Blogs from Cusco, Peru, South America


South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu March 9th 2021 8th March - Machu Picchu When the explorer Hiram Bingham III encountered Machu Picchu in 1911, he was looking for a different city, known as Vilcabamba. This was a hidden capital to which the Inca had escaped after the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1532. Over time it became famous as the legendary Lost City of the Inca. Bingham spent most of his life arguing that Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba were one and the same, a theory that wasn’t proved wrong until after his death in 1956. (The real Vilcabamba is now believed to have been built in the jungle about 50 miles west of Machu Picchu.) Recent research has cast doubt on whether Machu Picchu had ever been forgotten at all. When Bingham arrived, three families of farmers were living at the site. Machu Picchu ... read more

South America » Peru » Cusco February 26th 2021 26th February - Chincheros Incas Textile Techniques. Another trip I didn’t want to miss, these virtual trips are often more than one date but I had missed out earlier and just by chance managed to book one thus afternoon. To the Incas gold was merely an adornment. Far more valuable were their alpacas, Vicuña which produced an ultra-soft fleece that they wove into clothing, rugs and tapestries. These textiles – not gold – were used as currency throughout the empire. Soldiers and high-ranking officials were paid in alpaca garments, and clothing woven from vicuña wool was so highly prized that only members of the royal family were allowed to wear it. The Inca had developed this ultra-fine fleece through centuries of selective breeding. They culled all but the best male alpacas and separated vicuñas and ... read more

South America » Peru » Cusco February 9th 2021 8th February - Cusco: The Inca Capital - Peru The City of Cuzco (also Cusco) at 3,400 m above sea level, is located in a fertile alluvial valley fed by several rivers in the heart of the Central Peruvian Andes. Cusco was the religious and administrative capital of the Inca Empire which flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1534 CE. The Incas controlled territory from Quito to Santiago, making theirs the largest empire ever seen in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time. Cusco, which had a population of up to 150,000 at its peak, was laid out in the form of a puma and was dominated by fine buildings and palaces. Cusco is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city of Cusco is said to ... read more

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco January 29th 2021

After writing for almost a year about other people having Covid, I now have the opportunity to give a first person account of having Covid in Cusco. Thankfully, I had a very mild case. I had a fever for two days and a slight cough the third day after the fever was gone. Unfortunately, the person who brought it to my home was so sick that I had to play nurse for about a week, before a family member could come get him. I’ve done the contact tracing, which goes from my houseguest-turned-patient to his family, who live in a small town in the Sacred Valley. When I first realized that this was probably Covid, I found a list online of places in Cusco that supposedly can test for Covid. Of the 57 places listed, I ... read more
Use of a mask is obligatory
Protect yourself from the Coronavirus

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco January 3rd 2021

Week 42: My blog is moving to Please subscribe to receive notifications about blogs posted there! I took last week off from blogging and spent a very traditional New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in Urubamba. Just like Christmas Eve, on New Year's Eve we waited until midnight, went outside by the nativity scene and gave everybody a hug, wishing them a happy New Year and putting yellow confetti in their hair. On Christmas it was multi-colored confetti, but for New Year, everything in Peru is yellow and gold. It's supposed to bring a prosperous New Year and goodness do we all need that after last year! Honestly, I am just so thankful that all of my friends and family survived 2020 and that nobody in my family got Covid. For most of 2020, ... read more
Traditional yellow & gold, with hand washing stations
The last chocolatada in Siusa
Clothes for kids

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco December 26th 2020

Sunday, 20 December, 2020 Hatun Q’ero is about a six hour drive from Cusco, which is why we asked the mayor of Paucartambo to send transportation that could pick us up at 5am. The night before he had sent a large truck to pick up twenty desks which were generously donated by the school where Henry’s sister teaches. Of course, the school has been closed all year due to the pandemic, so nobody has gotten to use these desks in 2020. All of the villages of the Q’ero Nation are part of the district of Paucartambo. Last Sunday, Sofia, who works in the Paucartambo’s mayor’s office, organized everything for our visit to Japu. Unfortunately, she was not available this weekend and we didn’t have anybody like her to help everything go according to plan. We were ... read more
Bare feet

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco December 20th 2020

Sunday, 13 December, 2020 40 weeks is full term! Cusco has carried our Covid baby to full term, but now what? It has been a full nine months since Covid was officially diagnosed in Cusco, on March 13th. So much has happened, sometimes it feels like a full decade, not just one year. I don’t think that we’re yet at a point in the pandemic when we can actually have an idea of what the future will bring. I can really only focus on one day at a time. My biggest priority is surviving the pandemic, hopefully staying healthy until I can get a vaccine, not getting Covid at all. Anything beyond that is gravy. However, today was so overwhelming that it’s hard for me to call it gravy. I got up at 4am to go ... read more
The Q'ero are Q'ero
Hot chocolate for all

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco December 12th 2020

Sunday, 6 December, 2020 Yesterday was amazing, but I am so exhausted by all of the travel. The farther out the villages are, the more they need help, so I’m bracing myself for a December full of twisty mountain roads that make me carsick. It’s certainly worth a little discomfort on my part to be able to reach families who need so much. Not only are the communities farthest from Cusco lacking in basic communication and medical care, they also don’t have any way to get to a town where they could buy basic necessities or try to get medical care. The pandemic is far from over and I am always impressed when we go somewhere that doesn’t have any Covid cases in the area. They really are staying isolated and I really want them to ... read more
Giant cauldrons of hot chocolate
Clothes for kids
The best volunteers

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco December 5th 2020

Sunday, 29 November, 2020 I’m still so happy about last week’s trek around Mt. Ausangate! The mountains here are one of the biggest reasons that I wanted to move to Cusco. It’s really amazing to see how different the climate here is, depending on the altitude. When you get down below the altitude of Cusco, you realize that you’re really close to the equator. Even just going to Machu Picchu, which is only about three hours away, takes you into the cloud forest and the very edge of the Amazon rainforest. When you head up into the mountains higher than Cusco, you are immediately in the high altitude ecosystem, where all plants are tiny and very few trees or crops can grow. I’ve always wondered why, and finally took the time to look it up. Part ... read more
The cauldron of hot chocolate
Waiting for hot chocolate

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco November 28th 2020

Saturday, 21 November, 2020 The Ausangate trek started at 4am today! Well, the drive to the trailhead started at about 4am. We didn’t actually start walking until about 10am. The drive from Cusco to Ocongate is over 3 hours. We had breakfast in Ocongate and bought a few last minute supplies. Another half hour up a dirt road and we stopped where our arrieros were already getting the horses ready. Arriero is usually translated as horseman, the person who owns and cares for the horses on a trek. Rather than the usual backpack trip that I grew up with in the US, when you carry everything in your backpack, including your tent, sleeping bag, food and clothes, we had opted for what tourists in Peru normally do: hire porters or horses. It seems extravagant, compared with ... read more
First campsite
Upis Lake
Green Lake

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