Woke up Saturday morning still high from my day in Machu Picchu on Friday – and to the most amazing view of the Pakaritampu gardens from my bedroom window (see pictures from Cusco Day 1). It was raining, so at first I was concerned that I may not be able to enjoy some of the sights I had planned on visiting – but thankfully the rains died down after mid day. After another delicious breakfast at Pakaritampu, I sadly said my good-byes to the incredible staff and checked out. I then headed into the center of Ollantaytambo to check out the town and go see the ruins. I hired a guide, Edwin, who was incredibly sweet and taught me so much about the history of the town and the significance of the ruins. I was so impressed at the history of the town and the fact that it was the site of the biggest Inca standoff against the Spanish. The layout of the ruins and town are not only functional but provides amazing views from every angle. I was fascinated by the Colcas (agricultrual warehouses) and the face in the mountain – many theories as to whether it is natural or man made, but either way it’s very cool! After visiting the ruins, I walked into the Plaza de Armas and checked out some of the shops and restaurants. I bought a beautiful scarf ro 10 Soles (about $3.50) and met two beautiful little girls dressed in traditional clothes who made their living posing for tourist pictures. I obliged and chatted with them about what they wanted to do when they grow up. They both said they wanted learn Spanish and go to the University in Cusco – which I was both surprised and relieved to hear and told them I wholeheartedly supported their decision ;-) I met a gentleman in town who owns a resturant near the Pakaritampu, and also ran a taxi service, so he offered to have one of his drivers take me to Cusco, and stop at a few sights on the way for 110 Soles (about $35). So we headed out of town and towards Maras to see the ruins at Moray. The town on Maras is small but full of character. The circles of Moray were incredible – it’s hard not to compare them to crop circles, but they are so much more significant, and it is easy to see that they could have been used as an ampitheatre or meeting place of sorts, but were apparently a very sophisticated system of agricultural terraces. I had planned to proceed and visit the Salineras (Salt Mines) but my driver told me the roads were closed off due to the rains…bummer but just one more reason to come back again ;-) After leaving Moray, we headed to Chincherro, so I could see first hand why they had proclaimed it “Peru’s newest marvel”. It was beautiful and had such an incredible energy – so much history.The church was old and somewhat simple looking from the outside, but when you walk in, it is amazing to see the amount of Cusco School artwork and colonial decor. I must say this is where I encountered the most insistent vendors – all 6 years old or thereabouts and straight HUSTLERS!! ;-) I had to buy a Chullo and purse just to get them to leave me alone, but it was worth it ;-) From Chincherro, we headed towards Cusco. I arrived at Hostel San Isidro Labrador – a couple of blocks up from the Plaza de Armas and was relieved that it was clean, spacious and the staff were extremely helpful – even letting me use their computer to check emails and download my pictures. This was officially my first experience staying in a Hostel – I feel like such a “Mochilera” (backpacker) ;-) I asked the gal at San Isidro what a tourist like me should do for fun – and she recommended I check out a couple of the clubs: Garrabatos, Mama Afrika, etc…Since it was still fairly early, I decided to just walk around the town and see the sights. I started in the Plaza de Armas, then headed up Avenida del Sol for a bit, making my way eventually up towards San Francisco cathedral and the market out in the plaza. Being that it was a Saturday night – the streets were full of people and music coming from the different restaurants and clubs. What a beautiful place…I am in love with Cusco!! After walking around for a bit, I decided to head back towards the Plaza and grab some food. I decided I would try to find the Irish pub Aiden said he worked at – hoping there wouldn’t be too many to choose from ;-) Sure enough, I saw “Paddy’s” on the corner to the right of the Cathedral and headed there. As I was nearing the Cathedral, I heard a firetruck siren and turned around to see a firetruck with at least 15 firemen hanging off the sides yelling and waving at people. I had no idea what was going on and figured this is just protocol for Cusco firefighting ;-) Then the truck drove up onto the Cathedral steps, the men got out, and proceeded to set up a row of flames in the form of an arch and an adjoining walkway leading from the firetruck down to the Cathedral steps. That’s when I noticed the fireman in official uniform and a beautiful lady in a wedding dress next to him and realized this was some sort of wedding ceremony. Needless to say, it was a very cool site – and everyone in the Plaza came by to check it out. You just don’t get that kind of stuff in the States! So, after the show, I finally made it in to Paddy’s and was happy to see Aiden behind the bar – after traveling alone for a few days, it’s amazing how nice it is to see any kind of familiar face ;-) He recognized me, and we chatted while I enjoyed a Cuzquena and a delicious Pisco Sour. I had only planned on having a couple of drinks there, but after seeing a few of the plates go by, and influenced by Aiden’s savvy sales skills, I was convinced to try their pub grub. Unfortunately the delicious baked chicken with veggies and mash potatoes I ordered had apparently just run out – so I went for Aiden’s recommendation of the Beef Casserole. It was incredible! Better than any pub food I have ever had – hands down! It was so filling, I only had half of it and saved the rest for my lunch the next day… After that, I bid adieu to Aiden and headed across the steet to Norton Rat’s – another Plaza de Armas staple and responsible for many a drunken tourist. I enjoyed another delicious Pisco Sour and started chatting with a pretty Swedish girl who spoke absolutely perfect spanish and no english whatsoever. She was in Cusco teaching and volunteering at an orphanage. Her boyfriend – a local Cusco lad, was also a teacher and a tour guide. I chatted with them for a while and picked their brain about the economy and educational system in Cusco and their not-too-positive opinion of Lima folks. I in turn answered their questions about life as a Peruvian Gringa in the states and our “monkey” of a president ;-) We were getting along so well, they invited me out with them to go check out some of the local clubs. First we checked out Mythology – right next to Mama Afrika. It was fun – lots of European tourists and techno music, but then they started playing some Cumbias and I finally got the urge to shake my booty…I was having such a good time that when they suggested we go to a “real” Cusco Club, I was all for it…they warned me this was not a tourist place – and I, somewhat offended that they would assume I was “just a tourist”, assured them that was precisely where I wanted to go! So, we headed down Avenida del Sol to a place called Don Diablos, and I have to admit, I was slightly intimidated walking in. Not only was I the tallest person in there, but everyone there were like professional dancers compared to me – sure, I have god-given latin rhythm and can get by just fine (especially in the states!) But when you are in a country where dancing is literally a national sport – you can feel a little threatened. I noticed the stares of people a little surprised to see this tall gringa and/or Limena walking into their locals-only club – but after a few minutes, all was chill and I, with Cuba Libre in hand, proceeded to dance the night away and have the time of my life! We met up with some friends of theirs – a couple who were super sweet and taught me all the latest dances – I even danced a traditional Huayno ;-) At about 3:30 AM, I decided I should head back to the hostel if I was to have any kind of productive day on Sunday…so they accompanied me back in a taxi. I am happy to say, my first night in Cusco was the BOMB!!! ;-p I ended up getting a little more than 5 hours sleep but feel surprisingly ok…just had breakfast here at the hostel and plan on heading to the Cathedral for Mass in a few minutes, and then catch a cab to the Pisac Market…should be a fabulous day!