A Night In Cusco: When Life Gives You Lemons…

…have a Caipirinha in Cusco.


It is important to begin my story with a description of the adventure-filled days that led up to our arrival in Cusco. Doing so will better capture the ludicrousness of what ensued on our accidental evening. The objective of our trip was to hike Machu Picchu. For the sake of brevity, I will summarize our adventure in steps.

Step 1:

Bus overnight from Huancayo to Lima. It reminded me much of the “night bus” from Harry Potter – my friend Sarah and I were lucky enough to receive seats on the second floor of the bus that alarmingly seemed to detach from the 1st floor every time the bus turned a corner.

Step 2:

Morning flight from Lima to Cusco.

Step 3:

Shared mini-van ride or “cambi” from Cusco to Ollantantambo. We sat in the back seat with a middle-aged woman toting several grocery bags and a loaf of bread. She also provided life advice, straining in her seatbelt to tell Sarah and I that we should find men who wouldn’t leave us, and not to trust Peruvian men. When the men in the front seat chuckled, she swatted them in the back of the head.


Step 4:

Train from Ollantantambo to Aguas Calientes.

Step 5:

Spend the night in Aguas Calientes, the town adjacent to Machu Picchu.

Step 6:

Wake up at 4 AM to climb Machu Picchu. While the ruins were as exquisite as we had hoped, it was pouring rain as it had been since we left Huancayo. Cold to the bone, we shuffled up and down the stone paths admiring the mountaintops that punched holes in the cloud-filled sky while secretly fantasizing about hot cocoa.

Step 7:

Vistadome train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco. Still cold and wet due to hot water malfunctions at our hostel, we boarded the Vistadome train that would bring us to Cusco and eventually back to Lima. The train was very modern, with large bright windows. We pressed our faces against the glass and let our eyes lose focus on the rush of green passing by. Haggard, sleep deprived, and starving, our rain-wrinkled fingers clutched our journals as we fell asleep.


But this was not the true adventure. Upon arriving in Cusco, we took a cab to “Pirwa” hostel, ready for some food, a stiff drink, and some much-needed sleep. Our dreams of a cozy bed and breakfast were shattered when we noticed the “darts competition” sign with an enticing prize of a free Pisco-sour (the national drink of Peru.) We set our bags in our co-ed room, greeted by an Irishman and three truly crazy Israelis, and headed to the bar. We shared a delicious Margharita pizza at the as we chatted with Ronnie, our Peruvian bartender with an extreme overbite. He made us a Caipirinha to warm our bodies and revive our spirits: a drink made with Cachasa, a pisco-like liquor from Brazil much like a strong grape brandy, sugar, and mottled lime. We asked for it sin-hielo (without ice), not wanting to risk a gastro-intestinal “episode” before our flight back to Lima, and proceeded to down the drink within seconds, stopping only when the crushed lime slid down to smack us on the nose.


After one Caipirinha and news of a visiting salsa instructor, Sarah looked at each other knowing we weren’t going to sleep much again. The excitement of being in Cusco for one night was somehow enough to overcome our exhaustion, and so what was to be our “early night” quickly became a “rage fest.” We assured Ronnie we would be right back, changed into dry jeans and gym shoes, and returned tipsy and ambitious. We refreshed our Caipirinha’s and watched as people began to fill the room, disco lights came on, and the instructor identified himself only with a flick of his hair and a toss of his butt. We each got a turn with the instructor, who moved his hips at a speed that rivaled Ronnie’s cocktail-shaker. Hours later, the staff at Pirwa having apparently adopted us, it was declared that we were going out. I was given a free Pirwa T-shirt which I tied sultrily at my waist (so I thought, but the Caipirinha was lying to me) and Sarah and I stumbled out onto the cobblestone to walk to the nearby discoteca with our new best friends. After an hour more of dancing, we were brought back to reality by the bizarre playlist and crowds of older men. It was time to go home.  We walked back to Pirwa, settled into our bunk beds clutching our passports, and let the heavy breathing of the booze-infused Israelis lull us to sleep.

Lena Kazer

Lena is a Chicago native, her travel style consists of red cowboy boots that make her feel like she can take over the world. She adores Peru and can't travel without her journal to draw or write in.

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