Few places on earth live their history quite like Cusco. It has remained the heart of the Quechua speaking world for centuries, and today presents a vision of what Machu Picchu would look like had it been inhabited for more than a few decades.
At the start of the day, our plan as simple. To pay up for the Inca Trail, do some supermarket shopping, and go to the Coca Museum. We didn’t achieve it all, but instead we found new and unexpected things.
We paused for lunch before heading for the Twelve Angled Stone (La piedra de los doc ángulos) and the Coca Museum.
Finding the Twelve Angled Stone was an exercise in growing faith in humanity. As an enormous generalisation, the people in Peru have been some of the friendliest we have met, and on this occasion we were approached by one of a myriad of painting salesmen who populate the back alleys of Cusco.
Normally, I’m very suspicious of these types and shy away, but we were hopelessly lost and he wanted to direct us to the stone we were after. Having tipped him to say thanks, he was suddenly lit up with enthusiasm and explained some of the underlying importance in the stones around us, and described why the condor, snake, and jaguar were so important in Inca mythology.
If I learned anything from this it’s to trust someone genuinely looking to help you and perhaps to ask the people who hassle you in perfect English to show you some of the sights of their city in exchange for money. This, I think, is can be the right balance between both parties getting what they need.
I’m glad we cast aside our mistrust. Our newly acquired pal Hugo led us around the corner and proudly showed us the Llama and Snake which the Inca fashioned out of blocks in the wall. You could feel the passion he had for his culture and city coursing through him.
Having failed completely to locate the Coca Museum and bring you another perspective on the war against coca, we decamped and headed for another Museo dedicated to a plant beginning with ‘c’. This one was rather tastier.
Now the Cocoa Museum is very clearly a business, but the good faith with which the guides show you around, and the extensive free sampling they let you undertake is really refreshing. It was actually fascinating to try a variety of dark chocolates from different regions and genuinely taste differences between them. I highly recommend it.
We finished with what I can only describe as one of the finest hot chocolates of my life on a balcony overlooking one of Cusco’s squares as the rain began to come down. It felt just right.
Today proved that even when you don’t get everything you want to done, the best experiences can happen at the most unexpected times.
Thanks for reading. See you out there.