We cycled into Cusco a full week before Sarah’s parents were due to arrive, so we had some time to kill. We stayed at Hostal Estrellita, known to be a hub for passing cycle tourers, and met 2 other cyclist couples from the UK – Laura and Herbie (
Pedalling to Patagonia); and Sarah and Tony. We spent most of the week hanging out with these guys and eating our weight in French pastries from the bakery next door.
When Sarah’s parents arrived, we quickly got into some serious sight seeing. After a couple of days of acclimatisation in Cusco, we headed to Machu Picchu on the train, then worked our way along the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We travelled by coach to Puno and took a day’s boat trip around a portion of lake Titicaca. We then bussed it to Arequipa and explored the Colca Canyon, before returning to Cusco.
Sarah reunited with her mum after 10 months
Our time in Cusco coincided with a national teachers strike to protest low wages. Schools were closed for over a month and groups of teachers marched around the main plaza in Cusco and sometimes blocked main roads, stranding locals and tourists alike.
The size of protests swelled during our time in the area, with the teachers joined by opposition groups for the new Chinchero airport and by parent supporters.
The backstreets of Cusco
Peruvian hairless dog
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
We took the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Unfortunately, the teachers were protesting on the railway line to Machu Picchu, meaning we had a 3 hour wait while the police tried to move them (and all the rocks they had left on the tracks)
Queuing at sunrise outside Machu Picchu
Sarah and I walked up to the sun gate
An early start and a full day walking around the archaeology and we were ruined!
From Macchu Picchu we went to Ollantaytambo
Looking around Ollantaytambo ruins
Ollantaytambo village below the Incan ruins
Spot the weirdo
Taking a break from weaving to check those DMs
Pisac ruins, with its exceptional terraces
Chilling on a terrace
A very pregnant guinea pig
We also visited the 500-year-old salt mines at Maras. Here, water from a subterranean natural spring, which is mixed with salt deposits from prehistoric salt lakes, is channelled through the salt ponds and left to evaporate, leaving behind the crystallized salt.
There are over 6,000 salt pans at Maras, each owned and mined by a local family of the Maras community
The Incan ruins at Moray are believed to be an agricultural experiment station. Their depth, design, and orientation with respect to wind and sun creates a temperature difference of as much as 15°C between the top and the bottom.
The Uros islands float upon lake Titicaca, close to Puno
Being greeted by the islanders
The reeds from which the islands are built are also edible – if not particularly tasty
Enjoying a boat ride
We also stopped off at the island of Taquile for a walk and a fresh trout lunch
Our coach journey from Puno to Arequipa was one of the more eventful of our lives. On the day we left, the teacher protests were in full force and the road leaving Puno was blocked by protesters and debris. We waited in a queue of traffic for hours while the police half-heartedly tried to get things moving
Having made it passed the amassed crowds, our coach faced an assault course of rocks, broken glass, and burning tyres
At one point, our coach driver decided to go off-road to avoid a blocked section of the highway. Needless to say, our enormous double-decker coach quickly got stuck in the sand. All passengers were marshalled off the bus and John (Sarah’s dad) led the rallying cry to push the beast free
About 5 hours late (and after crashing into a car a few kilometers from the coach station) we made it to Arequipa!
From Arequipa, we took a day trip to Colca Canyon – where Sarah balanced an Andean Eagle on her head
Traditional dress for the area
You know you’re in condor country when the bus stops look like this
Early morning mist in the valley
A mother and chick
We passed by a viewpoint where several volcanoes were visible – including Volcan Sabancaya which was emitting a sizeable ash cloud