Originally on this day we were supposed to meet a local guide in our hotel at about 9am and go with him on an all day tour of the sacred valley. We had planned a customized private tour to go to the Maras, Moray, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo and end up in Urubamba for the night with a man named Oscar who had been recommended by many others online. Unfortunately, there were local protests planned and the guide emailed us and said we should try to meet at 5:30am and get an early start if we wanted to get anything done. So we planned for that and were about ready to go when our hotel room phone rang at 5:25. It was Oscar calling to say he lives in Urubamba and can’t possibly get to Cuzco due to the protests and subsequent road closures. Oh. Really not the worst thing that can happen on a vacation. He said he would be able to make it in by the evening and still take us to our hotel in Urubamba for 1/3 of our original agreed price, and we suddenly gained another day in Cuzco! We called the front desk first thing to see if we could do late checkout, but unfortunately since it was such last minute the best they could do was noon. So we decided that was fine and we could go back to sleep for a bit.
The plan was to wake up around 9 or so and check out the hotel’s breakfast buffet. However around 9:15 Eric wasn’t feeling like he could wake up yet. He had been feeling really tired all of yesterday and today. Such lethargy and sleepiness that he could not force his eyes open to drink water. I think he might have been experiencing a bit of soroche (altitude sickness) even with the Diamox we had been taking. So we said okay no breakfast let’s rest in the room until checkout and then go find lunch. Thankfully I had not had any symptoms at all of the altitude, just the side effects of the medication. Another of which I discovered last night at dinner. Diamox made carbonated drinks taste flat! So weird.
Just about a half hour before checkout Eric started experiencing some severe stomach problems which really put a damper on our enjoyment of the day. We checked out and walked slowly into the city. We found the Plaza de Armas ten times more crowded than yesterday and lined with policia. We assumed it was related to the protests as many locals were seated on blankets all over the ground. We watched for a little while, and though everything seemed perfectly peaceful we decided to make our way away from the main square toward the San Blas neighborhood. Just up the hill from Jacks where we ate yesterday was another small place called Granja Heidi. It is owned by a German man and his wife and offers great Peruvian food with some German additions. Eric was clearly not feeling well so the owner made him some special herb tea and provided crackers, plain bread, and a nice chicken soup with rice. I ordered something called Loqro which was puréed pumpkin with fava beans, potato, maybe some other things and served with rice. Yet another amazingly tasty dish here in Cuzco.
After lunch we went back to find the Plaza completely cleared out! We crossed through it and located the ChocoMuseo, a tiny little “museum” and gift shop with chocolate. They had some information about where cocoa plants are grown and the process the beans go through to become our candy. Their shop contained many many chocolate products include chocolate jams, chocolate toiletries, and chocolate tea which we were able to sample. We bought some small chocolates to eat and a bag of cocoa tea (not to be confused with coca tea because one is delicious and the other is not). We then spent a while sitting on a bench enjoying the weather and some people watching. We received an email that our guide would not be picking us up at all, but at 4pm his friend Cesar would be there to collect us and drive us to our next hotel. That seemed a little odd but really the main goal was to get to the next point so whatever.
It was time to hit an ATM and get back to the hotel to be picked up by our ride to Urubamba. Cesar was right on time at 4pm and very friendly though he spoke very little English whereas Oscar spoke great English. We made a lot of nice conversation with our broken Spanish and his broken English, and asking each other how to say things. It actually worked out great and we enjoyed our time with him very much. We had a lovely 90 minute ride from Cuzco to Urubamba chatting with Cesar who was happy to tell us about the towns and surroundings we could see.
The only snag was that apparently part of the “protests” from earlier meant people piling rocks and boulders in the road to purposely block the transportation. In some places we had to drive off the edge into fields to pass and in others just carefully swerve around them. Unfortunately at one point we got a flat tire from one of the rocks and got to experience changing a tire on the side of a mountain road at sunset. Poor Cesar. We did get to our destination safely and thanked him profusely. Poor guy had to drive back to Cuzco on that same road in the dark then and deal with getting his tire fixed. We paid him 50% more than we had agreed on and told him to be careful going home. He was really a cool guy and I wish we had gotten to know him better. I also really hope he kept all the money for himself as we never did meet Oscar and Cesar deserved everything we paid.
The Tambo del Inka hotel was yet another fabulous and luxurious place. Much more modern looking than the Palacio, and secluded like a spa retreat. Too bad we did not get to see it in the daylight as I bet the grounds were spectacular. Our room was beautiful and had large doors that opened directly to the gardens with private patio chairs. We really had some amazing hotel stays so far. For dinner, since it was dark out already and the hotel was very secluded and separate from things, we ended up eating in. The restaurant was, of course, way more fancy and expensive than the places we had been going out to in Cuzco. We opted to get some light food from room service, shower, and wind down. Another super early morning to look forward to.