South America | Peru | Southern Peru | Cuzco (Cusco) – Breaking Amanda in…

South America | Peru | Southern Peru | Cuzco (Cusco) – Breaking Amanda in…

Traveling alone is great, but traveling with a close friend is fantastic. You can promise to tell one another when you are getting on each others nerves, support one another on bad days, and share all the fabulous traveling experiences with someone from home, who is available all the time to reminisce about the laughs from the trip.

I luckily get to spend the last two weeks of my South American adventure with my best friend who I have know since growing up together, Amanda. Having been a business traveler up until now, she gets the whirlwind introduction to traveling for fun, and gets to do so in two magical countries, Peru and Bolivia.

Amanda arrived late on Saturday night, with me waiting outside the baggage claim-customs area in Lima, Peru. The crowd of people easily hid me until I borrowed a grease board sign, wrote her name on it (turns out I did not have to use it) and then snuck my way up to the front of the crowd. We hired a taxi to take us back to the hostel so we could have some sleep before flying out early to Cuzco on Sunday. We could not stop talking and catching up, so once 1 am rolled around we tried to get some sleep before the 4:15 am knock on our door for the taxi back to the airport. We had no problems catching a taxi at that hour, remember SA does not go to bed until 7 am on weeekends.

Our taxi pulled up to one of the main intersections on the way back to the airport, stopped and then put the car in reverse. He backed up about twenty feet and then Amanda looked at me while he backed up another ten feet. She asked, Do all taxi drivers require a rolling start in Peru? I explained, No, it is not normal…but we laughed either due to lack of sleep or just hilariousness of the driving tactics exhibited so far by our driver. We found the rest of the plane travel uneventful, other than Amanda{s uncomfort at boarding through the back end (asshole as she put it) of the plane.

Arriving in Cuzco, we walked into the baggage claim to a packed house, and a band playing traditional andean music! These Cuzco folks know how to say hello! On our taxi drive into town, I taught Amanda some essential Spanish as I talked with our taxi driver.

Our hotel, Ninos Hotel, served us Coca tea as soon as we arrived, and we sat in the courtyard of the hotel in the sun while they finished getting our room ready. A Dutch couple founded our hotel after adopting 12 orphans in Cuzco and the profits go towards their foundation which serves hot meals six days a week, provides hot showers and tutors street kids. Each room is named after one of their adopted kids; ours is named Oscar and is painted yellow, white and green. Read more about it by visiting their website, and stay there if you are ever in Cuzco: www.ninoshotel.com/indexe.htm

We ventured out into the beautiful day, most importantly to sign up with an agency for our four day Inca trail trip up to Machu Picchu. We found out we could not leave with our preferred agency until Wednesday, another three days, but that gives us a chance to acclimate to the altitude and to visit Cuzco. After getting the trip squared away, we ate lunch next to the Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas as Palm Sunday mass let out and filled the Plaza with people. Kids overwhelmed us with requests to sell us postcards, watercolors, shine our shoes (I had on fabric goretex boots, go figure), etc. One little boy really wanted Amandas diet Coke that she did not finish, but an older man scolded him away before she gave it away.

After lunch, we hired a taxi to a village about 45 minutes away which is known for its Sunday market. The drive took us up some narrow streets as we climbed out of town. Our driver met another taxi coming down one of the streets and they stopped because neither had room to pass. After a couple of minutes of a stare down and no movement, Amanda wondered out loud what they were doing. I explained they were resolving things, but the stare down did not actually resolve things. Our driver eventually got out, the other driver got out, and a few shouts later we won and got to pass after the other car pulled up onto the narrow sidewalk (about two inches).

We passed several major Inca ruins on the way including one that sounds like Sexy-woman when you pronounce it in Spanish. Funny. We saw they typical wildlife of a Peruvian countryside, pigs, cows eating out of the garbage, plenty of dogs, and llamas. The road continued to climb into the mountains, passing potato fields way up in the mountains high enough to make one wonder how do they get up to plant much less harvest and bring the potatoes down?

Pisac is a quaint little town who has a market that takes over the entire Plaza on Sundays. They sell lovely produce, hot meals, crafts and beatiful weavings. We both bought beatiful poncho pins used by the ladies in their traditional clothes, and discovered we can wear them as hair pins! After a successful shopping spree, we had some coca tea next to the market and talked with a German couple sitting next to us. We shared a taxi back to Cuzco with them and had one of those small world discoveries. She works for the same company I have been working with for the past year, and he works for the main contracting company for them. It started raining about halfway through the drive back and Amanda proceeded to put the death grip on the back of the passenger seat as we sped around corners with no railing (!) going up and then down the mountains in the rain. Her saucer-sized eyes could not hide her newness to the driving tactics here in Peru. Just one more driving experience to laugh about once we get home…

When we arrived back in Cuzco the rain turned into hail and we stood under one of the walkways around the plaza hoping it would let up a bit. It did not, so we took a taxi back to our hotel, dropped off our things and then headed out for an early dinner since both of us had started feeling exhausted. After a delicious dinner of vegetable curry and two pisco sours (yum!) we walked back to the Plaza de Armas down a narrow street lined with artist and craft shops, all tempting us for later visits. We walked down Hathrumiyoq, the street of the big stone, where a 12 sided stone sits in the middle of an ancient inca wall still lining the street as the foundation for the archibishops house today. Arriving in the Plaza, Amanda remarked what a pretty place this new plaza was. I explained this was the main Plaza, where we ate lunch, and oh, by the way, I will do the navigating from here on…

We made it back to the hotel, and phew, could hardly believe what we had fit into her first 24 hours here in Peru.

Category : South America | Peru | Southern Peru | Cuzco (Cusco) , Uncategorized