I am walking down the cobbleston alley to our hostel, which is located just on my left.
*Before reading the travel blogs, I feel the necessity to tell you that I am writing these entries very rapidly since we have to pay for the internet, and there is no spell check! Plus, the keyboard is different, so I sometimes skip apostrophes and other punctuation because I can't find them quickly enough! Therefore, look past the many errors!
Karen, Jason, and I arrived at the Aeropuerto Internacional Velasco Astete in Cusco
, Peru at 6:50 in the morning after approximately fifteen hours of travel. The descent into the storied capital of the Inca Empire was breathtaking, as we were priviliged to view the majestic, snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains through the window of our rather small-sized airplane.
This is the view of the Plaza de Armas that we have from our hostel's rooftop.
We endured quite a rapid and rough landing on the small airportś only runway, and then we first encountered Cuscoś unique character and appeal as we made our way into the festive baggage claim. We were quickly besieged by offers from tour companies and taxi drivers eager to make a substantial profit on naive tourists. As we patiently awaited the sight of our three backpacks cruising along the luggage carousel, we enjoyed the lively and enchanting music created by three Peruvian musicians draped in colorful ethnic attire.
After negotiating a taxi fee (they tried to get us to pay 30 Soles, but I knew, from research, that we shouldnt be charged more than 10 Soles) we crammed ourselves and our bags into a miniature, rustic car and were dropped off near our hostel, Piccola Locanda, which is located a short distance from the San Cristobal Iglesia.
Karen and I sit up on our hostel's roof to enjoy the views.
We sauntered a short distance down a charming, cobblestone alley and entered a quaint hostel nestled upon a hill that offers stunning views of the Plaza de Armas below us.
Once inside, we were graciously greeted by a kind woman who brought us three warm cups of coca tea, which Peruvians have relied on for centuries to combat the unwanted effects of living in a community with an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet. She rapidly explained all of the rules, procedures, and amenities of the hostel in Spanish, so I was thankful I knew enough to get by and politely answer her questions.
Since our room would not be available until 10:30, we ventured down into the city on foot, hoping not to experience any altitude sickness symptoms such as the severe headaches and nasuea we experienced last year in Tibet.
Jason is standing in the Plaza de Armas.
We first walked through the stately Plaza de Armas, where we passed under the intricate porticoes that line the lively square with restaurants, smaller cafes, and intimate shops. Also lining the square are handsome museums, convents, and cathedrals that seem to have been frozen in time, perhaps back in the 17th century. All of this is then framed by the beautiful Andes mountains. A great melting pot of people from various cultures seem to pass through this focal point of Cusco, but perhaps the most charming are the Andean women, wearing wide-brimmed hats and conservative skirts, who tote their babies on their backs in brightly colored and intricately patterned textiles reminiscent of the Tibetans we encountered last summer in Lhasa.
We then headed to the Peru Treks offices, located only ten minutes from the Plaza de Armas, where we finalized our Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu
, which we will begin on Wednesday.
Karen and I purchase woven hats and glomitts from a Peruvian woman.
We paid our final bill with a combination of American dollars and Peruvian soles, even though we had planned on paying the bill in entirety with American dollars. However, a decent amount of our American currency was rejected due to tiny, two-millimeter tears in the bills. How picky! Leaving the office, we were more excited than ever about the adventure that awaits us, but since it had been over 24 hours since we had slept, we trudged up the hill, with our hearts pounding due to the lack of oxygen in the air, and returned to our hostel for a couple hours of sleep.
Following our quick rest, we headed out the door and in the direction of the Cusco markets to peruse endless stalls of textiles, jewelry, purses, vases, and other souvenirs. However, before we even made it 100 feet from our hostel, Karen and I purchased woven hats and glommits (gloves and mittens in one!) from a gentle Peruvian woman seated along the side of the road.
Jason and Karen shop in the Cusco market.
Somehow we missed the memo about the cold, Peruvian air when we packed our bags (even though I checked weather.com before we left).
We spent the remainder of the day at the Cusco markets, enjoying a birthday dinner at Chez Maggy, a Peruvian pizzeria that has been around for over thirty years, and shopping along the bustling streets that encircle the Plaza de Armas. After our first successful day in South America, we went to bed early, anxious for all the excitement of the weeks to come.