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Published: February 11th 2007
12 sided stone
No mortar here.
1999……….6wks SOUTH AMERICA-ARGENTINA, PERU....19th August, 1999........ The flight from Lima to Cusco was an awe inspiring one- taking off in the dark, seeing sun rise over the increasing height of the Andes with its snow capped peaks to finally feast our eyes on the ancient Inca capital nestled amongst hills and mountains at 3,310m. From the LHS of the plane we flew over Cusco seeing the air landing stretching out. The plane took a sharp turn and the small Lego type houses with their tiled rooves came to life as we landed. “Cusco’s beauty cannot be overstated. It is a fascinating mix of Inca and Colonial Spanish architecture: Colonial churches, monasteries and convents and extensive pre-Columbian ruins are interspersed with countless hotels, bars and restaurants that have sprung up to cater for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock here to savour its unique atmosphere. Almost every central street has remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. Many streets are lined with perfect Inca stonework, now serving as the foundations for more modern dwellings. This stonework is tapered upwards: every wall has a perfect line of inclination towards the centre from bottom to top, The stones have each edge and
Front door leading into the courtyard
corner rounded. There are 275,000 inhabitants.” (Peru Footprint Handbook)
I’m staying at the Niños Hotel which feels like a real oasis, not only for its simple, very comfortable aesthetic and friendly accommodation, but also it comes with a positive story:
The Niños Story
In July 1996 Jolanda van den Berg travelled to Peru. Alone and without a return ticket! During her first visit to Peru, 6 months before, she had decided to do something for the thousands of Peruvian children who live on the streets of Cusco. She started the Niños Unidos Peruanos Foundation with a small number of people who donated enough money for her to live and to rent a simple hotel room.
Now she is living with 12 boys, giving them everything they need, from food, clothing, education, medical treatment, karate lessons and the most important thing: daily love and care. Right from the start Jolanda had the idea that helping them would be more than just living together and ‘only’ supply ‘love and security’. Her idea that was simple: let’s run a hotel. The Niños hotel opened in July 1998 and rapidly became a success. Now new projects are in the pipeline: a children’s restaurant
Entrance to the central courtyard
will be opened in the summer of 1999. Each day more than 100 children will enjoy a free meal, an educational program and medical attention.
From the old wooden door outside you would have no idea of how it opens to a central courtyard with simple white furniture with fresh flowers on tables. Breakfast are a treat for $2.50: Homemade wholemeal grain bread, rolls, homemade berry jam, eggs, fruit salad, fresh orange juice and a huge cup of café de coco (to help altitude), tea or coffee. The coco tea comes in teabags but here they serve the actual leaves. Locals chew it with lime like betel nut in Asia as it has a narcotic effect. Cocaine is made from this plant. I’m paying US $10 for a room with shared bathroom. It is upstairs and with my door open I overlook the walkway and courtyard below. Again the furniture is simple. Everything is white except the Scandinavian looking double bed, the double green doors and an original bright abstract painting in vibrant pink, blue, green & white. There is a small table and chair with fresh flowers. Two simple wrought iron hoops adorn the walls and there are
two shelves inset into a space in the wall. A slatted beside table with a contemporary light matches the bed. Downstairs the reception, café and sitting room is in a similar style. There is Enya type music wafting through the courtyard, occasionally something more upbeat.
I spent the first few hours here up to midday deeply asleep and not wanting to get up but thought I should. The effects of broken sleep, jet lag and high altitude had taken its toll and I was exhibiting all the initial symptoms of altitude sickness: Los of appetite, light-headedness, shortness of breath, unsettled feeling in stomach, sore throat and congestion, but no headache thankfully. I do find, however, that any pressure on my temples from glasses or the pillow at night is a bit painful.
There is a young man called Jesus who is around the hotel a bit. He teaches Spanish. In talking to him, we both realized quite quickly that we were both gay- well he realized quicker than me actually. I have decided to try and learn some Spanish and will go off to Pisac for the weekend and start on Monday for 6 days, 2 lessons a
day @ US$5/hr. 1 1/2hrs in the morning and the afternoon. He also knows Japanese, English and he is learning Dutch- a bright boy.
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