My journey started in Cusco.
Cusco is where everybody starts their trip to Machu Picchu.
Cusco is where everybody gets used to the altitude.
I arrived at 7:00 am and my hotel had sent a taxi for me. The sign he held had 'Karine Chang' on it. I confirmed the hotel and followed him.
My first encounter with Peruvian traffic was in an old Toyota. The oldest Toyota you can think of.
The driver honked almost as soon as he would have to stop. The drive was as jerky as can be. When we got to San Blas, the street he wanted to take was flooded, so he drove me into a courtyard where he asked me to get out. He then took my suitcase out and wheeled it up the hill to a narrow alley, past the San Blas square to my B&B, Casona Les Pleiades. I immediately went to sleep for a couple of hours before heading out to lunch.
The thing I least liked of my trip was to eat alone. Yet, I had to do it for lunch and dinner that first day. The first 3 days, I was on my own.
Day 1, I walked around Cusco and explored the little markets for gifts to bring back home. I visited the chocolate museum where I saw chocolate condoms and then visited the Qorikancha, a convent. I took a picture with 2 girls in traditional dress and 2 baby sheep and they ripped me off of 20 soles. I ended up the night at Pacha Papa, a restaurant in San Blas.
Day 2, I decided to go even further up to Cristo Blanco. The receptionist at Casona just said to turn right and take the stairs. At the end of the stairs, I went a bit to the left and found more stairs. Stairs, stairs and more stairs. I arrived at a platform where a group of French tourists were lingering. I asked one of them to please take a picture of me before going on my way. I finally got to Cristo Blanco where I followed 2 couples from Boulder, Colorado, down to Plaza de Armas. I had lunch with Laurie and Ted at Jack's cafe, while the other couple went back to their hotel. It started raining heavily after lunch, so went to visit the Cathedral. As I left the Cathedral, I heard a couple speak creole. Sure enough, they were Mauritians. I chatted with them a few minutes, they were on a tour from France.
Later that day, after my briefing at Terra Quecha, I was having dinner at Le Papillon when I happened to notice than Arjun was also in Cusco. Arjun who I haven't met for at least 5 years. He was across the square from me. We met up and eventually were joined by Jenny, from Texas. We went to get her street food before we went to a bar called Quilla. We played Jenga and had pisco sour and Cusquena, the local beer. I went back to my hotel at 11pm, where the water wasn't running anymore. Good thing I had some bottled water to brush my teeth!
Day 3 was Pisac day. I asked the receptionist to book a cab for me. Jime was my driver. He brought me to an animal sanctuary first, where I saw llamas, alpacas, condors and monkeys. We then went to Pisac. It took me 2 hours to visit the ruins, then I had lunch in Pisac's main square at Mullu. I had an alpaca burger with avocado and fries and my first (of many) coca tea. I then went around the famous Pisac market before Jime returned me to Cusco. I ate alone for the last time that night, but a Dutch girl sat next to me just as I was leaving and I chatted with her until her food arrived.
I had to go to bed early that night to start the Salkantay trek early the next day.