Last time I was on here I posted a segment from the traveling to Peru portion of our trip. Now I would like to tell you a little bit about what we saw and experienced while there for eight days. (Apologies for the segmented posts, but we all know that this time of year can be hectic!)
The morning of September 23, 2018, we landed in Cuzco, Peru. Off the cuff, life was the same, but entirely different. One woman on our flight was transporting a 5 gallon bucket of strawberries from Lima to Cuzco, and Sunshine made her laugh when he expressed excitement over the sight of fresh fruit.
Leaving the airport was our first challenge, we did not book any kind of package, which likely would have included all the convenience of being picked up at the airport, and so on, but we preferred the adventure of hoofing it! One of our Air BnBs had offered to pick us up straight from the airport, but they were going to be our second Air BnB of the trip so it made no sense at the time.
Upon walking out of the airport, one is instantly targeted as a sale to be had. Needless to say, we had no issues getting a taxi from the airport to downtown Cuzco, but we were obliged to listen to a synopsis on the 20 or so tours that this company offered in addition to taxi services.
Our taxi driver, who called himself Miel, was very talkative and it was almost entirely in Spanish. He asked if I spoke Spanish and I told him, “Yes a little bit,” to which he replied that we would understand each other. He then asked if we were from France, to which I replied, “No, los Estados Unidos,” and then noted how he seemed less enthused for it.
However, we were soon on our way to Carmen Bajo, where our first Air BnB of the trip was located, and he began to talk. Sunshine sat next to him up front and Miel would look back at me when describing the city around us as we passed through. I was able to ask him several questions in Spanish, and he told me I was very good with the language and simply needed more practice.
Miel was the first to teach us about Quechua, the language of the Incas prior to the invasion of the Spanish in approximately 1532(?). He told us that there were five other peoples in the area before his own ancestors, the Incas, and that the Incan history was not too terribly old (all supposedly after Christ).
Miel drove us through the modern portion of Cuzco, from the airport, and we noted the roads became much more narrow as we got closer to downtown. He told us that this was because the roads constructed in this area were meant for alpacas, llamas, and humans, not cars. This brief cab tour gave me more confidence to speak Spanish in the city throughout the week.
When he dropped us off on Carmen Bajo, we were met with a small blue door against a fresh white stucco wall. Looking up and down the street, we quickly understood that cars had the right of way and that pedestrians better hop up on the curb and hug the wall to keep from being hit. The street was narrow, and there were several small shops right across from the door where we were dropped off.
Hoping for the best, not knowing what to expect, Sunshine reached to the top of the door and rang the bell. Some minutes later, a little girl in a cute blue dress pulled the door open slightly and peered out. Sunshine asked her if this was an Air BnB and she nodded, then I asked in Spanish if we may enter. She nodded again and opened the door wider, she could not have been more than nine years old.
Behind her, we could see through a short, dimly lit foyer to an open atrium beyond. As we walked forward we were greeted by a white cat with a few spots, who seemed to run the concierge. The little girl turned to say she would get her brother, who then asked us some brief questions (he could not be older than ten or eleven). He soon pointed across the balcony from where he stood with his little sister to say that our apartment was just there and to go on in. I wasn’t sure what to think after being greeted by a cat and two children, but Sunshine seemed to think it was all okay.
The atrium was a beautiful oasis, and from the street outside one would never realize it existed. The colours consisted of lots of blues, browns, and some red. The room itself was lovely, and I thought to myself that it would be the perfect apartment. Perhaps over time it may be too small for two, but for a vacation home/destination it was wonderful and greatly exceeded my expectations.
While I was in the bathroom, Sunshine met our host, a former Irishman called Gary. He suggested that we rest today, before our trek with Alpaca Expeditions in the morning. Before doing that, however, we took to the streets to change some of our money, and explore for a couple of hours. When it felt right we found some food at a covered market, where various vendors had their shops set up. There were piles of fruits in the center, and along the walls there were Peruvian locals cooking meals for other locals and those of us tourists who happened by.
After having some delicious food, and of course the coca tea to prevent altitude sickness, we went back to the Air BnB and passed out for several hours. We woke up in the late afternoon, with plenty of time to touch base with our Machu Picchu tour service, Alpaca Expeditions, which was a small adventure in its own. Once we found the location of the office, we had to climb up a set of dark staircase and wait in another atrium, until the trekkers in front of us finished their debriefing. The short discussion that followed put us at ease to wake up at 4AM the next morning and be picked up by a stranger in a green “Alpaca Expeditions” jacket.
Once all of our business with the tour was settled, we went about getting to know downtown Cuzco in the dark of evening, which seemed to be when most folks were out anyway. We quickly realized a few things, all the shops have very similar wares, even though they all claim to be originals. The students selling art from their homemade leather portfolios in the street doubled as drug dealers (weed or cocaine, typically), if the locals are in traditional garb it’s probably their occupation (to pose for photos), and though the main industry now appears to be tourism (due to Machu Picchu) Peru is still an unusually spiritual destination.
(To be cont.)