After a confusing early morning flight from Arequipa (confusing because the plane skipped a scheduled stop of the flight and landed an hour early in our final destination of Cusco), we arrived in the highest altitude city we would visit on our trip.  It was exciting to finally make it to Cusco because my boyfriend had been very ill a few days before and disappointing because we would have to miss visiting Lake Titicaca.

Because of extensive riots in Puno, due to local upheaval regarding a questionable business decision from the government, we were unable to bus ride our way to Cusco, which meant an expensive last minute flight.  Our entire itinerary was changed as we also had to cut out our visit to the Amazon, but that is just how it goes sometimes.  As a Go Girl, you take changes in stride and create other plans (obviously a lead in for a future article, but I digress).

Anyway, a cab drove us to our hostel for 7 soles (about $2.50) and we had orange Fanta flavored pancakes for breakfast.  We knew that we had to immediately set up our trip to Machu Picchu, so on the advice of a tour guide, we went to the Ministry of Culture and to Peru Rail to finalize the most expensive journey of our trip. 

After our trip to Machu Picchu, which I’ll cover in it’s own separate article next week (another lead in, I know), we came back to Cusco and settled back into the same hostel, mostly because it had a fooseball table and cost less than $30 for a clean, private room per night.  We walked down into the city center (their plaza was also called Plaza de Armas, just like Arequipa) and stumbled upon a parade.  The plaza was packed with people watching as floats of saints were carried by groups of teenage boys flanked by marching bands.

It was quite chilly, but we got a little libation to keep us warm while we watched the scene from the second story of a bar.  The floats would come up to the ‘master float’ to ‘ask permission’ to enter the church.  There was bowing involved and men in traditional costumes blowing conch shells at every kneel.

While putzing around on the shared computers the next day, we met a lovely, young British couple who had been living in Bolivia for nine months doing volunteer work and were taking a five week vacation before returning home to finish their university studies.  Long story short, because of the boys’ shared passion for tennis, we found ourselves in a British pub eating bangers and mash, while watching a Wimbledon semi-final match.

We spent the rest of the day visiting local sites, including a very underwhelming 12-sided stone made famous on the Cusquena beer label, a really gritty looking music shop, and the fantastically important chocolate museum.  The four of us signed up for a chocolate making class the next day and could barely contain our exciting over dinner that night.

It was wonderful to spend the day with another young couple, I mean, my boyfriend and I weren’t sick of each other, but it was nice to add fresh conversation and perspectives into the mix.  And the chocolate class was delicious.  We learned about the entire process from harvesting and roasting, to mixing and eating.  Our chef told us about the history of hot chocolate, which we got to taste (my new favorite way to learn history, by the way) and we left with a giant bag of chocolate that we got to take home.

My favorite part was eating the leftover chocolate from a spoon.  Life is sweet.  Plus, I am sure the Mayans would have definitely encouraged finger licking.