January 2013. We already had a week in Cusco over Christmas, then New Year in Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Then we spend another 10 days in Cusco. Partly to wait for a parcel to arrive from the UK but really because we are loving Cusco.
There’s plenty more to explore and it’s a great place to get to know and feel settled, for Martin to do some work, the kids catch up on little schoolwork and especially make some more friends…Not to mention having a few more super times dining at some of the best restaurants we’ve found in South America!
First we have the privilege of meeting and hanging out with 13 yr old Miro and Mum Lainie, who are three years into a slow travelling life of adventure, learning and volunteering. Their lives and journeys are inspirational and well documented in their blog and podcast at RaisingMiro.com. It’s great to make friends and share experiences with other travelling families!
Lainie and Miro show us some favourite haunts, their lovely, cosy and simple home overlooking the city, lovely cafes, some run by other friendly ex pats and the local playground where kids and alpacas mingle! We chat about roadschooling, worldschooling and unschooling and they share their passion for Cusco and its hidden secrets at Qorikancha where we realised that whilst the tour guides show you everything as ‘Inca’ actually the Incas were only in power a short time and only 500 years ago. The mysteries of pre Inca civilisations is much more alluring and we spend and afternoon examining the amazing way the ancient building and temple were constructed, wondering and debating just how they achieved what they did!
Within the central courtyard of the ancient walls, around which the Spanish built a huge church, lies the original centre of Cusco. From here there were imaginary ‘Seqe’ lines all around the capital city on which were built many other sacred points and long which many prominent figures are buried. It’s fascinating! A lot of what Lainie and Miro share comes from more recent archeological schools of thought but much of the perfect stonework including perfect holes drilled through hard granite remains a mystery!
Cusco is great for kids and a highlight of our family gap year…aside from the obligatory Chocolate Museum tour and chocolate making classes – a must, we spend an afternoon visiting some of the museums that were included on our 10 day tourist passes. Their main function is for visiting the many different sites near Cusco and through the Sacred valley and at 130 sol each are great value (free for kids!!) and much cheaper than paying entry at each site. The museum of Popular Art is a tiny place with a vast collection of classic models of Peruvian characters and historical or religious scenes. The contemporary art museum is fabulous and everyone chooses their favourite and explains why….
The modern history museum is great too and the kids are fascinated and horrified by the Spanish treatment of the indigenous people particularly a huge painting of an Incan warrior being hung drawn and quartered! After having it explained by another visitor, Lara proceeds to explain it to the next few visitors who came in the room! The Inca museum isn’t included but it’s not much to pay and it’s certainly worth it, especially after you’ve visited Machu Picchu for the great model of Machu Picchu and a great collection of mummies housed in a darkened area that you can peep into to view them.
Then we spent a wonderful evening at the Planetarium. Reading good reviews at Trip Advisor, we booked for the daily evening trip and got picked up from the city centre in a minivan at 5.30pm. Arriving a few minutes later in someone’s back garden it seems but we soon find there’s a wonderful child friendly talk, planetarium star show and real viewing of stars and planets if the sky is clear – and it was! – we saw a magnificent constellation and also Jupiter and its four moons and learnt all about the stars and sun and what they’ve meant in Peruvian history!
The open top bus ride was fun and even takes us by Saskayhuaman, one of the main Inca sites on the edge of Cusco!
Of course, we also loved eating out at many of the lovely restaurants in Cusco – using Trip Advisor to guide us! The kids got to help out in the kitchen with or new friend Elizabeth and Erick and then Martin and the kids did a wonderful cooking class with Erick.
Ben made friends with all the staff in Starbucks and whilst Martin got to sit and catch up on some work over a Venti Latte, it also made a relaxing place for us to catch up on email or diaries and the kids were never more willing to spend a morning doing schoolwork than with the promise of a Cusco special Cookie Crumble Frappucchino and a Brownie!!
Finally after speaking with numerous people in the main Post Office and being led around sorting rooms, for a day or two, the impressive tracking system and friendly PO staff help us locate our parcel and we get ready to say goodbye to Cusco and head south to Lake Titicaca.