Today is a free day, by which I mean I have no tours, excursions or activities booked, so I thought I would head into the main part of Cusco to do a bit of souvenir and present shopping.
I walked to a different square near the hotel and found my way to a huge indoor market. They seemed to sell everything in there. Lots of tourist stuff, but also groceries, meat, furniture, household wares and lots of food stalls that were all crammed with people eating. It was noisy, vibrant and brilliant to wander around. I struck a few bargains and bought a few presents. I also saw some gruesome meat cuts…
To my surprise there turned out to be a carnival procession that day. It was to celebrate the tourism industry – how apt!
There were lots of decorated floats, some quite astonishing and lots of people dressed up to match. Some rode the floats, but many formed lines of procession and danced to music either being played by marching bands or blaring out of the float sound systems. Of course, lots of people lined the streets and the main square to watch. The atmosphere was brilliant: very friendly with lots of chicha and beer being consumed. I took way too many photos and watched most of the procession pass by. Energised by my sleep (and hot shower!) I really felt the carnival vibe and decided that today would be a good day to party!!
I’d had a beer on the street and a glass of chicha (still not keen on it) and decided that I needed some lunch to help get the party started. I had promised myself since booking the trip that there was one dish I had to try and today is the day. Cuy…doesn’t sound like much, but is known in the UK as Guinea Pig. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it being a delicacy in Peru and some other South American countries and I thought that whilst here I just had to try it. It is just meat after all…isn’t it? More on the Cuy experience will follow in a separate “A taste of…” post. I chose a restaurant overlooking the main square and hard a prime seat next to window so I could still soak up the carnival atmosphere and see each group as they paraded by.
Following lunch I re-entered the throng of the streets. The carnival procession had concluded and people were dispersing into bars for further merriment. I wasn’t quite ready for more booze, so I walked around a bit and did a little more souvenir shopping. I had a few aches from the trek – it’s always the day or 2 after that gets you isn’t it? And I had heard from someone in my trek group that the numerous girls hanging around the square in Cusco asking people if they want massages are actually proper masseurs, i.e. not the “happy ending” or “unhappy beginning”, as I like to call them, type. I pretty much chose the next one that asked and headed up to a nice place that looked like it had a spa as well. I had a full body massage with hot stones for 25 Nuevo Soles (about a fiver) – great value for money and it rid me of any aches and pains.
Now I felt in a better state to see how the carnival party was going. The bars were busy and there was lots of laughter and drinking and I crawled round a few places soaking in the atmosphere and having a few drinks. I felt like I needed a few home comforts so I ended up in an Irish bar for a couple and then got a KFC on the way back to the hotel…well, I can’t be Indiana Jones 24/7!!