Friday, June 27th, 2003

Cusco, Peru

Inca Masonry

Got picked up at Cusco’s airport and driven to our hotel in the heart of Cusco at the Plaza de Armas. The hotel people brought us coca tea ... which is a lovely drink, although I'm not sure how much it really helped to prevent altitude sickness. Ate at the first restaurant we found, which was dirt cheap and we were the only ones there because it was only 7pm... Peruvians have dinner at 9-11pm. a boy came in and played the panpipes, maracas, and drums while singing and dancing until our food came just for us for one sol (about 40 cents) which seemed to make him pretty happy.


Altitude sickness is NOT FUN! Cusco is 3300m above sea level so it was quite an adjustment from Lima, despite the fact that we all had 2 mate de coca's (tea made from coca leaves) to avoid feeling sick. Before leaving we were told that what we would probably feel when reaching this altitude was a slightly happy feeling. Instead Tony got a crashing headache for a good day and night. Went out for a stroll with moving very very slowly. Tony got a flash of intense pins and needles allover his body for a couple minutes. Blah. After a day and night awake in bed though, he got up in the morning feeling fine.  V had a headache and her ankle joints hurt a lot she walked. No fun at all! So basically spent the first day relaxing and taking it easy.


Cusco is a really nice town. It’s apparently built in a puma shape and most of the buildings are built from the foundation of the Inca buildings and all the roads are cobbled. The people are all really nice. V’s Spanish is improving and some people have even told her she doesn’t have much of an accent which is great especially for getting deals and being treated differently.


Went on a couple of tours around the Cusco area, one of the city and another of the Inca sacred valley to see half a dozen different Inca ruins. The sacred valley is gorgeous! Could see Mt. Veronica from there too, but was hard to tell exactly what mountain the guide was pointing to cause he was pointing from the front of the bus and we were at the back, but i gotta find out! hehe


We arrived during Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun celebrated during the winter solstice by the Quechua people, descendants of the Inca empire's people. It is a very important festival here so there are parades in the street constantly during the lead up to the 24th of June…. loud drums, firecrackers, fireworks, dancing, music…tons and tons of energy here. Many different groups parading down the street constantly, each in their own unique costume and demonstrating their cultural dances. The parades go on all day but the longest one was the day before Inti Raymi which went from at least 9 or 10 am and didn't end till after midnight! very cool to be here during this time though, tons to do and lots to see especially since my uncle's hotel is right in the middle of the plaza de armas (the centre of town) so we have been able to see everything from our bedroom window.


We, along with hundreds of thousands of people went to go see the big festival of Inti Raymi at one of the Inca ruins that is about 5min out of Cusco, called Sacsayhuaman. So hard to find a spot to sit on the big rocky hill everyone was sitting on to see the celebration for free, everyone was so squished together. Luckily we saw the lady that organized our Inca trail trip and we sat with her and her family ... so nice of her. The celebration itself lasted a couple hours (although we had got there like 4 hours before it started and still had a really hard time finding a spot to sit) and it was pretty interesting, although this year they have stopped ritually sacrificing a llama ... they used to rip its heart out and offer it to the sun, now they just pretend! But it was still a sight to see... hundreds of people running & dancing in the massive Inca ruins...


You can go from club to club here and drink free drinks and get drunk around the plaza ... went to a club last night and saw some of the locals dancing... and holy damn, Canadians can’t dance at all  in comparison. Still eating like kings in return for peanuts. The food here is amazing, one of the best things about the trip so far! The cuisine here is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Guacamole to die for, nachos, enchiladas, burritos, other Mexican stuff, and lots of interesting things like yesterday's lomo saltado with alpaca meat! mmmm All the dishes here are made with fresh fruit and veggies, and I suppose meats. When you order a juice they start with the fruit and blend them up together for you. There is a road here, known as gringo alley, where most tourists go to eat. When you walk down this street you are mobbed by waitresses and waiters trying to lure us into their empty restaurants with promises of free drinks and food…they usually fight amongst themselves gradually offering us more free stuff, it’s great although a bit overwhelming at times!


Lots of animals wander the street everywhere in Peru ... kittens, cats dogs sometimes farm animals of every sort including goats and llamas.. Markets full of trinkets for very little money... only problem is carrying the loot around so we have had to contain ourselves to smaller items. Took a picture of a couple of Peruvian kids in full costume with their llamas, and a parrot and a baby falcon on their heads! Hope it turns out.


Having a wicked time here ... lots of people here will bend over backwards for you. We’re sometimes mobbed in the streets.  They try to chat you up to get you to buy things. V bought a bracelet from this one guy today and in the end after talking he was asking us to meet him back at that spot that night so we could go dancing or somewhere... wouldn't take maybe for an answer. One day had a little boy try to impress us with everything he knew about Canada so we would buy some postcards from him. Another time we were looking at this really nice weaving, decided against it cause we didn’t want to have to carry it on the Inca trail and we ended up having the whole village follow us back to our tour bus lowering the prices on the many things they were selling. Everything people are selling are so nice too! Some really great artists… paintings, carvings, weavings, dancing ... everything!


Last day in Cusco we had some food to give away.... ended up giving it to a man on the street who was blind. Tony handed him the stuff and the whole time he was saying "gracias papi". He was so grateful! We were walking away when we noticed he was trying to open the bottle with his teeth...thought he was going to break them so V helped him open it and told him what we gave him. The whole time he said "gracias mami". What a great feeling to have helped him out in some way, even if it was only temporary.



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