Cusco: before and after Machu Picchu 

We arrived in Cusco on a rainy cold Thursday evening. Peru Hop organised taxi’s to take us to our hostels. We had a private ensuite room booked in Millhouse Hostel and they booked us in quickly, setting up a tab for the room. The room was damp but we hadn’t expected luxury. After sorting through our bags we headed upstairs to the bar for food and drinks. It was freezing up there! Food was good though and drinks were two for one. 

After a while we grabbed a cab to Wildrover Hostel as we were told the hill was quite steep and didn’t fancy the walk. The bar in there was warm and welcoming, though we were stuck for a bit as they don’t accept dollars in there which is unusual for Cusco. We got our money exchanged in Loki down the road and headed back to Wildrover. We made friends with two guys from Liverpool, spent the night laughing and dancing on the bar. 

I got back to my room about 2am and that’s when things went wrong for me in Cusco. I became very sick and it wasn’t from alcohol. I didn’t get a bit of sleep and spent the next day in bed. I couldn’t face leaving it. I couldn’t really eat but forced myself to eat bananas and water. I got chills and hot flushes. Wasn’t the way I expected my first day in Cusco to be.

The next morning after very little sleep again I decided to call a Doctor. My chest was tight and with the trek to Machu Picchu the next day I didn’t want to take a chance. The doctor arrived within 30 minutes and told me that I had caught a parasite. My heart was beating fast to make up for being sick but everything else was ok. She said I was good for my trek and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. 

With no sleep and no fuel in my system I struggled to the pharmacy for my prescription. That was about all I did that day! My time in Cusco was spent in Millhouse courtyard or my room. Not the way I wanted it to go.

After the trek (that will be another blog) we returned to Millhouse in the early hours of the morning. We were given a different room which was actually a 4 bed dorm so it was nicer than our last. We heard that Jacks Place was a good cafe for breakfast so we headed there. The portion was huge. At this stage my appetite was returning however I couldn’t finish it. Great food though and orange juice was amazing. We returned the next two days for breakfast in fact. 

Four of us headed to get a massage which are offered everywhere, prices vary. We ended up picking one of the more expensive so bartered them down to 50 sol which is still very little! Later on we headed to Papacho’s just at the square. It reminded me of TGI’s. I got a burger with onion rings on the side. My god I hadn’t had a burger that nice in soooo long!! Still unable to finish it but I really wanted to. 

The next day, we headed off to a horseriding trip that we had booked. My energy levels were still low and I could have skipped it. We were collected at the hostel and took a 15 min drive to the ranch. At the start I was frightened about the horses as I saw some horses with their ribs showing. Luckily they weren’t part of the ranch we booked. A beautiful puppy greeted us and after a short play with him we got introduced to our horses.  We were taken through the countryside and got to take in some beautiful views of the Andes. Our tour guide had great English and was extremely patient with us as we had little experience. We spent a little bit of time looking at Devils Balcony which was beautiful with the different colours running through it. Our guide ran through the history of Peru in great detail with us. We really enjoyed every minute of our tour. You would know by the horses how well they are treated. He explained how they take longer to train them as they don’t use violence. They follow instructions very well as a result. 

The cold had set into us on our trek so when we got dropped back we asked about a nice cafe. He recommended La Bondiet and dropped us off there. This cafe was a great recommendation. The cakes on display looked amazing and all very tempting. I don’t drink coffee so I chose a hot chocolate as unfortunately they do not offer Lyons tea outside of Ireland! I also picked a luscious chocolate cake which I couldn’t finish. It was a cosey atmosphere and made me excited to get back home to winter!

My stay in Cusco wasn’t what I imagined at all due to the parasite that I caught. It zapped all my energy levels, took any enthusiasm I had to tour the city and I became emotional as a result. The sickness ended up returning the morning I was to travel nearly 30 hours to get home. So for the first time ever I was looking forward to going home. 

I apologise for the content in this blog as it doesn’t give a proper insight into what I am sure is a marvellous city. I wish I could have explored it more!


Day 2 of Peru Hop

I woke up very early the next morning in Paracas and while texting home I found the sound of the waves calling me outside. It was 6am and I was in South America looking out at the waves, drinking it all in. I was proud of myself for going through with my plans even if they weren’t solo. I stayed for a little while until I spotted a man walking up the beach alone. I didn’t feel unsafe however common sense kicked in. I made my way back into the hostel for tea n bread with jam. 

A little while later our group met for the optional tour to Ballestas Islands. We boarded the speed boat and I swear I had the biggest smile on my face. Three days into the trip and it was everything I wanted. Our first stop was to show us the imprint of a candelabra in one of the islands. 

We then made our way to the other islands where we were filled in on all the wildlife that inhabits it. So many different types of birds. We had the pleasure of seeing some penguins and as the tour continued we got to see some sea lions up close. It was a great tour that I would recommend. My only issue was my motion sickness kicked in after a while so my smile faded to me becoming very quiet trying not to get sick!! 😷

After we got back on shore I got myself back to normal in time for our trip to the national reserve. It’s not far from Paracas and it was included in the tour. It was beautiful to see and I’m glad I went. 

We went back and grabbed our bags from Kokopelli and boarded the bus to Huacachina. It wasn’t too long a drive. I was very tired so I didn’t take in much of the scenery along the way. Huacachina is an oasis in the middle of the desert and I was excited to go there. We checked into Bananas Hostel and got shown to our 3 bed dorm that we shared with a lovely Canadian called Jason. Bananas has a pool so the outdoor area was packed and a great place to chat to new people. We got some food from the bar and we both thought it was pretty good. We met up with the rest of the group for our sand boarding tour. For $15 it was a bargain. our group was a good one and we got told our driver was one of the bests he definitely didn’t disappoint! The buggy was exhilarating, like being on a rollercoaster in the sand! I did a similar tour in Dubai for €100 and it didn’t even compare to how much I enjoyed this one. 

Before sandboarding we stopped to take photos with the sand dunes. One of our group wanted to do a pyramid so she gathered a few of us to attempt it. I felt so sorry for the guy underneath me!!

We were taken to our first sand dune to board down. The drivers gave us wax to rub over our boards and talked us through how to go down safely on it. He gave me a push and I loved it! It was only a short ride but it was fun. We had four more to do and I couldn’t wait!

The first three were the easy ones with the last two becoming steeper! What I loved about this tour was everyone bonded together. When anyone needed a physical push down the dune we helped each other. We encouraged everyone to try it even if they were scared. The last dune was pretty scarey so that took a lot of guts. When I got myself ready on the board I knew I wasn’t 100% comfortable but I asked Carol to push me anyway. As the board made its way down, the nuts attached to the straps tore into my hand. By the time I made it to the bottom my hand was bloody and throbbing! However I can’t stress how much I LOVED it!!

After sunset we headed to a barbecue, arranged by Maurice. I was so tired and my hand was really sore so I didn’t stay long. The food wasn’t great anyway but I tried to stay as long as possible as I really enjoyed the company of our tour group. 

The next morning it was really hot and as we didnt have to leave until lunch I took myself out to the bar to grab breakie and some rays!! My roommate was kind and organised our breakfast as I have not got a bit of Spanish. I love chatting to new people and hearing stories about their travels and their lives. After a while I grabbed a sunbed and took in the sunshine! 

I didn’t want to leave but we had to join the tour for our overnight trip where we eventually would arrive in Cusco. I was a little disappointed to find the bus we boarded wasn’t as nice as the one we enjoyed the previous two days. 

It wasn’t too bad a journey as we stopped to view the Nazca lines (I wasn’t a fan) and later for dinner. Once we got settled on board I took a sleeping tablet to help with the overnight journey! I was soon conked out so it worked 😊. I woke about 4 am however we were to stop at 5 to let people off in Arequipa and pick up new members. We were sad to see people go as in the two days we got close to some! 

There’s not a lot to write about the rest of the journey. We travelled through beautiful countryside and stopped for meals. We chatted to new people at lunch and then we all parted ways once we got to rainy Cusco! And that’s a story for another blog…

Peru hopping 

On the second day of our trip we were given a time of collection by Peru Hop and they were on time. I chose this way of travelling as a lady advised it as a safe way of travelling on tripadvisor. I chose the get to Cusco quick option as it only required 3 days minimum travel and I could choose to stay longer if I wanted.

When we boarded the bus the other travellers were resting in their seats as it was still early morning. I was extremely impressed by the coach itself. Big leather reclining seats with leg rests, TVs dotted around and plenty of rooms for luggage. 

Once all passengers were onboard we went through a roll call and then the rules of the bus were talked through. Basically just respect the other passengers, clean up after yourselves etc.

We were then given a newsletter from the owners of the business Will & Connor. This is the point I learned that they were Irish! They had a very good manifesto and spoke as if they were having a chat with you directly. I respected that as it didn’t come along like a marketing strategy, more of a heads up. 

Upon leaving Lima we had the first of our free tourist stops. We went to see one of the white Jesus that are in Peru. We also got a brief history of the war between Chile, Bolivia and Peru. 

We continued on our way to Paracas from Lima taking a quick stop for breakfast. I had filled up in the hotel so I decided to spend my time getting to know some of my fellow bus mates instead. I got speaking to an Australian man in his fifties who thought nothing of travelling around on his own for a few months. His next stop being Cuba. He was full of sarcasm which me and my travel companion appreciated. We were then joined by a US army guy from Texas who spoke to us about the upcoming election. When we boarded the bus we made friends with a Boston girl who was on a two week vacation solo. 

This is how I wanted my trip to be. Getting to know strangers, seeing different sides to Peru most people on a two week holiday don’t see. On board the bus I got to see countryside, local roadside shops, take in views. I couldn’t stop smiling!

Our next stop was an old stately mansion where slave tunnels run throughout. This was an extra bonus. The mansion was now an expensive boutique hotel but still retained the decor of days past. It was beautiful. Colourful flowers dotted the gardens, large wooden beams in the ceiling, hammocks and a pool in the back garden. Our tour guide Maurice brought us through the tunnels which were tight, dark and hard to believe that people were kept down there. He explained the history well and lead us toward a place where the shackles were still attached to show us how they were treated. Hard stuff to take in. We ended our tour in a beautiful church on site. 

By 3pm we arrived in Paracas. We had plenty of options of places to stay. I chose Kokopelli hostel and I wasn’t disappointed. For my first night in a hostel I was in a 6 bed dorm, with only one other occupant. Plenty of locker space, bright and airy with a curtain for privacy. 

I made my way to the bar which was beside the beach and had some wine with my fellow travellers. I ventured to the beach but only waded into the Pacific for a few minutes. We decided to check out Paracas so we went for some food and to test Pisco Sours (local cocktails). We got to witness a beautiful sunset.

Maurice had organised a dinner for any of the travellers who wanted to attend. We made our way to the restaurant where there were plenty in attendance. The food was good and the pisco sours were free. To say I got tipsy is a bit of an understatement. I was in my element getting to know my fellow bus mates and having a laugh. So much so I didn’t even realise when a candle synged my hair! 

We decided to take the party back to the hostel where I danced and chatted and thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of hostel life. I put myself to bed and let the party continue. The next day we were travelling to Huacachina 😊