This high-flying (11000 ft) Andean city is the heart of a once mighty Inca empire and now the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas. Despite its modernisation, it holds onto its historical past like nobody's business! Massive Inca-built walls line steep, narrow cobblestone streets and even form the foundations of the modern buildings. It is also of course the gateway to Machu Picchu, which I shall be visiting at the end of my trip.
We left our hotel this morning at 0700hrs and so the first order of the day at the airport was to hit Starbucks. Our LAN flight left Lima at 0930hrs for Cuzco taking about 50 minutes. Upon walking out of the airport in Cuzco you can tell that something is different about the air. Not that I was crawling on hands & knees gasping for breath mind you but it just seems.. well, different. I bought some "Saroche" pills which, upon closer examination, are just tylenol, acetylsalicylic acid & caffeine so I suspect only really supply a little bit of symptomatic relief - a bit of a rip off really. I have been guzzling coca tea like there is no tomorrow so will wait to see if that helps too. The leaves do contain small amounts of cocaine but the amount is really minute - less than 0.4%. Unfortunately the high altitude makes you pee even more than usual and so my tiny bladder is cursing the day I was born. From people I have spoken to it seems like a good day to acclimatize is usually all you need to be pretty much back to normal. Still I am not being overly cocky and am doing thing at a slightly slowly than usual Nic-pace.
We have arrived in Cuzco a few days before Cuzco's most important festival Inti Raymi (June 24th). It is the "Festival of the Sun" and the whole city celebrates on the streets. Today, for reasons yet unbeknownst to me, everyone was out in the street in their brightly coloured traditional outfits dancing up a storm as though it was a dress rehearsal. It was wonderful to watch especially seeing as I will be on day 1 of my trek on the 24th. The heaving streets of performers & spectators was also a good way to make sure that my pace whilst exploring wasn't "Tazmanian Devil" on the Nic activity richter scale.
The parade head down to the main square, Plaza de Armas. The plaza is encompassed by a variety of colonial buildings, the cathedral and two churches. The cathedral and the church La Compañia de Jesus are both strikingly ornate. It was a good "first port of call" to watch the performances before grabbing a bite to eat. Eats consisted of Andean Quinoa soup and a veggie sandwich washed down with the very lush chicha.
After satisfying my grumbling stomach I decided to somewhat ignore this altitude malarky somewhat and hike up to the San Blas barrio. It's a stiff uphill walk from the plaza through the narrow cobblestoned streets but the views from the top are amazing. Besides you can always stop to get a quick breather whilst you explore the quaint little artisan shops or better yet pose for a picture with a Llama. Where else in the world.....?
Time to head back to my hotel to put on some warmer clothing now that is has gone dark and to meet up with my roomie and two others from my group. We had earlier made plans to hunt out somewhere suitable to eat dins together. This pescatarian has been contemplating sharing some cuy for dinner with my roomie.... I'll let you know how that goes, if it goes. It will mean that I won't be able to look Peanut & Snowflake in the eye again however.....