I stayed two weeks at the Hacienda Murrillo which is a dog sanctuary in the middle of the small town of Ttio, about 70 km from Cusco. The town is in the middle of the Andes Mountains so it’s quite cold and cloudy for most of the day. But you’re surrounded by deep greenery all around you.
It’s special to stay in these smaller towns because you live a little closer to how the locals live, as opposed to being in big cities, staying in hostels, and eating out. The closest restaurant is about 25 minutes away by car so we chose to shop at the local food markets instead. Each market had its own speciality, from their cookies to their breads (very sweet!) to their cheese.
Hacienda Murrillo is about 1.5 hours from Rainbow Mountain. Rainbow Mountain is over 5000 meters high which makes for a difficult hike, even though the total distance is around 7km. We arrived around 9am and were alone for the majority of the hike and the view at the top. It was truly incredible. The internet plays down Rainbow Mountain which helped to manage our expectations. But we were far from disappointed.
We also did several day trips to Urcos which is the closest “city” to Ttio (about 15 minutes by bus). The supermarkets at Urcos sell cereal which was a welcome surprise. There are also many DVD stores where you can buy DVDs for 1 dollar or so.
We stayed a few nights in Cusco on the bookends of the Machu Picchu trek. Cusco is a charming city. The touristic spot sits on a hill, with the Plaza de Armas at the bottom. We explored the city and tasted the famous guinea pig. It’s served (essentially) sliced in half, with the skin side face up. I try to eat vegetarian as much as possible but decided to try a bite of the plated pig. The skin has a rubbery consistency but that was my only complaint. And perhaps also the way it was served ;)
We shopped for silver necklaces in the markets around the city and tried some delicious pisco sours. There was a curfew in effect at 9pm and the Cusco police force was armored and patrolling the streets heavily so we made sure to be heading home before then. But all in all, we had a lovely time exploring Cusco!
As soon as I saw that the treks to Machu Picchu were open despite the pandmic, I decided I absolutely had to book one. I was already nearby in Chile so it was relatively easy to get to Peru. I brought along two friends I had made on the road and booked a trek with Machu Picchu Reservations to do the Salkantay Trek. The Salkantay Trek is more intense and longer than the traditional Inca Trail but the Classic Inca Trail was closed due to COVID so I didn’t have a choice.
It ended up being a wonderful and intense adventure with a perfect ending in Machu Picchu. On day 2, we hiked up to Salkantay overpass, which is the highest point of the trek at around 4800 meters high. From there, we had a few days of intense adventures because there were unexpected landslides which forced us to detour heavily. Our guide had been leading treks for 15 years and said ours was the most intense he had ever done, just to give some context ;)
We arrived to Aguas Calientes on day 4 and spent the night in a hostel. After camping for three nights with no showers, it was a welcome change. Aguas Calientes was a bit sad, especialy since it’s a town almost completely dedicated to tourists. But of course, during the pandemic, Aguas Calientes is the type of town that is hit hardest. Hotels were shut down and only half of the restaurants were open but no one was eating at them.
The next day was Machu Picchu. After climbing about 2000 steps, we reached the top, sweaty and ready to be greeted by one of the world’s wonders. We were with three other people when we first entered the park which was incredible. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to Machu Picchu with so few people.