Thursday, August 20, 2009

Peru- Part 1

We had a four day weekend in Peru. We did and saw so much I'm going to have to break the story into two parts…and I'm still struggling with this stupid cold so I'm lucky to have gotten this far.

Thursday night we flew into the capital city of Lima. We got there around midnight our time and after the last flights out to Cusco. So, we literally went to the hotel, had a quick pisco sour and all went straight to bed. We had an early morning flight out the next morning and had to get up at an ungodly hour. We arrived at the airport to find our flight had been cancelled but instead of putting us in a later flight they rushed us onto the earlier one. It was a mad-dash of a morning but we arrived in Cusco earlier than expected which was nice.

Cusco is located at 10,800ft above sea level and you feel the effects of the altitude almost immediately. As we walked up the ramp at the airport to baggage claim it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. My breath was so labored by the time we got to the top I thought I was going to hyperventilate. It was nuts.

Our hotel was located on one of the many small cobblestone streets in the San Blas neighborhood. It was quaint, charming and best of all served coca tea and coca leaves in the lobby. The coca is supposed to help with the altitude but after a couple of cups we were all still feeling pretty loopy from our lack of oxygen. After checking in we all headed out for lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Jesus, our tour guide, picked us up after 1pm for our tour of Cusco city. Our reason for coming to Peru was to see Machu Picchu and although we had planned a couple other tours I did not expect to be so impressed. Cusco was lovely. The people, the architecture, the surrounding scenery, the colors…it was all inviting, vibrant and drenched in history and culture.

Our tour began with the main cathedral located in the Plaza de Armas. It was almost as beautiful inside as out, although they allowed no photos of the interior. Boo.

We then went to another church. Like most colonial churches in Cusco it was built on top of Inca temples but, thanks to an earthquake the temples were discovered and restored. It was almost hard for me to ignore the beautiful Spanish colonial courtyard in favor of the Inca architecture. Although ingeniously built the cold lines didn’t do much for me aesthetically.

After this we went out to Sacsahuamen. They believe this site links up to a few other sites that have been discovered. The archeologists are still hard at work here and some of the levels were closed off but it felt great to be outside in the fresh air. No matter how little oxygen it actually provided.

We saved the last sight for the next day since we were so exhausted and still all feeling a little out of whack. After resting for a few minutes back at the hotel we went back to the same restaurant from the afternoon for an easy meal before heading back to call it an early night.

We were off by 9 the next morning for our tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This valley runs from just outside Cusco to the last town before the Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu. It was a full day tour but we did so many different things we rarely spent any time in the van. At least it felt that way to us.

In a nutshell we…visited the highest point in Cusco where we saw three Inca fountains, stopped at a local craft market, visited a llama farm where we got to feed and pet the animals, went into a small town to shop, had a nice lunch outside at a local restaurant, visited another Inca site where we climbed 270 stairs to the top and felt the wind of 4 valleys meet, visited a chicharia and tried the local corn beer while dodging guinea pigs as they ran around the floor and finished the day with a stop in another town where we were taught how the locals clean, spin and dye wool...

We attempted to see some local dancing when we got back into Cusco but it was fairly cheesy so we snuck out during a break and all headed back to the Plaza del Armas for some dinner. We found a great restaurant with wonderful food and thanks to the altitude my two pisco sours had me feeling like I had four. It would have been a nice to explore the nightlife but, we had to get back after dinner because our driver was picking us up at 6:15am for our train to Machu Picchu.

…to be continued

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