So I made it to Cusco alive and well, survived the 23 hour bus journey with relative ease, and already it’s nearly time for me to lace up my walking boots and inevitably don my waterproof for the much awaited Inca Trail trek. I can’t quite believe this is happening. 

The bus ride was actually very acceptable: comfortable seats and the like, with films to watch (pretty much forcibly as every seat had a speaker blaring directly above it), wifi (for about 2 hours), and meals provided. I say meals – we got a respectable dinner (chips and rice and veg; I will never understand the double carbs thing), but for breakfast we got half a sandwich and some choccy biscuits, and then they seemingly forgot that we were going to be on the bus through lunchtime. But hey ho. It was a nice view out of the window too, once I woke up after the night stint – the Lima leg had been mostly petrol stations and dirt, though I appreciated the sight of a drunk guy sitting with a plastic bucket on his head for no discernible reason. We rolled into the bus station at about 4ish (having been slightly delayed due to roadworks on what looked like it had probably been a landslide) and I cleverly caught a taxi from a little way outside the station, instantly halving the asking price.

I’ll admit I wasn’t that thrilled about the hostel after a couple of hours being there – the girl in charge seemed nice enough if a bit harried (she’d lost the key to somewhere), but the other guests weren’t all that welcoming and all they were doing was playing cards and talking loudly in rapid French. Not ideal. Still, I told myself to focus on the fact that it was 10 soles a night (£2.50) and it paid off in the end: I had a nice chat with a Russian guy called Sergio (who could speak neither Spanish nor particularly good English, amazing), and then a few Scottish guys turned up who were quite a laugh (and who prompted me to get my first fast food of the trip due to food envy). So all in all not a bad first day despite arriving later than I’d have liked and not getting much chance to get out and see it (though I did pop to the cafe down the road to make use of the free wifi and ordered a cafe con leche, which was delivered to me in a pint glass, I kid you not).

Today though I’ve made the most of my time here and really reinforced my first impression that Cusco is my favourite city – in terms of the actual city – that I’ve been to thus far. It’s exactly how I wanted South America to be, is the best way I can think to describe it – all cobbled streets and handcraft markets and plazas and colonial houses. It is beautiful here, and incredibly friendly – it actually really sucks that I’m not spending much time in the city itself; silly inca trail.

I could wax lyrical about the different aspects of exactly why I like it so much all day, but I’m getting up at 4 in the morning tomorrow so I think I’ll save that for another time and just briefly mention what I did today.

I embarked upon my first (I think first ever) free walking tour in the afternoon: it wasn’t your typical tour talking about architecture and history and whatnot (well there was a bit of that), it was more focused on gastronomy and the ‘non-touristic’ side of things – read: we got a lot of free food and drinks. It was definitely worth doing (even though I resent that I was peer pressured into tipping 10 soles: I feel like if it says free it should mean free); there were some nice people in the group – including yet more Germans and Australians, who are pretty much ubiquitous here – and I got to try some alpaca and go to yet another chocolate-related attraction (the cusco branch of the same museum I went to in Lima). I also tried a Pisco Sour for the first time and was pleasantly surprised – at least in comparison to the horrific ‘Peruvian Jaegermeister’ that we tried in another place. 

A good way to spend a couple of hours anyway. After that I spent a bit of time just wandering round, went to the main artisan market and, crucially, found a place that would charge my camera for me (thank you lord). I’d been debating over what to do about the potentially tricky issue of my camera running out of battery half way up Machu Picchu – it was by no means lacking in charge, but it would have just been to nerve wracking to risk it. Very much satisfied that I didn’t have to.

This evening I had a quick briefing by the tour company for the trek (in my opinion much too focused on the route – as if I’ll remember by tomorrow – and not enough on things like what to bring and how much money I might need) which made it feel very real, and I also met up with Jay who I met in Lima, for dinner, and it was really nice to just have easy conversation and catch up.

It’s been a great day really, but inevitably tomorrow I shall wake up grumpy from lack of sleep or forget something crucial. Fingers crossed all goes well and in four days’ time I’ll be writing about what an incredible time I had and not about how I broke my leg on the first day, for example.

So goodbye for a few days – wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side (of an actual mountain!)