Published: March 20th 2012March 20th 2012
Cusco (Or Custard, as my mind says, secretly, every time).
3400m above sea level. The air is rarefied. It’s hard to breathe. Our eyeballs pop. Our tongues swell, become purple and choke us. Our ears bleed profusely, spraying the walls around. Confusion abounds. We faint, then die.
But, after a good night’s sleep, and a couple of Paracetamol, all is well.
Flying straight in from sea level to 3400m meant we had no time to acclimatise. Most people suffer from mild altitude sickness (headache, nausea, difficulty sleeping) but this generally clears up after 48 hours. We felt worse the first morning, but not too bad now (after 48 hours). Some people get it worse and have to descend to a lower altitude.
Flying in from Santiago, we first landed in Lima, Peru. Didn’t look too interesting from the air, no high rise buildings, mostly small, brown, single storey buildings as far as the eye can see. Can’t really comment on Lima as a place, but Binx who was there recently, was singularly unimpressed.
Flying into Cusco (mmm – Cusco) on the other hand is a completely different kettle of fish.
Only an hour’s flight
form Lima, it is slap bang in the middle of the Andes. Breaking through the cloud as we descend reveals a huge valley surrounded by big, green mountains. The plane passes quite close to a mountain and then banks steeply as it comes in to land.
In the Inca times, Cusco was the capital of Peru. It was only after the invasion on the Spanish, the capital was changed to Lima as they wanted to be near the sea to ship the spoils out.
We were taken to the hotel and advised we should rest for the remainder of the day. Then we were given Coca tea to help with the altitude. “You should drink a lot of this”, the said, “but don’t drink it before you go to bed or you’ll be up all night”. So we plumped for coffee.
Next day we strolled round the city centre. What a beautiful place. Surrounded by the Andes, it is full of character (and characters). Later that day we go on a tour which includes the cathedral, the Temple to the Sun (Qorkancha) and then out of the city, up the mountains to visit some Inca ruins and
look back on Cusco in the valley.
The cathedral was interesting. Commissioned originally by the Spanish, the used indigenous artists to decorate it. There is a huge painting which is a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The original artist went off a description of the original and had to interpret certain things. For example, this was a feast, and what do Peruvian’s eat when they feast ? That’s right, guinea pig. Also, their local drink is something called Chichea, fermented from maize, so this too is what they are drinking at the Last Supper!! Other paintings depict Christ the shepherd with sheep, only again, the artists had never seen sheep, so they look remarkably like guinea pigs too!!
(Actually, our hotel has “Typical crunchy baked guinea pig with Andean herbs” on the menu, but I just can’t bring myself to try it. The Peruvians only eat it on special occasions, roughly four times a year, and has a very strong flavour. It is best eaten with strong alcohol to help digest it. Mmm, maybe I will then).
On then to the Temple of the Sun. This was originally an Inca site, where they worshipped
the Sun, Moon, Stars, Lightning and the Rainbow. Some ruins still remain, but when the Spanish invaded, they built a church on the same site (huh, typical).
We were then taken out of the city up the mountains to visit some more Inca ruins. The views back over Cusco were fantastic.
By this time, we were getting a bit sick of ruins (and we haven’t even been to Machu Pichu yet!), so were very pleased when the guide announced this was the last site. Still a bit knackered from the altitude, we ate (not guinea pig) and went to bed early.
Chill day today. Machu Pichu tomorrow. When will the pleasure stop !?!
The Stoole Pigeon – An Occasional Newsletter
It’s been sometime since we had a stool report so I thought it only fair to bring you up to date. If you remember we had returned to a semblance of normality in Australia. This remained the de facto state of affairs right up until the end. The last night in Sydney, I had a “Seafood Taster for Two” for one, and the next morning, was starting to get alerts from the early warning beacons
that all may not be well (this was the day we had a 17 hour flight ). I made a tactical decision to deploy Imodium immediately, and fortunately, this did seem to stem the potential impending doom (sitting right by the toilet on the plane helped psychologically too). Note: Moi did not have the seafood and so remained at the normal status quo.
Anyway, disaster averted, once things were open for business again, everything had quietened down and we were back to the original, familiar, gargantuan eyeless lungfish of the early days.
As a post script to this, we noted in Lima airport signs asking us not to put toilet paper down the toilet but in the waste paper bin provided. Aaaargh!!
In addition to this, the way the toilets flush here are slightly unusual. The bowl fills slowly and then creates a whirlpool. This has the unfortunate effect of animating the contents, creating a shoal, swmming round and round for ages, only disappearing at the last minute.
Synchronicity - I say "disappearing", Moi has just told me her stools are refusing to be flushed as I type. Unfortunately, I’m too busy to
There are more photos below