06/22/2010 - 06/23/2010 70 °F
Tuesday June 22nd, 2010
Tuesday is a 6am start time for breakfast and then our departure from Puno via van to “bus station” (a term I use lightly, like most things in Peru). Here we sadly have to board a large tour bus with, gasp, “tourists” (we prefer to think of ourselves as travelers verse tourists). We have been spoiled so far this entire trip by having private guides, buses, vans, boats, you name it… But now, like rotten children, we hate the idea of having to share. The difference between “us” and “them” is our lack of sleep, and nice clothing: while we are generally fit and out for adventure, our counterparts are high-heel wearing, complaining, typically out of shape, day tourists. There is clearly unspoken unlike on this big bus.
Our first encounter with “them” is the Europeans couple in front of us leaning their seats all the way back into our lap, and they generally lean forward to look out the window. Mom and I are left with no room between us and their scalps but manage the best we can until we can climb off the bus at our first stop (where we observe that no one else on the bus is selfish enough to lean all the way back for the 10 hour trip). Our first spot is a really boring museum based around a phallic stone carving… Hmmm…
When we board the bus again, just able to barely squeeze back into our seats, Mom, of course, asks the couple in front of u if they could so kindly just pull their seats up a tiny bit so that we can actually breath (she might have not said that part). The woman began to contradict mom, but her husband/boyfriend promptly pulled the chairs up ½ an inch before she decided to take our stuff and just move to the empty very last rows of the bus.
We also stop for a tour of an Old Catholic church, some bathrooms, and for lunch. Our day guide is the most boring and bored person on earth, and we cannot wait to get to Cusco.
It is almost sunset by the time we reach Cusco/Cuzco (or as Mom called it, “Cuscus”) at an altitude of 11,000 feet above sea level. We switch from giant tourist bus to small van just outside the city in order to then navigate the street easier in our PRIVATE transportation once again (Wahoo!). Our luggage is piled onto of this small van, and then wrapped in a thin netting—we literally watch the road the entire drive for our bags flying off the top.
Our hotel in Cusco is about 30 stairs from the road, that act as a passageway to a little street above. Cusco, a once Inca Capital, in general reminds me immediately of Sevilla, Spain with its narrow streets, cobble stone, and overall ancient-capital-meets-modern-culture feel. This is a city to love.
Cusco was the epicenter, once upon a time, of the Incas with roads networking from its core to all points of the empire. It was also a holy city. These two things made it a target for the Spanish conquistadors wanting to take control of the region; raiding and destroying most Inca buildings and major monuments. However because of the extremely well built structures of the Incas, the same foundations still remain all over the city.
We settle into our rooms, before getting a quick evening tour of Cusco’s main plaza (with a main fountain, catholic cathedral and grand Jesuit church) and then we are offer to dinner.
After dinner we walk through the same square, which is lively and beautiful, lit by the surrounding restaurants and shops. Sadly, there are still many children out at this late hour peddling woven goods, and creepy older men “promoting discos” (which seems really code for drugs…).
Cusco is getting for its celebration on the 24th of Inti Raymi, the celebration of the winter solstice and the sun god. We will be in the Sacred Valley while this event is occurring but was given the option to come back to Cusco for it. We all opted not to, based on a high price tag, hot sun, and thousands and thousands of tourists also cramming the tiny streets that day…