Hola a todos,
I currently write while sipping a cold Cusqueña cervesa and watching night fall over the heart of South America, Cusco. It has been a mere 4 days south of the equator and I´m already in love with the latin life. Well, most of it anyway.
After a rough 9 hour layover in Miami and a redeye flight over the equator I arrived in Lima, Peru´s capital, at 5:30 a.m. to be greeted by a swarm of taxi drivers fighting for the tourist dollar. Luckily, one had a sign with my name and escorted me to a friend of a friend named Alfredo, a Lima local who served as my Peruvian ambassador for the day. He showed me around the massive city (depressingly impoverished on the outskirts but fairly pleasant near the center) and gave me brief history lessons over incredibly cheap Peruvian cuisine (12 soles/$4 for a four course meal with drinks). We checked out historic districts, ancient cathedrals with bone-filled catacombs and even the catholic inquisition museum, site of religious trials and tortures some centuries ago. I was overwhelmed with new experience in such a short day, stepping over
numerous stray dogs, holding on tight in white knuckled high speed cab rides, and keeping my cool in the presence of city cops, traffic cops, riot cops, emergency cops and private security guards, all armed and occupying every street corner. Though I was initially concerned about crime and theft in such an impoverished and crazy city, I was relieved to learn that the average Peruvian is about 5'4" or shorter, giving me a good fighting chance if someone tried to steal my goods. Overlooking the drab colored and smog-choked metropolis from the nearby Monte Cristal, Alfredo tells me that there are about 8 million people squeezed into the rough 12 mile radius. A little too crowded for my blood.
We capped the night off with a visit to el circuito de agua, a park with huge water features colorfully lit and syncronized to classical music pieces and lazer shows. Think Bellagio in Vegas, only bigger. After a good night´s sleep at Alfredo´s apartment I was back to the airport the next morning and on a flight over the rugged Andes to Cusco, the pearl of South America and footstep of numerous Inca ruins, including the infamous Macchu Pichu. Shortly
after arriving I met with Vail valley friends Kent and Christy, and we set off exploring the beautiful high-altitude city (some 11,000 feet) painted red with tile roofs in an otherwise lush green valley overshadowed by massive peaks. Cusco is more touristic given its international reputation, and everyone on the street has something to sell, from souvenirs to cigarettes to Q-tips and toilet paper. As much of the local indigenous population is still very very poor, they do and sell whatever they can to make ends meet.
We have quite enjoyed wandering the streets, getting great deals in the markets and enjoying local hospitality. The food is rich and prices (off the beaten tourist path) are incredible. Yesterday for lunch we had a 3 course meal for a mere 2.5 soles (about 75 cents!). We then splurged on a 4 star dinner of wine, apps and alpaca steaks for around $15 each, leaving stuffed and thoroughly impressed.
Today we caught a bus into the mountain valley town of Pisaq, where a Sunday market is held and colorful locals sell thousands of handmade goods and souvenirs on the town streets. The indigenous attire is amazingly bright and colorful, and
the people are beautiful themselves. I picked up a couple trinkets and also outfitted myself with a new and comfortable wardrobe of alpaca wool, all for less than $20. Thoroughly satisfied for now, and ready for a good night´s rest before setting off on our 4 day trek of the Inca trail tomorrow morning. Hasta luego - Andrew
P.S. I´m working on embedding pictures into the blog, but for now you can check out the attached photos through the link.
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