I must note before diving into today’s blurb that at this point, we’d dealt with two drivers from our new tour company in Peru, and they were beyond organized and courteous. I can’t say the same of myself, but I may have napped an hour on the plane to Lima, max, so.
The flight to Cusco was pleasant, and became downright spectacular as the plane flew low over the tops of the Andes glaciers on its final approach into Cusco. The tour guide we met upon getting our bags gave us the full low-down of our itinerary in Cusco, and of course the standard advice for first-time travelers to the city, that we take it easy the first day and not do anything strenuous. We informed him we had a tour scheduled for 9 am, and it was already 7 am. So, yay, there we were at 10,000 feet elevation coasting on two hours’ sleep ready to climb some ancient ruins! We had laced our waters with oxygen supplement on the plane, and hoped for the best.
The driver took us to our hotel, where they sat us down to wait for our room assignment with two hot cups of coca tea. Hint: the tea does not have chocolate in it. Suffice it to say, they warn you not to drink any if you are expecting a urine test in the next 72 hours. It’s a trace dose at best, but enough to fail one of those tests.
The hotel lobby, offices, restaurant, and bar are carved out of a charming old convent. Our room is a bit more Danish modern, and, as a bonus, they are doing construction just outside the window. No matter, though, after dropping off our bags, we were on the mini-van for a private city tour of Cusco. That consisted mostly of the main square, where tiny school children were practicing a dance they are going to do in full costume on the winter solstice in a few week’s time. The air was indeed nippy, but like Arizona in the winter, the sun is very strong. Unlike Arizona in the winter, it is also humid. I have been arming myself with anti-inflammatories to prevent any knee wrenches that almost did me in when I lived in San Francisco.
The city tour took us next to the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuamán above the city, which really are a sad shell of their former glory. While we got to climb pyramids of the Aztecs and Mayas in Mexico, the pyramids of the Incas above Cusco are little more than a few stone walls, all torn down by the Spanish and turned into Cathedrals.
The view, however, was spectacular, and we got pictures with llamas and little old ladies in big-rimmed hats.
The tour was fairly short, and our plan afterward was to hit the hay. But we were hungry, so we wandered down the cobblestone street from our hotel and found a local restaurant and had a delicious salad of lettuce, raw asparagus, broccoli, and avocado, and a chicken sandwich with cheese and pineapple. Then we laid down for a long winter’s nap. I had two sets of earplugs and my white noise iPod tracks against the pounding next door.
Now I am up from my nap and typing this. I hope to peek my head inside a few of many shops on our street, and head to bed early tonight. Tomorrow is Machu Picchu.