Cusco is a city buried high in the mountains teeming with culture as people dance in the squares and sell alpaca items by the dozen. At 3399m above sea level the altitude has you loosing your breath at every step as you wonder the cobbled streets looking for the next vegan restaurant of which there are millions. The first night we enjoyed an amazing tuna salad and a vegetable quinoa crepe at “Hanz” the food was amazing and only the start of what was to come.
“Chia” our next vegan discovery had a salad bar included in a dirt cheep set menu meaning we visited here twice the second time to show our new hostel friends.
Our third and final discovery was Organika and by far the best where I tried my first Alpaca steak with carrot purée and a peppercorn sauce whilst Daisy enjoyed a very pretty goats cheese salad. Both washed down by some very colourful lemonades. One with beetroot the other mint.
During our stay here we decided to visit the infamous Rainbow mountains (montaña de 7 coloures) which involved a very early start where we were bundled on to a bus in the pitch black and pouring rain to drive hours before we stopped for a very disappointing breakfast. Once released from the bus we were pointed in the direction of the mountain which involved a three hour climb to over 5000m above sea level where rather than the promised mountain of 7 colours we saw only one, snow! We reached the top at the same time as a snow storm. What luck. So after a quick shivering wonder around hoping for it to clear, we gave up and scrambled back down to the cover of the bus.
On the rout back my face started to turn a familiar red and radiated heat. Turns out I must be the only person in the world who can burn in a snow storm. Great.
When we arrived in Huaraz we basically piggy backed a ride in a taxi, with a couple who had made a reservation before turning up at 7am, unlike us. We checked in to our room in Raju which had no window to the outside world meaning we managed to sleep until 11! Waking up delirious and disorientated we went on a hunt to soothe our bellies, we shared some street food, then wondered around town looking for a wall plug for what felt like the millionth time. Turns out electronics don’t last out here. Missions fulfilled we went to head home only to realise we didn’t have a clue of our hostels name and had walked beyond our sense of direction. Now feeling like absolute prats and wondering how we always manage to end up in these situations, by absolute chance we stumbled cross our hostel that was not in fact named Abdul as daisy thought or frow as I had thought. That evening we befriended an Irish lad staying in our hostel and grabbed some cheep dinner and beers together whilst discussing unsolved scuba diving accidents, shark attacks and other dark interesting story’s. I believe our interest in these subjects might have scared him of ,as once we got back to the hostel he agreed to a cup of tea and just disappeared with his tea going cold.
The next morning at 5 am we set off on our tour to Laguna 69. The buss journey was long and we drifted between conversation and sleep. We set off at an optimistic pace the moment the doors opened gawping at the already fantastic views. With dominating cliffs and mountains looming in every direction.
After trecking for a few hours where you would scramble up vertical hills and at the top be greeted with amazing flat fields full of cows and scattered Laguna’s. Only to have to scramble up again. Where I was unsure if It was the views of the altitude that were taking my breath away.
It was definitely the altitude as the last 1km dragged, we stoped regularly to catch our breath only to loose it again instantly. The view that greeted us at the top was worth every achey step!
Huge icy mountains surrounded a lagoon so amazingly blue it didn’t look real, the sort of thing you see a photo off and assume is edited.
It is here that we all chose an individual rock and drifted off feeling peaceful and accomplished.
The walk back was an absolute breeze despite the headaches. We chewed some coca leaves supposedly good for altitude and headed back to the city arriving at 8pm. We ate a rushed but beautiful Indian at Chilli Heaven, the portions were huge which was definitely necessary after a full day of hiking surviving only on snacks.
Next stop Lima.
An early start at 6am and we set off for Cotopaxi the second largest active volcano in the world.
And then on to Quilotoa an amazing volcano with a lake in its centre.
There is not much I can say about either of these that the photos don’t say themselves.
Cotopaxi is huge and intimidating whilst stood at the base, but the higher we scaled the more energised and giddy we became. Dressed like creepy Arabs layered up with sarongs and headbands we must have looked a real sight!At 15953feet we shared a coca tea wishing we had the time and equipment to continue to the top! Because we certainly weren’t lacking in enthusiasm.
Quilotoa is one of the best views I have ever seen so calm was the water and silent were the hills, it’s crazy that this place wasn’t roaming with tourists but we were grateful for the lack of an audience after we boldly left the group behind and descended down in to the volcano, only to run out of time and have to scramble back up panting and seriously debating an air ambulance.
The bus drive back we jumped out at a roundabout and switched busses to one going onward to Baños. Following the always room for one more rule I sat on the floor by the drivers feet and talked taxes with the driver.