We´re in Peru - FINALLY!!!
Trip Start Jul 03, 2007
7Trip End Jul 25, 2007
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I am actually very fortunate to be traveling with two girlfriends, Isabel and Annie. Together we´re the three muskateers, three amigos, and will probably end up, at some point, being the three stooges. We all had quite the travel experience to get here. We each took different airlines with multiple layovers. Due to the weather yesterday in DFW, I was about 2 hours late catching my flight to Miami. In Miami, the flight left about 2 hours late and upon arrival in Lima, Peru, I had missed my connecting flight to Cusco. I was a little stressed because Lima was the meetup point for all of us and I was the last to arrive and had missed the flight. Furthermore, we had no contingency plan if we weren´t all there for the flight to Cusco
So now we´re in the high altitude city (11,000 feet above sea level) and former ancient Incan capital of Cusco. We've been breathing really heavy trying to adjust to the thin air. A short trip up a flight of stairs is enough to make me start gasping for breath! Really, it´s not totally because I´m out of shape! Some of the really swanky hotels in Cusco actually pump supplementary oxygen into their rooms
After being accosted by a local tour guide, who we thought was the taxi driver, we ended up finding a hotel in the Plaza de Armas. It´s the center of town and conveniently located to restaurants, bars, and shopping. Most importantly, it has HOT WATER! This is most definitely a luxury in Peru and we are willing to pay for it. Have I mentioned that it´s winter here ??? A cold shower is not an option.
Overall, Cusco itself is a really cute colonial town with an amazingly well preserved center. Most of the action centers on the Plaza de Armas (town square) that is flanked by historic buildings and two large cathedrals built on the foundations of Inca temples. Quaint restaurants, souvenir shops and local stores fill the narrow alleys. Despite the fact that for decades the town has been inundated with tourists on their way to or from Machu Picchu, the place holds tenaciously to a lot of local flavor. Cusco is still a REAL Peruvian city with most of the inhabitants going about their business completely unaffected by tourism.
During our visit with the travel agent/tour guide, we booked a horseback riding tour to various ruins outside of Cusco for tomorrow. It should be fun and it only cost $15! I´m not sure when the last time I rode a horse was . . There will interesting stories to follow, I guarantee it!
Other than that, we´ve walked around town and just taking it all in. Between the three of us, we are complete suckers for the little kids here. They are absolutely beautiful but so dirty! I just want to take a baby wipe out and clean them up. I´ll restrain myself though. Thanks to mom and sister, April, I have about 50 McDonald´s Happy Meal toys with me. I love having those on trips to low income countries because the kids get so excited!! Our kids in the US could care less but they really appreciate them here. Today I handed out quite a few. The scenario usually goes like this: I give a child a toy then they ask for one for their sister, brother, cousin, 2nd cousin, neighbor´s niece, etc. Get the picture? It´s a very sweet exchange and it really brings me joy to give them out. Thanks mom and April - you´ve made some kids feel very special.
Well, that is enough for now. I´ll update you guys again when we return from the horseback riding tour tomorrow. I´ve also attached a short history lesson about Cusco below. Enjoy!!!
Live, love, laugh,
So, of course I now have to add the history blurb just in case you forgot all that stuff you learned about the Incas back in middle school. According to Inca myth, around AD 1200 Manco Capac and his sister both rose out of Lake Titicaca after being created by the Sun. They then went on to found the capital of the new Inca Empire in the city of Cusco. It grew and flourished for the next 300 years and at its height, the empire controlled and area about half the size of Europe, stretching from modern day Colombia to Chile. In the early 1500's, while the empire was in the midst of a civil war between two brothers with competing claims on the throne, Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro came upon the society and through a series of bold military and political moves, assassinations, and greatly assisted by the effects of previously unknown European diseases being introduced into the Inca population, was able to bring the society to its knees. Most of the Inca society was wiped off the map except for a few very remote settlements (such as Machu Picchu), which the Spanish never discovered. Like so many other South American nations, the region became a Spanish colony and began assimilating its religion and language. Inca temples were looked at as bastions of paganism and were systematically disassembled or converted into other uses. Ironically, almost 500 years after the conquest, many locals still practice some of the Inca rites and have blended them with Catholicism to create a very unique fusion.