We were woken up at 4am by the buzzing of our alarms, after an extremely restless night’s sleep. A word of advice, if you wish to have a good night’s sleep during your stay in Cusco, avoid Loki Hostel. However, I must add that in all other respects the hostel was more than satisfactory – the staff were friendly, the rooms immaculately clean, they had a great bar which served fantastic food and drinks, and not to forget, the piping hot showers, which we discovered can be a rarity in this part of the world. On this particular night we wanted to get a good 6-7 hours of sleep, however, there was a party in the bar, which was directly across the courtyard from our room. I think everyone who was staying in the hostel that night was there, except for us of course, and the music was blaring until 3am! By about 2am we’d had enough. We went to the reception and asked if there was another room we could have. From this new room, the noise level from the bar was significantly diminished, but the room faced out towards the street. So rather than music and people yelling at the top of their lung, we listened to the incessantly noise of cars beeping down the street (There is a strange phenomena in Peru and Bolivia, where drivers continuously beep their car horns whilst they’re driving. We were told that because cars are somewhat ‘new’ in the region, people still don’t look when they cross the road, so in order to prevent accidents, drivers beep their horns to warn pedestrians).
Daniel, our Quechua (the native people of the Andean region of Peru) guide met us in the lobby of the hostel at the bright and early time of 4:30am! He looked disturbingly alert for such an early hour, especially in comparison to the two of us, who were still weary-eyed and drowsy from our disruptive night. We walked down the ghostly dark streets and piled in a bus with a bunch of men, women and sleeping children (apparently 4:30am isn’t considered to be particularly early for the Quechua people), who were carrying cages of chickens, sacks of corn, bags of cabbage and all sorts of other paraphernalia. After a two hour bumpy ride through the cobbled streets of Cusco and the unsealed roads of the surrounding countryside, we reach our first stop, Calca, for breakfast.
I was expecting breakfast to be a visit to a local bakery or something, maybe some pastries, or fruit, or I’m not quite sure what. Anyway, Daniel led us through the fresh produce markets of Calca to what seemed to be some sort of cafeteria, with all the stalls selling different types of soups and casseroles, with of course, large urns of coca tea (Coca tea is widely drunken in Andean regions, as it is believed to relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness). We sat down in front of a stall and, with hungry eyes, watched our breakfast being prepared. Two bowls of simple chicken, vegetable and noodle soup were placed in front of us. Despite the wallowing steam, we ate eagerly. I have to say it was one of the best chicken noodle soups I have ever eaten. The spaghetti like noodles were so soft and tasty, and the broth so flavoursome I can still taste it now, months later.
After our breakfast, we bought a few supplies for the first day of trekking, some fruit, quinoa museli bar and not forgetting our trusty walking sticks which served us well trekking up and down the mountain passes of the Lares Valley. Our final stop before we embarked on the three day trek were the aguas calientes (natural hot sulpha springs) of Lares, where we spent the remainder of the morning relaxing in the therapeutic pools.
Words & Photography by Jade Spadina