On our second day, we got up kind of early and headed out to visit Pisac, a small town about an hour from Cusco. We walked to where we thought the bus station was, but it ended up being what they call a collectivo – shared bus/van. We crammed in and hoped the ride went quickly. The drive took us up and out of the valley that Cusco occupies and through the mountains. The views were amazing and a little scary at times when we would be driving really close to a cliff. We arrived in Pisac safely and a little nauseated, but in one piece. We walked around the Sunday market, where vendors were selling everything from souvenirs to fresh squeezed juice. Pisac is situated in a valley surrounded by rocky mountains and jungle. It’s gorgeous and so peaceful.
After we walked around a bit, we found a place to get a snack while we looked for a vegan or vegetarian restaurant. We finally found one and headed there for lunch. They were just opening up and were setting out tables in the street. It was a lovely day so we thought it would be great to eat outside. While we were waiting for our order though, a street dog pooped like 5 feet away from us. It smelled so bad, but they were cleaning the floor inside so we couldn’t go in. We moved to a table farther away and apparently made enough fuss that the owner ended up coming out and picking it up. It was so gross. We thought we were good to go, then the same dog ended up throwing up after chewing on some plastic, again about 5 feet away. Guess that’s what we get for trying to eat on the street in Peru! It was disgusting, so we ate quickly and got away from that dog asap.
From the restaurant we walked up a hill to get an overview of the town and the valley. We ended up finding the path to the Pisac ruins, which are at the top of a mountain basically. You had to pay to get in and someone told us it might take over 2 hours get there. Knowing we had a lot of walking to do in the next few days, we decided against it. Instead, we walked back to the market then grabbed the bus back toward Cusco.
There are several more Incan ruins site on the way back to Cusco. You also have to pay to see them, so we devised a plan to try and see them without paying. First, we had the bus drop us off at the Tambomachay ruins. Sometimes the guards aren’t there or aren’t checking tickets, but this one was definitely checking. We tried to walk up a side path, but someone saw us so we left. From there we walked down the road to the Pucapucara ruins and entered thru a back path. They were also checking tickets at the regular entrance and we probably could have gotten in, but we decided we liked the view from the outside better anyway. From there we walked down the road until another bus came. We had them drive us a few more miles and drop us off at another ruins site called Qenco. We couldn’t really see anything there so we walked down the road to the Cristo Blanco statue and another Inca site called Saqsaywaman. Again, from where we were, you couldn’t see much without paying, but since we were going to Machu Picchu and seeing several more Inca sites along the way we weren’t too upset.
We walked backed down into Cusco and headed back to the hotel. After we recovered from our walk, we repacked our packs for the trek. We were planning to leave behind clothes and other things (like shampoo) that we wouldn’t need for the hike so we had to shuffle our stuff around. After our packs were pretty much set we headed to Eco Path Trek for our orientation meeting.
At the meeting we met our group members Maaike, Oliver, Wendy and Desda, all from the Netherlands. We thought there would be another guy that was 33 from the US, but turns out he was 74. Ali’s dream of finding her Inca Trail soulmate was dashed. We also met our guide, Primo. He told us more detailed info about the trek including how far we would go each day and showed us a map. At the end of the briefing we were all a lot more nervous than we had been. We were planning on carrying all our own stuff, but the other people in the group were getting porters to carry all or most of their stuff. We wondered if we should do the same. Before we left Primo told us the bus would be there to get us at 4:50am. Yikes. We left the briefing feeling excited and anxious.
We ate dinner at a teeny tiny vegan restaurant owned and operated by one guy. He has two tables and makes everything (even his chips and noodles) from scratch. As we waiting for our food we decided it would probably be a good idea to get a porter to carry some of our stuff. Ethan ran back to the trekking company to make sure we could do that. The food still wasn’t done by the time he got back, but he came with good news that all we had to do was bring extra money to pay the porter. Phew! It was $70 extra dollars, but after huffing and puffing al over Cusco, we figured we would appreciate it on the trek. (Our dinner was amazing by the way. Ethan and I shared a vegetable lasagna with beet noodles made from scratch and Ali had a vegetable pasta with vegan cream sauce. We also had guacamole with homemade chips that was out of this world.)
After dinner we went back to the hotel to re-pack again and leave our sleeping bags and pads out for the porters to carry. We went to bed about 10:30 and were not excited about our 4:15am wake up.