Monday, June 27, 2016

[CUSCO] You Must See Cuzco at Night

Or the Plaza de Armas, at least. My phone’s camera ran out of batteries but I don’t think it matters because it didn’t really give the scene justice. And then I suddenly asked myself, why the heck am I so preoccupied with photos when I am right here right now and I can just remember this view in my head? I’m not selfish, you know. I want you to see it too. But I guess this time around you’re going to have to come here and see it for yourself. It’s one of the most beautiful nightscapes you’ll ever see.

Tourists new to Cuzco are said to immediately suffer from altitude sickness. I did feel a bit nauseated when the plane was landing. I’m not so sure if this was because of the altitude or because I was sick. I haven’t fully recovered yet, but I am feeling way better now. What I'm sure of is that it's damn cold here, which means having to wear many layers. I hate layering, but it’s either that or pneumonia. Cuzco’s airport is tiny and easy to navigate.

The taxis will overcharge you as much as they can. The average price going out of the airport is PEN 30 (~PHP 450) which is an obvious scam because taking the bus heading downtown will cost you no more than PEN 0.70 (~PHP 10.50). But then again, you need to have at least some rudimentary knowledge of Spanish. In my case, I went out to the main street and asked the locals which bus will take me to downtown. The PEN 30 I saved, I used later to pay for my Lomo Saltado dinner, which was just so delish.

The name of the main tourist road is Avenida del Sol. This is where you want to get off if you are to ask for directions. Your landmark is Sto. Domingo, a church that easily stands out because of its architecture as well as the green park in front of it. I approached two tourist police officers who gave me directions to my Airbnb place as well as a tourist map of the city. For its rather small size, Cuzco has a lot of churches. There are 11 on the map alone! Some are grandiose while some are just so-so. Take your pick.

The temperature is a cool 16C - 18C in the afternoon but goes down to single digits with the sun. Make sure you're fully clothed for such cold weather. You'll like go out in the evening because the town is alive at night with locals and foreigners converging at the plazas, the most popular of which is Plaza de Armas, which I already mentioned. What is there to see at this square, then, that I am raving about it? Well, it’s really the ambiance more than anything else.

The square is roughly the same size as Lima's but with a different theme, perhaps? The plaza is flanked by churches on two sides, while the other two are bordered by small shops that look as though they jumped out straight from a Spanish colonial era coffee table book. These shops are stalked by mountains in the background and along those slopes are housescharacterized by specks of white and yellow lights under the dark evening sky.

The park has no shortage of benches so people really like to hang out there. If ever you can’t find a vacant one, you can always sit on the steps leading up to one of the churches. There is a monument that acts as the centerpiece of the plaza which also serves as the de facto selfie spot for camwhores. If you have a powerful camera, I suggest taking a photo of this monument in an angle that would also catch the shops and the mountains behind them. I wanted to do that but my phone died on me. What an effing killjoy.

I was wondering whether I should run back home, charge the damn phone, and come back later to take more photos. I decided against it because I leave for Machu Picchu early tomorrow and badly need some sleep, if I want to make it there alive. If ever you find yourself in Cuzco, I suggest staying here for an extra day or two. The town has a different vibe, a bit magical akin to that of Antigua in Guatemala. It’s definitely worth exploring in my opinion.

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