How to Do Cusco, Peru in 5 Days

Back in May, I took advantage of my first bonus check (thanks, Hershey!) and, unsurprisingly, threw it at an airline or two. A friend of mine was graduating from Pitt and wanted to check out Peru before WWOOF-ing for a month in Chile. Guess who she called to join her! I take pride in my “yes woman” reputation for others’ travel plans. 🙂

Rather than go through every single thing we did every day, I thought I’d make a little suggestion list for how to make the most of Cusco, Peru…

– Accept the absolute lack of road laws and hope for the best. South America is known to house some fast and furious drivers, but the ride from the Cusco airport to our hostel was probably the scariest one of my life. People essentially honk a lot and just go where they feel like going. We survived, anyway.

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– Be wary of altitude sickness, but don’t let the fear control your trip. Alexis and I were worried we’d get altitude sickness after all the warnings we read, so we planned to relax and stay hydrated our entire first day. That plan got thrown out 15 minutes after we got to the hostel and someone asked if we wanted to sign up for horseback riding. YEP!

Chug chug chug!

Chug chug chug!

Better idea

Better idea

– Get outside!

View while horseback riding

View while horseback riding

Get right in those ruins!

Get right in those ruins!

Explore the Plaza de Armas by day.

Explore the Plaza de Armas by day.

... and at night.

… and at night.

Explore all the little markets and stalls with souvenirs.

Explore all the little markets and stalls with souvenirs.

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Try finding a rock climbing gym and end up being the only tourists in a random tiny town instead!

Try finding a rock climbing gym and end up being the only tourists in a random tiny town instead!

– Get ideas from those around you. We had restaurant suggestions ready from a woman who used to live in Cusco. Other travelers suggested a chocolate-making class (no complaints here). Go clubbing with the hostel employees while you’re at it. Whatever floats your boat.

That would be a chunk of alpaca right there.

That would be a chunk of alpaca right there.

Best veggie burger I've ever eaten

Best veggie burger I’ve ever eaten

CHOCOLATE

CHOCOLATE

Keep an eye out for creepers!

Keep an eye out for creepers!

– Do I even have to say it? MACHUPICCHU! We did a quick day-and-a-half trip, but I’d suggest spending more time in the area to get extra hiking in.

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If you're going to walk up, know that this will be your view for a solid hour.

If you’re going to walk up, know that this will be your view for a solid hour.

It's worth it, though!

It’s worth it, though!

Wear layers up in the mountains!

Wear layers up in the mountains!

Alexis and I had a great 5 days in Cusco and Machu Picchu. A lot of that is thanks to our lovely hostel, Pariwana, that had tons of activities planned at all times and attracted a lot of awesome people that we got to hang out with. Someone recommended it to us while we were planning this trip in a café in Pittsburgh, and now it’s my turn to do the same! Other recommendations are below.

Although Alexis and I both flew into Santiago, Chile for the next leg of our trip, it was time for us to part ways. It definitely made for a different experience. I’ll recap that next time!

– Alexa

Places We Ate:
Papacho’s – hip burger place, very English-friendly
Marcelo Batata – slightly upscale traditional Peruvian food
Paddy’s – the highest Irish-owned pub in the world!
– Any little stand in the Mercado Central de San Pedro

Nightlife:
– The hostel Pariwana can get its own dance floor going late at night
Mama Africa – well-known club that a lot of tourists go to
Mythology – more Latin influence but definitely still a club

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End of an Era

The last of our original group of housemates, Kellie!, recently came back from a 2-week trip through Peru & Bolivia only to leave for good on Tuesday. Of course she wanted the best for her last meal in BsAs, so we went with José & Kellie’s two travel buds, Maddie & Sam, to an Argentine parrilla a few blocks away called La Caballeriza.

Maddie, Kellie, & Sam toasting to new friends & the best study abroad experience any of us could have expected!


The food was great! Our waiter only looked slightly offended when he asked me, “so you don’t eat meat?” after I ordered the grilled veggie platter. It was the perfect way to see our little Kellie off before she got on approximately 10 different planes back to Alaska. It was rough leaving her at the airport; it seems like each goodbye has been worse than the one before it, so I can only imagine what the last one’s going to be like 9 days from now.

As a distraction, but also playing along with the theme of endings (this one being my childhood), I’m going to go see the final installment of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows in less than one hour! Props to Argentina for getting the movie before the United States! I’ll try not to ruin it for you all. 😉

– Alexa

Mi clase argentina: Always an Experience

This morning, a friend told me, “everything is an experience,” which is absolutely true and was especially relevant because we were on our way to school; today being Thursday, I have my one class with Argentine students: publicidad, or advertising. I figure it’s about time I discuss the class because I feel like I learn more about Argentina and the student culture in that 3-hour block than I do the rest of the week.

Here are the differences I’ve noticed in class structure & participation between my Argentine class and every class I’ve had in the United States:

  • The Argentines actually participate and talk in class. All of them (or close to it). It can be about anything! I just left class after a half-hour debate over brands of jelly. To be fair, there have been much more intellectual conversations had in past classes. My point is that it’s fun, and kind of refreshing, to see how much Latin Americans enjoy talking amongst themselves compared with the usual dead stares & silence that a lot of North American professors face in lectures.
  • Although exciting, the talking can get out of hand. After my class took our break, it seemed to me like I was one of very few people who was actually listening to our professor speak. People were talking amongst themselves, working on a project for the next class, and walking all over the room borrowing tape and glue from each other. I couldn’t believe our professor didn’t recognize what I thought was completely disrespectful! Once class ended, I asked the kid sitting next to me if this happens in every class or if this group is just particularly rowdy. He ended up being Colombian, and he was just as surprised as I was. According to this guy, his professors in Colombia always wear suits & ties, the classes are very structured, and no one speaks out of turn. Maybe I didn’t learn why the Argentine students are so chatty & distracted during lectures, but at least I’m not alone in thinking it’s crazy & kind of rude.
  • There is a class mate. For those who can’t recall, a mate is a hollow gourd that Argentines drink yerba mate (a type of loose tea) out of. On the first day, one of the girls sitting in front of me brought one fully equipped with her thermos of hot water and a bag of yerba. It gets passed, literally, all around the room, professors included. The idea of sharing in this country is heart-warming, yes, but so much more extensive than I’m used to.
  • Speaking of sharing, I’m pretty sure that everyone in that class has the same exact classes together with the only exceptions being me and the other U.S. exchange student. I was a little nervous that I had misinterpreted my professor one day when our class ended (I thought), yet everyone stayed in their seats and didn’t make a move to pack up their things. What I’ve learned from seeing everyone working on their Dirección de Arte projects during our lectures every week is that they stay together in the same classroom and indeed do have basically the same schedules. My class is a first year class, so I’m guessing that they don’t take gen-ed classes like we usually do in our first year or two in college. That’s just a guess, so feel free to correct me if you know otherwise.
  • The students themselves are fun to eavesdrop on. I may not speak very well, but I understand most things. They all seem to be exactly like North American college students but darker & better at Spanish; although, I feel like this advertising class is mixing me in with the more eclectic, artsy crowd. (Advertising is a part of the Department of Architecture, which means that the students who are actually following the plan for advertising majors are taking some seriously artsy classes.) Anyway, I came back from our break to sit & listen to a comparison of how much everyone has been paying for jeans in various countries. There are a lot of students from other Latin American countries in my class (Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico), so these country comparison chats happen often. For anyone who’s curious, the jeans conversation ended with the conclusion that no one should be paying so much for jeans when they’re just going to class every day. Agreed.
  • There’s more English involved in the Spanish version of advertising than I expected. It seems like my professor is referencing me for an English word at least once per class if not more. His favorite seems to be “techie” (which he pronounces tetch-ee, at times).

Whew! That was more than I planned on disclosing, but these are observations that have been building up in my notebook for half of the semester. Speaking of which, midterms are coming up fast. We’ll see if we’ve been sufficiently preparing ourselves or if we’re in for a big surprise!

– Alexa