Blas. There’s definitely lots of foreigners in Cusco, as besides the charm of the city itself, it’s also the starting point for the journey up to Machu Picchu.


The main cathedral at night, which was constructed on top of Inca Viracocha’s palace.


Buying some dried fruits and nuts for the trip to Machu Picchu.

Next: Peru, Part 5: Machu Picchu

Previous: Peru, Part 3: Lima to Nasca