Entering Cusco from the south riding through mountains, the facial expression of Will, Annie (you may check my first Peru article) and me was saying exactly:
“Well, is this the famous town Cusco?”
Cusco, one of the most iconic towns in South America and in a country where the most beautiful stonemasonry examples are found, disappointed us deeply. The whole city seems to be under construction. The main reason is that if the construction work is finished, people have start to pay taxes, therefore all dwellings are half finished and the exterior walls not plastered. On top of this unplanned urbanization add the dirt of the surroundings, the view of the city is awful. This is one of the dirtiest cities I have seen so far during my world travel. On the other hand, the bicycle lane passes through the middle of the city’s main road and not a short one, 6 km long. The lane stretches on the middle of the counterflow vehicle lane (exactly the type of a bicycle lane which I like at most). This is an unexpectedly nice for such a chaotic dirty city.
Cities are never cheap. The prices of bananas, avocados, tomatoes, also meals increased as soon as we entered the city compared to the smaller towns and villages we rode through. Probably therefore people prefer to use bicycles for commuting. One of the most important features of such bicycle lanes is that they don’t pass through gardens or parks. They take people to work and back to their home or nearby places. That is, they are not meant for pleasure riding, not for children nor for elderly people. The main objective of such lanes is to commute. It works and they are not blue painted, etc.
We found a cheap place to stay via the Ioverlander app. We entered the city from the south and the place was located outside the city center somewhere on the north. On the road we stopped at a hostel known among cyclists, but its owner asked 30 Sols per person, 5 Sols more than the other guests were paying. The cyclists inside the hostel also were baffled. 5 Sols is what you pay for a lunch and we could afford it, but what we didn’t like was the behavior of the owner. So, we kept riding to the cheap place we had found and had a steep 300 m climb at the north edge of city. Along was Cusco Hilton.
- Annie, I’m going to ask how much one night of stay costs.
- Are you kidding, Gurkan?
- I’m just curious.
Cusco Hilton is located to the north of the city center with a view over city. (the city’s view is not so nice, to me). While parking our bicycles in front of the entrance door, two families in front of the entrance gazed at us in astonishment. Dirty as I’m, I went inside and walked to the reception among astonishing looks of people sitting in the lobby.
- Hello, we are 3 people traveling on bikes. We want a room with 3 beds. What is the cheapest room price you can offer?
- The cheapest price would be 150 USD per person.
- Is only breakfast included to this price?
- Thank you very much. I’ll talk to my friends and come back.
150 USD and only breakfast is included. Frankly, 18 days had passed since I entered Peru and I had spent only 510 Sols (150 USD). Now, 150 USD for one night in Hilton. I had so many adventures and memories in these 18 days which I’ve partly mentioned in my first Peru article.
- Annie, 150 USD per night per person. Shall we stay?
We kept riding towards the hostel we were planning to stay at. That also ended up with disappointment. They asked 15 Sols (4 USD) but there were only 2 beds in the room. One of us had to sleep on the floor and there were no locked cupboards or anything like that where we could leave our valuable belongings. So, we didn’t stay there and then, I found another place from internet, Hostel Grasshopper. First, I checked the price from booking.com as 18 Sols per person and then saw the discount in Hostel World for 17 Sols. Will was not with us, so Annie had to wait for him. Therefore, I immediately rode to the hostel to find a room. When I arrived at the hostel, the woman at the reception, that is the owner:
- One night per person costs 25 Sols
- But I saw in bookin.com 18 Sols. Then, I’m checking in through booking.com
- Alright, 18 Sols.
- But, then I found for 17 Sols in Hostel World.
- Alright, 17 Sols.
- Well, would you make it 15 Sols per person for 3 people. We are cyclists and traveling through the world, the accommodation prices are important for us.
- 3 people. How long will you stay?
- At least 5 days and at most 10 days.
- Alright, 15 Sols. Where are you from
- I’m Turk.
- I thought you were….
The city center of Cusco is not as unplanned and dirty as the north and south parts of the city. Though San Pedro Market is cheap and colorful, at 4 or 5 side streets away from the Market we found almost all the products sold on the Market at cheaper prices. The most I like in Peru is, its cuisine. The menu is diverse and cheap compared to the other countries in South America. However, there is a common feature in Peru, the restaurants have a strange price policy. As a former owner of a restaurant in Ankara, we paid attention that the policies of similar restaurants, bars were all similar. The steak menu or a drink would cost more or less the same in all the restaurants on the same street. This is not the case here. No need to change the street, in the cafes located on the same raw a cup of coffee costs for example 4 Sols in one and 8 Sols in the other. On top of it, the coffee for 4 Sols tasted much better. This is not only valid for food. For example, a pair of socks costs 15 Sols in one store and the same 30 Sols in a nearby store. Dude, why don’t you check your prices with each other. What a commercial naivety?
24 hours dancing groups on the city square, crowded tourist groups, customer attraction efforts of touring companies, etc., this part of the city seems very crowded and alive.
Two of my friends from Turkey came to Cusco two days apart. They both are travelers. I had met Kerimcan in January 2017 and Hidayet in February 2017. After finishing their travel in South America backpacking, they both started to work for tourism agencies in Turkey and then in various other sectors. The reason why they came to Cusco was that they were guiding a tourist group from Turkey. So, I was happy to see them again after such a long time. Kerimcan also brought the Garmin InReach device, a tracking equipment which Garmin Turkey sent to me.
At the end, the tracking system which was not working since a long time would function again. I chatted with the people in the groups they were guiding. They both invited me for dinner, and we could spend time with each other only for one day. I wish I could travel with them. They both share nice social media posts and stories on internet about their travels: Kerimcan Akduman (www.icantravel.co) and Hidayet (uzaklaryakin.com). One day as I was out and walking with Will and Annie, someone just stopped in front me and said: “I don’t believe my eyes, Gurkan Genc”. Esra and Mustafa. Esra is a fulltime traveler and her husband joins her whenever he has free time. During our stay in Cusco, we had the opportunity to come together a couple of times. We talked about both our country and the world and shared our opinions about what caught our attentions.
Meanwhile, Will and Annie:
- Gurkan, are you famous in your country?
- Well, people recognize me while searching about bicycle, nature and travel in internet. This is quite normal since I’m writing and posting on my web page since 2009. People recognize me while searching on internet and share. People who are interested in such issues know me, otherwise I’m not so popular in my country.
I don’t bother whether people know me or not. I’m on a world tour riding on a bike. To be well known or less known did not have an impact on my life so far. I had the opportunity to meet with Emel, a Turkish citizen visiting the city. She was also traveling in South America. Well, we had met in Arica, Chile before Peru.
It was nice to stroll around through historical center of Cusco, to sit and drink tea and coffee. I guessed I walked around in the city 3 times and then left the city for Calca. We only shortly stayed in Cusco just to rest. It is a crowded town, as crowded as in the past, I guess. The city is surrounded by the Andes and could be entered only through valleys. If excavations would be done under the city, I’m sure many historical places will come out. Does Peru need more at present? No, it doesn’t. I must say that Peru and Turkey resemble each other in this case. Where you ever dig in the Andes in Peru, you’ll come up with something historical. Also, in Turkey, while traveling through the country you’ll come up with a historical site every 100 km. Anatolia hosted so many nations throughout history. Whatever. Cusco was not an attractive city for me. Let’s see, how Huyhuy Cusco is?
Well, let’s go to the Sacred Valley. Dude, in every country there is such a place. Eagle Peak, Hawk Hill etc. etc., Sacred Valley. You just come upon in every country at least once. For this one here, you go from Cusco towards Pisac direction, and from there continue towards Calca, Yuncay, Urubamba. Wait for the next adventure to coming up.