JAN 23, 2016 – In a day and a half, I visited the center of Cusco with a walking tour and prepared my solo trek to Machu Picchu. Besides buying supplies, I had to rent a sleeping bag, book the entrance to the old city, and buy a train ticket back. I stayed at the Supertramp hostel, which had recently opened and is perhaps the most well-built hostel I have seen. Each dorm bed has a large locker next to it, a curtain for extra privacy, and power outlets inside and outside the locker. From the terrace one has a great view over the rooftops of Cusco. The staff of the hostel was very helpful in planning my hike, and I left a part of my luggage there until I came back.
The city has an Inca heritage, which can be seen on many buildings: Some walls are preserved the way they were built, out of large carved stone blocks, fitting so well together that no mortar was required. But most Inca buildings were at least partially destroyed by the Spanish when they conquered what used to be the capital of the Inca empire. Nowadays Cusco has more than 300’000 inhabitants, and if you walk a few blocks from the center, it quickly stops feeling like a touristy city. The streets near the central market, for example, are busy with locals selling fruit to each other, rather than ones trying to sell massages (best price, amigo), to every gringo. Cusco is full of contrasts that way, between rich and poor, colonial and Incan, fake and authentic. Its setting between hills is beautiful, and an hour-long run is enough to get on top of them, where farmers are working on their fields.