We spent a few days in Cusco before and after our Inca trail trek to Machu Picchu. I can’t say we got to really know it, but at least we got a little flavor of this cute little town in the Andes. The first night there, despite a bit of altitude sickness (Cusco sits at 11,200 feet), we went to Plaza las Armas to try some local food.
We walked along narrow cobblestone streets,stopping at many of the art galleries and artisan shops. There were also many food options. After much deliberation we decided to stop at a restaurant where a group of locals were eating. As we predicted, the food was very good and we were surprised by a trio of musicians playing typical Andes songs. It reminded us of the banda musicians at some Mexican restaurants and, although I hate to admit it, the Andes music was much more pleasurable while eating dinner. Anyway, it was a great first impression!
The following day we explored the main plazas and also met our guide, Freddy, for our trek debriefing. That night we tried some local beer: Cusquena, and had a hamburger (we couldn’t resist) at a trendy bar called “Mama Africa”.
After 4 days on the Inca Trail we came back to Cusco exhausted, but couldn’t leave with out trying “Cuy”, better known as Guinea Pig. We made arrangements with Freddy and as planned he took us to a restaurant to try the exotic dish. Cuy is a delicacy that people typically eat on their birthdays or special occasions. After the presentation our server cut it into four pieces and we dug in… it was tasty! Guinea pig is a greasy, soft, gamey meat similar to dark turkey meat. Adam had a good time mimicking the locals by trying the paws, ears, and several other parts I couldn’t stomach. This scene culminated in Adam, Freddy, and the server bowed over the remains as they searched for the brain that is very small and tough to find. Gross! For all those vegetarians and animal lovers: don’t worry, we saw a few guinea pigs along the way and they are well treated before eaten.