The best part of Cusco was getting to spend time with friends and family. We stayed in a sweet little hotel with five rooms in the San Blas neighborhood run by a Peruvian family and ate daily at some fantastic vegetarian restaurants. We ran into people we met in Chachapoyas, Yarinacocha and Potosí months before. The Cusco region is a major hub for travelers.
After our time in Tacna, we wanted to spend a few days in a tranquil coastal town with a good swimming beach before heading to Cusco. We were told Boca del Rio was nice so we headed there. The bus ride was pretty short, only an hour away. When we arrived, we found a ghost town of closed shops and empty beaches. It was beautiful but without any people, it felt soulless. We walked back to the highway to hitch a ride farther up the coast.
After forty-seven hours in Chile, we landed in Tacna, a Peruvian city near the southern border. The Lonely Planet refers to it as merely a “staging post” to Chile. Since Kurt and I like to explore less popular cities and towns off the beaten path, not just tourist destinations, we decided to give it a try.
It was a treat to become immersed once again in a culture of friendly and helpful Peruanos. Upon arriving we were looking for a certain hotel and when we appeared lost a nice man on the street offered to help us.
Tacneños are a pround people. They were some of the first South Americans to fight the Spanish for independence over 200 years ago. Many lost their lives in the War of the Pacific in the 1880s. After fifty years of occupation by Chile, they voted to rejoin Perú in 1929.
We found a nice hotel and settled in, eating daily at the market, seafood soup and fresh banana batidos. In the evenings, we dined on pizza at a restaurant near our hotel and at a place with homemade pasta across from the cathedral. Copious amounts of fresh local olive oil were on offer as a free condiment.
It was hard to leave considering the nice people and laid back vibe of the city. The weather was actually perfect. It felt like Southern California near the beach. The only other foreigners we encountered were a couple from Fontana, California on their way to Mendoza, Argentina to look at retirement properties.
We ventured into the cathedral numerous times over our days in town to witness Easter services we’d never seen before. On Easter morning, we spent three and a half hours at a spa enjoying dry sauna, steam baths, massages and maracuya juice. That evening, we could hear “How Great Though Art” being sung in Spanish somewhere near our hotel.
We spent one morning on a trip out to the local hot springs. Our hotelier told us it was only 20 minutes away by bus but to our surprise (or lack of surprise as I’ve learned the Latin American interpretation of time is far from actuality) it took an hour, but it was a beautiful ride through grape orchards and rising desert hills. We arrived at the somewhat abandoned hot springs complex (we were not there during high season) and found the main pool to be nearly empty. The man at the ticket booth told us that private baths were still functioning and we could go there. We took a half hour bath in a 40C tub. Our skin felt silky smooth when we left and we were so relaxed that we fell asleep on the bus back to town.