Cusco, capital of tourism in Peru, is a beautiful town, set in a valley with hills rising up all around. Once the capital of the Inca Empire the city is packed with ruins and remains from Inca days, even though the Spanish did their best to build over them. Many of the streets and building fountains are original Inca construction. The main plaza is stunning, bordered by amazing cathedrals on two sides and charming old buildings on the others.

There is no question of Cusco’s status as the tourist capital of Peru (maybe even the entire world!). Just walking across the plaza one is absolutely bombarded with offers of wool gloves, beanies, socks, shoe shines, massages, drugs, tours and more. By the time you reach the other side your voice is hoarse from saying “no gracias” so many times. On the up side though, the glut of tourists seems to have driven all of the restaurants to compete themselves into offering meals at the most amazing prices. In Peru one can always find the ol’ quarter chicken, rice and chips for dirt cheap, but in Cusco we found some really delicious, as well as nicely presented, three course meals for as little as 7 Sols (US$3).

A similar situation exists with the bars. On the one night we went out in Cusco we were swamped with guys literally forcing free drinks tickets into our hands trying to get us into their bars. All you have to do is bar hop everytime you need another drink, no wallet required. When you run out of bars, just head back to the first. Needless to say, we had a pretty drunken and fun night.

There is plenty to see in Cusco and the surrounding areas, however to do so one requires the “Boleto Touristico”. This diabolical tourist trapping invention is a multipass ticket costing a whopping US$50 (thats a pretty whopping price for anything in Peru). It grants entry (only one entry though) to all of the must see sights around Cusco and the sacred valley, however the catch is it only lasts 10 days, so you have to be pretty deteremined to see them all in this time. Additionally, if you only want to, or have time to see only one or two, thats too bad, because the ticket is the only way to get into most sights. So after much grumbling and gnashing of teeth, we eventually had to fork out the cash for our tickets. Of course some of the sights were amazing, such as Saqsayhuaman, a huge fortress built of carved rocks, some over a hundred tonnes in weight. Others were not as impressive, having only a couple of walls left, not really worth it after you’ve seen some of the more impressive ones.

Our first day was spent meeting up with our mates from the Uyuni trip, Brett and Emily, to organise our trip to the main attraction of the area, Macchu Piccu. Luckily for us they had got there before us and had already done most of the research for us. All we had to do was draw some money and sign up.

Although most people have only heard of the very expensive and difficult to book “Inca Trail”, there are actually many other options for reaching the site. The one we eventually settled on was the Salkantay trek, a five day 4 night trek of about 80km. With excitement we awaited our 4am bus pickup to the starting point of the trek.