Lima 2020 Day 6 – Cusco walkabout, flight to Lima and Lima tour and flight to Rio de Janeiro

It’s more or less a day of transit for day 6, with 2 flights that will eventually have me in Rio De Janeiro at the end of it. However, I still woke up fairly early. Went to have my breakfast on the second floor of the hotel and there was a small buffet table but with a big balcony that showcased the beautiful view of the Plaza de Armas of Cusco historical town.

Breakfast round 1
Round 2
Breakfast area
View from the balcony

Once I was done, with the short amount of time that I had left in Cusco before my flight to Lima, I took a little walk around the historical old town in the chilly morning.

Felt a little regret for not being able to visit the cathedral at the Plaza de Armas as the interior would have been quite nice. For the moment, I could only see from the outside since the cathedrals were neither open or if opened, had a service going on and tourists were not allowed.

One of the church around the plaza
Cusco Cathedral which was having a service

I made my way to San Blas and saw the cobbled street and the buildings that were built on Inca rocks, which I thought was interesting, an integration of modernity with historical foundations. It wasn’t many things going on at that time in the quiet street as it was still pretty early.

Modern building on top of the ancient Inca foundations.
Street of Cusco
Cathedral at San Blas
View of San Blas from the top
Panoramic view of San Blas

After the short walk to San Blas (with some Pokemon Go time to catch Pokemon exclusive to South America), I returned to the square and spent  some time sitting at the plaza and enjoyed being in the moment. Googled for things to buy and then there was a recommendation to visit the market, so I walked that couple of minutes to San Pedro market. It was a market under one roof, separated into two sections of wet and the other dry. The market didn’t seemed too crowded at this time though I saw a man carry an entire pig on his shoulders bringing it to a store.

The fountain in the middle of the plaza.
Unesco sign of the historic town
Another panaromic view of the Plaza de Armas
Sights while walking to the market – Plazoleta Espinar
Basilica Menor de la Merced
A snake design in the park
Mundo Antiguo Spanish School
An historical arch on the street
St. Peter’s Church just opposite the market
San Pedro Market
Wet market, a pig was being carried in by one of the stall owner

Was still roaming around till I came to a store and found it selling quinoa and chia seeds, exotic food where over in Singapore was termed as healthy alternatives whereas the locals here eat daily. Asked mommy (over whatapp) if she wanted it and bought a pack. I also bought local dried sweet corn (remembering that delicious appetiser which I ate when having lunch in Ceviche Seafood Kitchen restaurant at the Plaza de Armas and loved it so much) to bring home. The quinoa was 2pesos and the sweet corn was 7pesos per kg.

The stall where I bought my foodstuff
Quinoa in a pack

As I walked back, I randomly walked into a pharmacy to check if there were masks available for purchase (since it was sold out back home during the Covid19 pandemic but hadn’t really arrive at the shores of Peru) and this one had stocks, unlike those around Plaza de Armas! I checked with the staff if there was a limit and he said no so I asked for 7boxes, as that’s what my family members back home wanted. These were going at 40pesos per box of 50 which was pretty decent but since there were 7, it became rather bulky for me to lug them home. Fortunately I brought along a foldable bag.

Bought a sweater of baby alpaca wool

Quickly I returned to the hotel and did some repacking. Checked out only at around 9am since it was just 15mins ride to the airport and I figured I had enough time for my 1050 flight to Lima.

Took a taxi just outside the hotel as advised by the hotel staff that it would be perfectly fine to do so. The driver asked for 20pesos which was twice the amount the hotel staff advised me and so I asked for a reduced price and agreed to 15pesos as I didn’t want to waste too much time or look for trouble.

Sure enough, I was there in about 15mins and went to check in my luggage. Proceeded to the gate as it was a small airport and made my way to the lounges located one floor below, avoiding the crowd on the floor above. I was happy to find a rather empty cafe called Altomayo cafe at that floor below and it came with rather comfy seats! After settling in, I ordered an Americano for 8.5pesos and relaxed there till it was time for boarding.

Check in counters at Cusco airport
A huge Incan sun plaque in the airport
At the departure gate
Inside the comfortable cafe
An Americano to drink
A gem hidden from the crowd

When it was almost time, I made my way back up and heard that they had called a few names and one of which was mine. Went over and was given a new ticket with mine that I was holding torn up. Got an upgrade to business class, and I couldn’t be any more thrilled to have it for free! Priority boarding and larger seats, nice! Comparing to a standard flight business class though, this may pale in comparison but it’s free for the 1.5hrs flight so I wasn’t complaining, so thank you Avianca!

The view leaving Cusco
Many mountains and valleys
A drink only for a short flight
Arriving into Lima
It’s still looking rather foggy

Touched down in Lima airport and exited the airport to find someone with my name on a board. I was surprised as I had requested for a 2pm meetup  as I planned on getting some lunch upon landing at the airport. I needed to withdraw cash from the ATM as well but after a few exchanges in a part- Spanish-part-English conversation this person who was the driver and calling the guide, named Enrique, over the phone to confirm, we boarded the car and was on our way to central Lima.

The outside of the airport
View of Lima street from the car

The journey there, to say the least, was horrendously gridlocked with traffic going everywhere! The skilled driver however got me there in one piece. We chatted with whatever English he knew and I was thankful that he was rather friendly and conversant and I learnt more about him and his family throughout the journey. He even played Singapore’s music on Spotify and had Bluetooth that over to the stereos – cool move.

Rocking Singapore songs on Spotify in Lima
Arriving into Plaza San Martin

We arrived at Lima’s Plaza San Martin and that’s where we met Enrique. I got off and there was where my day tour of Lima started. He was a guide who could speak English, and was pretty fun to go along with as he mixed the facts with some sarcasm which was quite funny. Introducing the buildings around the lovely square (which included a building that was recently burnt down) and after a photo, we walked along a pedestrian only shopping street, called Jirón de la Unión,  in a bid to find an ATM (athough just next to the square were some forex counters that had the best rates around from USD to Pesos, kinda like our Raffles place forex in Singapore, but I didn’t bring USD as all my cash were in the YouTrip card).

Historical hotel facing the square
Panoramic view of the plaza
What’s left of the building caught in fire

Along the way I learnt about the buildings with the balconies on the 2nd floor of the buildings that also landed the heritage status for this location of Lima. I treated him to a Starbucks frap since he mentioned that Peru’s coffee was being used in the Starbucks there while we were walking along and I wanted to see if there’s any difference. There was a promo and it ended up around 18+pesos for both fraps, which was quite comparable to what I pay for in Singapore.

Norkys were the KFC equivalent Peruvian style
Beautiful balcony
Saw this Church of La Merced
Modern retail in historical building
Pedestrian walking street with retail shops throughout
Starbucks inside on the of the buildings
Casa Courret had really beautiful balconies

Then we continued along and found a bank in which there was a short queue for atm and I queued for it. Unfortunately this was the globalatm machine that had the highest fees for using the atm but since I only needed to withdraw just one more time from here, I just proceeded.

Continued on and the street brought us to the Plaza de Armas. Here was again a square surrounded by many buildings, one of which belonged to the Mayor of Lima and another the presidents’ residence (Palacio de Gobierno). Then as we walked to the side of the residence, he pointed out that the room facing the oldest bar of Lima across the street was where the president lived, jokingly.

Fountain at the Plaza de Armas of Lima
Vultures siting at the top of the fountain
City Hall of Lima
Archbishop’s Palace of Lima
Guards behind the fence…
of the presidential palace
Panoramic view of the Plaza de Armas of Lima
Walking path at the side of the palace
High doors meant for entrants riding horses

Nonetheless, we walked into Bar Cordano and looked at the old photos on the wall, showcasing many previous politicians eating at this bar. The popular foodstuff here was the bread with pork slices so I ordered that for lunch, again I also treated the guide, for a total of 30pesos for 2. The pork sandwich was quite nice I thought.

Bar Cordano entrance
Inside the bar
The bread counter
The bread for lunch, yummy

After this, we boarded the car and went on our way to San Francisco church (Monasterio de San Francisco) (not San Francisco of USA) to visit the catacombs and the church. St. Francisco was a much revered person and this church and the gallery was for him. There was no photos allowed while visiting the catacombs and I was warned by the stuff when I took one at the entrance. However, with the guide, I was able to bypass the queue and went in ahead. It was an interesting tour of this building, with Enrique explaining the construction of how it would withstand earthquakes, the paintings on the wall, especially with the Peruvian last supper and it’s differences. After that, we proceeded on to the level below to the catacombs and there we saw the construction of the catacombs and how it was a mass grave for so many people as there weren’t any cemeteries before. Walking below the church I was transferred back in time to how things were in Lima back in the past.

San Francisco Monastery
Entrance to the gallery and Catacombs
The Last Supper Peruvian style
One photo of the catacombs
This one was like a well with the bones

Last visit was to the church above and it was on this day that many people came to offer flowers to St. Francisco. We went into the church and I was amazed at how the interior was so different from other churches with the moorish design of red and white. We exited after a while and along the street while we waited for the car to pick us up, some of the ladies sitting there by the food cart were laughing away when they saw me, saying that I might be a Covid19 carrier, explained by the guide. I supposed it was expected to a certain level that maybe all Chinese were from China and therefore I carry the Covid19. Anyhow it wasn’t a big thing for me.

Many offering flowers to the Saint
Moorish designs on the walls
Leaving the monastery
Took a picture of the supreme court while on the way to Miraflores

The car then brought us to the next area in Miraflores, called the Huaca Pucllana (double “l”s are pronounced as “J”s) where this was built by the tribe pre-Incas and this was where I learnt that Peru was not only ruled only by Incas! The temple was built like steps and the construction was so stable that it could withstand earthquakes. As this was a fenced up area requiring tickets to enter, we just stood outside which I could already see and took a photo before leaving without entering the site.

Entrance to the Huaca Pucllana
View of Huaca Pucllana from a distance
The view of Huaca Pucllana from the side of the fence.
My ride in Lima

Then it was to the Love Park (The Parque del Amor) of Miraflores (one pf the safest city within Lima) where there was the statue of the The Kiss (El Beso). The park reminded me of the Gaudi park in Barcelona with the tiled designs and wavy shape forms. The place had a good sea view and definitely boost an incredible sunset over the ocean view. We weren’t staying till sunset and left, the car dropped me off at the Lima White House hostel, whereby the owner was also the person who arranged this private tour for me. I paid the guide 155pesos (the remaining amount on top of the initial 33USD I paid over PayPal to book the tour) and entered the hostel.

Panoramic view of the love park
The love park
Locks representing locks
The famous sculpture of the kiss
Mosaics at the park looking like the Park Guell
Mosaics along the walls
Panoramic view of the sea.

I enquired if it’s possible for me to take a bath there as it was going to be a long time before I could do so due to an overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro for the night. They didn’t have any spare rooms but was ok to let me take a shower at the common shower for 10pesos in which I gladly paid for it. Quickly took my bath before heading out for dinner.

In the Miraflores area, it was deemed one of the safest area around since it was where all the people of the highest class lived. Sure enough it didn’t feel unsafe as I made my way to one do the Chifa restaurant, one that sold Peruvian Chinese fusion food. The Peruvian Chinese was one of the earliest immigrants to come to Peru and as the driver advised that the food was good, I had to try it for myself.

The street of Miraflores

Using google maps, I easily found one and as I entered the restaurant called Hong Kong, I was greeted by a senior staff there who saluted me, and I saluted back to reciprocate. It was a funny moment though. Later I realized he did the same to anyone who walked past as a way to get their attention. I ordered fried rice with chicken and was given a free bowl of noodles soup with Wantan. The noodles were ok but the fried rice was kinda salty. The dinner costed 38pesos in which I just paid 40.

Inside the Chifa restaurant
Fried Rice
Free noodle soup
Hong Kong Chifa restaurant

I took some time to walk towards the shore as there was a shopping mall there, called Larcomar, just to find out how it would looked like. As I approached, I saw a huge building of Marriott hotel but couldn’t find the mall. As I approached to the sea, I realized the mall was the building built downwards from the street level into the cliff and from the outside it looked pretty modern. I was more attracted by view of the sun almost setting and took some photos as I walked along the coast heading back to the hostel.

Twin JW Marriott hotel near the mall
Lovely view of at sunset
Larcomar mall that was built into the cliff
Panoramic view from the street level

Back at the hostel, I booked my Uber to the airport and it was estimated to be an hour ride from Miraflores. Since the payment was done by card, I need not worry about 42pesos there because I was also low on my cash. The driver took awhile to arrive and when it did, the hostel lady staff helped me to communicate to the driver on where I was headed to before bidding farewell as I got on my way.

I fell asleep during the one hour journey there and woke up 20mins from arrival. The initial destination was placed just outside the airport but I asked to be dropped off at the departure which he did so without complaints.

Really busy even at night

Lima airport had quite a large duty free store but I didn’t get anything from there thinking there would be more of such closer to the gate. Unfortunately it was not so and I entered a Britt store that was closer to the gate and bought some Peruvian chocolates there which my wife requested. The staff showed that the chocolates were really produced from Peru with that Peru logo and that assured me that it must be ok (cos why would I buy chocolates made somewhere else?).

Large departure duty free shopping
Britt shop to get my goodies

After that, I boarded the Avianca flight (no more upgrades this time around) and tried to get some sleep.

Escape Plan to Mexico, Peru and Brazil February 2020

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to Mexico, Peru and Brazil:

Total duration 10D9N
Singapore is 13hrs ahead of Cancun, Mexico and Lima and Cusco, Peru and 11hrs ahead of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Flight time is 17hrs 50mins on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Newark, New York. 
Flight time from Newark, New York to Cancun is 3hrs 35mins on Viva Aerobus.
Flight time from Cancun to Mexico City is 2hrs 45mins on Aeromexico.
Flight time from Mexico City to Lima is 5hrs 50mins on Aeromexico.
Flight time from Lima to Cusco is 1hrs 21mins on Latam Airlines.
Flight time from Cusco to Lima is 1hrs 30mins on Avianca Airlines.
Flight time from Lima to Rio De Janeiro is 5hrs 10 mins on Avianca Airlines.
Flight time from Rio De Janeiro to Rome is 10hrs on Alitalia Airlines.
Flight time from Rome to Singapore is 11hrs 50mins on Singapore Airlines.

Early morning flight from Singapore to Newark on 23rd Feb at 1250am and arrival in Newark in the morning at 530am on the 23rd Feb.
Same morning flight from Newark to Cancun on the 23rd Feb at 925am and arrival in Cancun at 2pm in the afternoon.
Flight from Cancun to Mexico City on the evening of 24th Feb at 740pm and arrival in Mexico City at 925pm with a transit of 2hrs 30mins and overnight flight to Lima on the 24th Feb night and arrival into Lima at 645am on 25th Feb morning.
Same morning flight at 910am from Lima to Cusco on the 25th Feb and arrival in Cusco on the at 1033am on 25th Feb.
Flight from Cusco to Lima on the morning of 28th Feb at 1055am and arrival in Lima at 1225pm on the 28th Feb.
Same day overnight flight from Lima to Rio de Janeiro in the night of 28th Feb at 930pm and arrive in Rio de Janeiro in the early morning of 29th Feb at 440am.
Flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome in the afternoon of 1st Mar at 4pm and arrive in Rome in the morning of 2nd Mar at 7am.
Same day flight from Rome to Singapore in the morning of 2nd Mar at 1050am and arrive in Singapore in the early morning of 3rd Mar at 540am.

Cancun Day 1 - Arrival into Cancun, Hotel Zone visit and Chichen Itza light show
Cancun Day 2 Chichen Itza sunrise tour, Ik Kil Cenote, Marlin beach and flight to Lima
Cusco Day 3 Flight to Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, Cusco City and train to Aguas Calientes
Machu Picchu Day 4 - Machu Picchu morning tour, Sun Gate and Inca bridge
Machu Picchu Day 5 - Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu museum, Aguas Calientes and train to Cusco
Lima Day 6 Cusco walkabout, flight to Lima and Lima tour and flight to Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro Day 7 - Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro day tour to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain and Carnaval Champions Parade.
Rio de Janeiro Day 8-9-10 Flight to Rome and flight back to Singapore, Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was planned as a solo trip for a couple of reasons. First, my other half does not have enough leave and so I had to go on my own. Second, everyone has an impression that its not safe to travel to Mexico and South America, so I had to go alone first. Lastly, the itinerary is not very enjoyable due to a lot of time spent on traveling so I had to do it alone. I planned it this way because having flown so far away from Singapore to this part of the world, I would want to clear see all the 3 wonders situated around this region so as to get the best out of my time (unfortunately not money)!

Budget nature: Budget Buster

Costs of living was pretty affordable in these places except for the touristy areas. However, due to how I have planned my itinerary. My choices of accommodations include those that were just next to the sites (like Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu) and flights that were inflexible due to the tight schedule and some of these are expensive. International flights flying from countries to countries were expensive too.

Complexity: Difficult

A lot of time was required to plan this to get the best movement. Flight planning was very challenging as not all routes were available country to country (such as from Cancun to Rio de Janeiro) and as I had chose to redeem miles for 2 of my flights, waitlist created some adjustments to my flights. I even screwed up one overnight flight which I bought wrongly resulted in money going down the drain.

I was also timing my itinerary to be within the schedule of 10 days, to fly off on the midnight of Sunday and to return on the early morning to minimize any impact to family time. Also I was also timing to attend the Champions’ Parade of the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval. In trying to visit the 3 wonders, cater for the long journey to and from Machu Picchu and getting to watch the Carnaval, this is one of the most difficult itinerary I have planned to date!