Cuzco Ruins Travel Guide

This is the best information you are going to get on the ruins around Cuzco.  Which ones you can get in for free, which ones are the best.  Here, I´m evaluating Tipón, Pikillacta, Moray, Chinchero, and Q´enqo.

So, this past week Marc Capule came to visit.  Being a shoestring traveler like myself with a strong adversion to paying the gringo tax that Cuzco imposes, we decided to try to get into as many ruins as we could for free.  To prove my point, we walked into a bookstore to find him a notebook, and when the lady behind the counter said 80; he assumed it was 80 soles ($40) and said, “Ok, I don´t need it that badly” and started to leave. Soon everything got sorted out (the notebook was 80 cents), and we started a week of awesome food (will be in a following post) and touring around Cuzco.

 

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Tipón is my favorite ruin so far.  To get there, take a cab to the Urcos taxi stop on Av. La Cultura in front of the Universidad.  Get off at Tipón.  Cabs cost S./10 a person and another S./10 to get in.  Alternatively, walk down the road 4 km.  When you get to the base of the hill, don´t go up the pedestrian steps, but walk up the road past the giant Tipón sign.  About 20m up the road, there is a small path leading up the ancient Incan steps to the ruins (and bypassing the control).  Tipón is a beautiful series of terraces interspersed with canals.  You can walk up the Incan steps in the wall (generally rocks sticking out of the wall) to climb the terraces to the natural spring at the back of the ruins. Or alternatively, check out the view from the fortess that you passed coming up the Incan steps.

Pikillacta. Similarly to get here, you take the taxi from the Urcos stop, and get off at Pikillacta.  The only cool part of the ruin is the giant wall alongside the road and views of the lake. (see slideshow). Sneaking in to the main ruin is easy.  From the road, take “the high road” instead of walking down the path to control.  The path leads you past control directly to the ancient city.  Now, merely crumbling rock walls. Place this at the bottom of your list.

Moray. I thought (and had been told) this was one of the closest ruins in the Sacred Valley.  My verdict, go to Tipón first.  It´s better maintained, greener, and with the natural spring, more beautiful. To get here, take the bus to Urubamba from Pavitos street in Cuzco.  Get off Moray.  Your options of getting to the ruin are limited (they are 14km away).  The cab runs S./15 each way.  Alternatively, you can do a bike ride to the ruins.  The circular terraces were used for crop rotation (each terrace differed by .5º C so they were experimenting with temperature differences) and the larger one as an amphitheater.  The cab will drop you off at the control, but a dirt path leading down to Urubamba suggests that you could sneak in from the valley.  There is a nice hike from Las Salineras to Urubamba (another S./15 to get there).

Chinchero. Second favorite ruin in this list. Take the bus/ convey/ taxi from Pavitos street in Cuzco.  Get off at Chinchero.  From the big sign that talks about the ruins, walk up until you see the plaza on your left. Walk through the plaza, and take the street up that is closest to Urubamba (away from Cuzco).  Although there are three controls in the city, going up the left hand side (if you are facing the ruins) lets you avoid all three.  The ruins, the church, and the market are all worth checking out.

Finally, Q´enqo. These ruins are a short trip from Cuzco and a lovely afternoon hike.  Walk up through San Blas until you hit the road going to Sacsayhuaman.  On the road should be a small sign for rock climbing.  If you cross the small creek and follow the path up, you reach the Moon Temple (when you get there, make sure you go into the caves).  For Q´enqo climb the hills on the other side of the creek until you pass a massive Inca stone wall. You can reach Q´enqo from the backside by crossing the bridge.

Happy Travels! Cuzco Restaurant and the Rest of the Sacred Valley Ruins Soon!

Media, Media, More Media!

This post I won´t bore you with my words… I´ll let my camera do the talking. This week has been interesting to say the least: it ranges from me being on Cipro (the food in Peru did me in…), me warding off bandits, catching a rat in my kitchen, some of the biggest hail I have ever seen, borrower visits at 4200m in Ocongate, and some folk music from the Arariwa retreat!

sorry guys… people at my work got upset about the music video. they don´t want to be online… email me if you just can´t live without peruvian folk!

If you haven´t seen enough, check out my Youtube Channel!

The Machete Heist

I am literally writing this with blood on my hands.  O and if you are my parents, lets just skip over this blog post.  This happened less than one hour ago, and is the most crazy thing that has ever happened to me in a South American country.  I mean more crazy than being robbed in Guatemala City, or having a tire iron being waved in my face by a taxi driver in Argentina, or even seeing 4k of coke being pulled out from the seat in front of me the last time I was here in Peru.

Here is what happened. This morning, I decided to go for a run to start training for the Inca Trail or even more immediately, my potential backpacking trip to the Lares valley next weekend.  I headed up to the Temple of the Moon (ok, I didn´t run up the hills, but did some trail running once I got up there) where I had gone hiking with some friends the week before.  At the end of my run, I decided to hike up to the top of the tallest hill in the valley to rest and take in the view.

As I approached, I saw three 15-17 year old Peruvians coming up at the same time.  I didn´t think anything of it until I saw one coming up my left hand side, and the other two (one in a Yankees cap…I think this speaks volumes) walking behind me.  My very imaginative mind flashed to all sorts of movies where they were surrounding me and cutting off my exits and saw a place straight ahead where I could run down unobstructed.  I immediately dismissed this as ridiculous because this only happens in movies right?

Less than ten seconds later, the kid I saw on my left hand side ran up and sat down by me, put his arm around my neck forcefully and said “tienes sencillo” more or less meaning do you have exact change.  I jumped up realizing what was happening and tried to throw him off me when I saw the kid in the Yankees cap with a two and a half foot machete run up and tell me to hand over all my stuff.

The rest is a blur. I remember trying to get loose and telling them both ok I´ll hand over my stuff (then I thought about my brand new canon camera and my credit cards in my bag and knew I didn´t want to do that) but told them to let me go first.  I remember thinking about yelling, but who was around? I remember the kid in the Yankees cap holding the machete low and swinging it at me and me jumping back. And I remember trying to grab the machete so it won´t hit me. I remember finally grabbing kid A and throwing him into the kid with the Yankees cap and rock hopping and scrambling down the mountain.

Then, I all out sprinted a kilometer (which is superhuman at 12k feet) through some trees downhill to the Temple of the Moon (they chased me for a while, but thank God for long legs).  I got chased by the dog of a couple of older Peruvians who I warned about the robbers.  And finally, finally, I made it to the security guard who stands guarding the site, and told him all about it.

I ran/jogged back into the city with a don´t mess with me grimace on my face. I don´t know how all of it happened, but I assure everyone that I am fine, that I will find people to hike with, and that the cuts on my hands from scrambling and from the fight will heal.  Below is a picture from the moon temple. It all went down on the hill a little to the left of the photo:

From Templo de la Luna

Getting in the Christmas Spirit (Read This)

Merry Christmas! This post is a MUST READ and is partially a carry over post from my minimalism post on Black Friday, and partially its own entity about making the holidays worthwhile.

First of all, I love Christmas. The tree, Christmas lights (you can ask my parents about what I did to our house when I was a little kid), hot cider, going over to Grandma´s house on Christmas Eve, eating tamales (everyone has their own Christmas traditions), the stockings, Eggs Benedict Christmas morning, watching my Beagle open up his gifts.  The feeling of being around those who you love and those who love you.  I love all of it.

As I search for meaning over the Holidays, I reflect on what I would change about all of it if I could.  And (I know I am not original saying this) I think that we mistake all the great feelings that culminate in Christmas for what we give and what we receive instead of the traditions and the people that really matter.  More than that, I–and I´m sure I´m not alone in this–find myself buying gifts that people don´t want just for the sake of giving them something.

My advice: if you run across that person that has everything this holiday season, instead of buying them another thing that they don´t want or need, get creative.  Buy> my shameless plug goes here: buy Kiva gift cards (you are giving something and helping entrepreneurs around the world!) Or buy gifts from social responsible and cause related not-for-profits like Ten Thousand Villages or Nightlight International *great handmade jewelry! Or give the gift of time: I remember one of my favorite gifts as a kid was a book from my Dad full of outings to the beach, ice dream, hiking, Disneyland, etc. It becomes more than a gift, but an excuse to spend time with your loved ones.

 

The Cusco Christmas Market

My final thought for the 1st of December concerns my own holiday plans.  With some of the people in the office, we are pooling our money to buy food, toys, and small gifts for the poor that come to sell handicrafts at the Cusco Christmas market on the 24th.  I am putting forward $50 with another $100 or so from my co-workers.  I have never been one to ask for money; however, if this is something you are interested in giving money to, feel free to donate (right hand side of the page) and (like Kiva) 100% of the money given will get to the families that need it most on Christmas Eve.  And you can count on me taking pictures and blogging about the project after its through!

Merry Christmas from Down South

Living with Less

I remember coming back from college the summer after freshman year, looking at a room full of stuff that I hadn´t used and wondering how I got it all.  Then, I just started giving it away.  I didn´t even realize that it was a part of my lifestyle until when at my college graduation party, my mom mentioned this habit as something she admired.  Now, I am spending July to March traveling and working in South America, out of a backpack, and I continue to wonder, what do we really need?

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less” – Socrates

So, here are some of my random thoughts on minimalism, “Living with Less”.  It seems that as Americans, when we are bored, we consume.  We buy new DVDs or invest money in new hobbies.  (I do all this).  Then we look at a blank shelf and wonder what we could put there and we head to Pottery Barn or an Antique Shop for that perfect “thing” to fit that hole on the shelf. (Guilty).  Consider even, the stimulus package: it was given for the purpose of consumption under the pretense that buying more would be good for the economy.

And at the end of the day, we end up with rooms, houses, garages, and storage units full of stuff that we have used once or twice and left by the wayside.  And I wonder if this consumption inspired by boredom is what we must really do to be happy? And I wonder that if everything I own was stolen, would I be less content?  I think back to the robbery in Guatemala, and sad as I was that all my stuff was gone, I realized that it wasn´t the end of the world, and that I could survive without all the stuff that I had lost.  Packing as I did for Peru, I realized that all I am taking in my 55l Osprey is all I will really need for the next few months.  More than that, I realize that I would be satisfied with what I brought for longer than a few months.

My revelation lies not in the desire to give up everything we own, but the evaluation that the things I own don´t make me who I am.  It lies in the realization that the most spectacular parts, the best memories in your life will never be created by the things you bought, but by people you were with.  So, endeavour, as I do, to make your life less about what you buy and more about those with whom you can share your life with.