Our night bus from Arequipa to Cusco was fine, if you don’t count me waking up in sheer terror as it seemed the bus was careening wildly down the mountain.  Other than that it was ok.

One thing we learned about riding buses in Peru?  You never know where they will drop you off.   They pick you up at the bus station, but drop you off somewhere in the city, usually on a deserted street or back alley.  That’s what happened in Cusco. About 6 am the bus pulled into a deserted parking lot.  Half asleep, we wandered around getting our luggage, not having a clue where we were.  We were thinking it was going to be like Arequipa, with a nice tourist information booth where perhaps we could get a free taxi to the hotel.  Not a chance.  Besides, technically  we didn’t have a hotel.  Dan had found a great hotel on trip advisor called Torre Dorada.  We had sent an email to the hotel when we were in Arequipa, and Peggy, the hotel owner, thought she had space, but we didn’t actually make a reservation. Undeterred, and since we had no idea where else to go, we showed up at Torre Dorada.  Peggy was very gracious.  She didn’t actually a room for all of us together, but she put together two very  nice rooms next to each other and gave us a family discount.  Peggy could tell we were exhausted and hungry so even though technically we weren’t entitled to it until the next morning, Peggy told us to please help ourselves to the free breakfast.  She didn’t even have us officially check in.  She was more concerned about getting us fed and settled.  WE LOVE HER!

The kids room had 2 twin beds and a big, modern, clean bathroom.  Our room had the same type of bathroom but we had a HUGE California King size bed.  I had never seen such a big bed, or so I thought.  Looking at it I was saying to Dan, “Can you believe this bed?  Why would you ever want a bed this big?”  Suddenly I stopped.  WE had a bed this big in our house in North Carolina!  After sleeping on a much smaller bed on the boat, I had totally forgotten how big our bed was.  As I laid my head on the down comforter, resting my head contentedly on the down pillows, I remembered why I wanted this bed at home. 

“Tristan, Tessa come here,”  I called to them.  We all piled onto the bed together for some great snuggle time.  I missed that.

cusco-2      cusco-3

Torre Dorado is located a little bit from the center of town.  Peggy, always looking out for the welfare of her hotel guests, provides free taxi service to where ever you want to go in the city.  The first day, we took it easy, had a good lunch and toured some of the museums and cathedrals.  We ate lunch at a restaurant called Heidi, having a four course meal, including drink for less than $6.00 US each.  Afterwards we went shopping for a sweater for Tristan.  He’d been wearing his sweatshirt but I was afraid the further south he went, the colder he would get.  Unfortunately, all the shops we went into, the sweaters were too big.  We went to the market to call the Torre Dorada taxi to pick us up.  As we waited, on the steps outside the cathedral for our ride, a constant stream of Peruvian ladies passed by us, trying to entice us into buying their wares.  The good news?  One of them had a sweater that fit Tristan perfectly.  Matching gloves?  Why not?  How about making me a deal on the hat?  Sure.  Dan wants a hat and gloves too.  One stop shopping!  This was fun!

 The next day Dan and I went to the train station to buy our train tickets from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes,  part of the trip to Machu Picchu.  There are several ways to visit Machu Picchu.  Most tourist groups try to do it in one day, leaving Cusco early morning, taking a bus to Ollantaytambo, a train to Aguas Caliente, then a bus to Machu Picchu.  These crowded groups usually get to Machu Picchu around 10:30 (we wanted to get there for sunrise) and only stay about 2 hours at Machu Picchu.  The other option was to make our own bus and train plans.  Peggy and the staff at Torre Dorado were a great help.  Peggy knew we wanted to tour the Sacred Valley, which consists of several former Inca sites.  She suggested, instead of taking a bus to Ollantaytambo, we could hire Richard, the taxi driver they used at the hotel, to take us, and we could stop at all the sites we wanted to.  Great idea.  Peggy suggested a hotel for us in Aguas Caliente  and Rosemary made the reservations for us.  There was some confusion on the name of the hotel, as Rosemary gave us one name and Peggy another, but we thought we understood Rosemary to say it had changed names.  Since we would be getting in late, about 10:30pm, they told the hotel to have someone meet us at the train station.  We were set.

Because we were going to come back to Torre Dorada, we were leaving our main bags there, and taking only our backpacks and daypacks.  This meant we had to pack carefully.  Sweaters, gloves, hats, cameras, toilet paper, at least 2 changes of clothes, etc.  These packs we would leave at the hotel in Aguas Calientes and then take only our daypack to Machu Picchu.   Packing lightly and being organized are not skills that come naturally to the BeDell clan, but we were learning fast.

The next morning, after a great breakfast, Richard was waiting for us.  Danny, who was working the desk, told us to leave our packed bags in our room and they would hold them for us until we got back a few days later.  Dan went to pay for the nights we had stayed and Danny told him not to worry about it.  We could settle up when we got back.   They didn’t even ask for a copy of our credit card.  I guess our dirty clothes were enough collateral.  Our first stop was a place Peggy referred to as seeing the Condors.  It was actually a rehabilitation “zoo” for hurt wild animals.  The “Zoo” had rescued two Pumas which had been doped up and on display in a disco. So sad.  The animals were well taken care of  and you could see the real love for the animals from the handlers. 

me-and-the-condor  showing-off-2

The kids weren’t too sure about this baby Condor

kids-meet-condor   kids-meet-condor-2



The guide who was showing us around was very enthusiastic and let us get really close to the animals.  One animal I was interested in seeing more of was an Ocelot.  An Ocelot is a type of cat, about twice the size of a house cat, with spots like a leopard.  It is endangered.  This one was rescued  from the jungles of Peru.  It is deceptively adorable.  You want to pick it up, forgetting it’s a wild animal with sharp fangs.  This one was kept in a small room with a glass window.  I wanted a closer look, and our guide was so accomadating, I asked if it was possible to get a better look.  In broken english he said he needed to get some protection, miming that he needed gloves so the Ocelot wouldn’t claw him.  He came back a few minutes later and said he couldn’t find any.  I couldn’t get a good picture through the glass and he could tell I was disappointed, so he started to open the door so I could take a quick shot.  Here’s where a good deed goes bad.  As soon as he cracked open the door, we all realized the big mistake!  The Ocelot was at the door in a flash, claws wrapped around the edge of the door, trying vainly to get his head out.  Our guide was trying just as vainly to keep him in.  It was man versus beast.  All I could think of was this cat escaping and eating the other poor animals in the zoo.  Our guide would get his claw off the door, then his head would sneak out. He push his head back in and here came the paw.  All this while trying not to get clawed!  It was quite a moment!  Finally the Ocelot was safely back in his cage, and while our guide sought some medical atttention, we beat a hasty retreat.

door-cracks-open  Door cracks open here-he-comes Here he comes!

 here-he-comes-2   quick-action-required Quick action required!

Our next stop was the Artesian center where we saw how the Alpaca wool was sheared, dyed, then woven into rugs and other textiles.  Of course, we saw Llamas, Vicunas and Alpacas.

dan-and-llama  wman-and-child-21


From there we headed to our first Inca site, the Pisac Ruins.  The view here, is again, incredible.  The citadel sits high on a plateau with deep drop offs into beautiful gorges on either side.  It was some steep walking.  Again we saw the many agricultural terraces of the Incas.  One fascinating thing we learned about the terraces was that the crops did extremely well here becuase of the soil.  The soil is not native to the area, but was carried in, by the Incas and the tribes before them, from the jungle, a 2 day walk away.  It’s mind boggling to see how much dirt was actually brought in, without carts or wagons!  Richard, our taxi driver, waited for us at the bottom as we hiked the 90 minutes down, on cliff hugging trails,  and through tunnels carved out of the rocks.   On the way down we also toured the ceremonial baths, the temples, and saw the Inca tombs carved into the sides of the cliffs high above us.   I know I’ve said it a million times already and will say it a million more, but the views were just jaw dropping beautiful.  Our pictures can’t do it justice.

pisco-ruins-1a pisco-ruins-4a

  Notice the amazing Inca stonework





  pisco-ruins-tunnel          pisco-ruin-tunnel-2  Tunnels

After Pisco, we drove through the beautiful valley of Urubamba where we stopped for a late lunch.  We were gradually getting higher in altitude.  The scenery was changing into a river valley, where Peruvians worked along the roadside, cutting dirt from the mountainside, making adobe bricks.  Most of the buildings and houses in Urubamba were made from these adobe bricks.  This was a change from the cut stones the Cusco area.  Our last stop was the Ruins of Ollantaytambo.

ollantaytambo  Terraces.  These terraces are actually about 9 feet high.

o-ruins-20a  o-ruins-23a

o-ruins-24a  o-ruins-25a


By now it was nearly 6 pm and Richard dropped us off at the train station.  We had a two and a half hour wait for the train and of we thought we would be spending it in a nice, warm train station.  Not.  The waiting area for the train consisted of cold, concrete benches down by the tracks.  With the sun gone down, it got cold.  We did our best to huddle together, reading books by flashlight, trying to keep warm.