Well, we didn’t get much sleep at all. Doug, instead, worked on a blog post while Lynn attempted more sleep, but really just spent the time looking over Doug’s shoulder while he worked. We did manage to find a nice quiet corner of the Lima airport for about 30 minutes before other flyers started showing up for their early morning departures. We also came across an LG machine that let you take selfies with photo shopped llamas, but were too sleepy to follow the process to get it emailed to us. It looks like we’ll just have to get one in real life.
By 4 a.m. we were making our way over to our gate to await the boarding process, which when we finally boarded taught us that not many of these folks have been on a plane before or they have never heard of queuing. Either way, we made it on board and promptly passed out only being awoken to be told we needed to remove our headphones for takeoff (and landing). It was a nice surprise to have a snack box awaiting us on our approach into Cusco, even if we were a bit too thirsty to eat any of the items.
The approach was an event to say the least. First of all, Cusco is nestled amongst very high mountains with not a lot of room to spare. We were working our way down through the clouds when suddenly we took off upward at a 45 degree angle with an exceptional amount of speed. Looks like something went wrong… Based on our broken Spanish, our best guess was that we were too close to the plane landing in front of us. So, instead, we continued on a ways before turning around and landing in the opposite direction to what we had originally intended. In the end it was nice and safe, but still amazing that you could even land a plane amongst all these crevasses.
We gathered our things and met our prearranged taxi driver, thanks to our hostel. It is now that Lynn learns that she will forever be known as Lina since that is what the hostel insists on calling her even if every email correspondence from her has referred to her as “Lynn” and not “Lina.” The taxi ride gave us our first glimpse into the 6 a.m. happenings of the city – a lot of moving cars, a variety of street dogs, and a lot of haphazardly built buildings (a la Mongolia, if you will). We were dropped at our hostel a short 15 minutes later where we half checked in (we wouldn’t be able to get our key until 11 a.m.) and settled on what to do next. Lynn had made a list of items they should probably procure prior to their 4-day Inca Trail hike so Doug’s suggestion was that they work on getting that done. However, the problem was that neither of us were really with it after 2 hours of sleep so we headed out without a bag to put the items in. After buying 2 waters down the street, we agreed that we were just too sleepy to accomplish anything at this point so back to the hostel we went.
Doug spent the next hour finishing up his blog post while Lynn pulled up a section of sofa to catch some more sleep. This was until… SUDDENLY… Elizabeth appeared!!!! Yes, that is right, Liz, one of our friends from Austin meeting us for the Inca Trail, was returning from breakfast just in time to catch us in the lounge. AHHHHH!! So exciting!!! And after 30 minutes of catching up with her, Jennie and Jon appeared!! AHHHHH!!! Even more excitement!!! We hadn’t seen these guys in over 4 months so we took some time to catch up before settling on a plan for the morning.
First things first, eat some free breakfast at the hostel: toast, tea, and fresh fruit juice. Check. Next, shower! Check. Next, see the town and run some errands. This was a bit more involved. We walked the 15 minutes to the center of old Cusco before finding SAS, our trek coordinator, where we took care of some loose ends (Liz and Lynn requesting trekking poles, copying passports, etc.). We then took off for a grocery store to get some of the items on Lynn’s list: toilet paper (because you aren’t likely to find it on the trek), coca treats (to combat altitude sickness or is it just a gimmick?), batteries (for Lynn’s headlamp), etc. etc. By this point Lynn’s list was mostly complete, but Jennie and Liz still had some tourist shopping to do so we explored the nearby market before seeking out the post office for some stamps (Liz and Jennie are way better about sending postcards than we are… sorry folks).
After a quick trip back to the hostel to drop our items and get our room keys, we were back on the streets to get some lunch. TripAdvisor gave us a good one and we were able to have our first of many delicious Peruvian dishes.
By this point, we were crashing. So rather than continue shopping with Liz, Jennie, and Jon we chose to go back to the hostel to catch some sleep. We couldn’t sleep forever though, because 3 hours later we needed to be up for our trip briefing with SAS. We met Liz, Jennie, and Jon in the lobby of the hostel before walking over to SAS and meeting our two trip guides, Aldo and Ronny, who brought us to a nearby very nice colonial hotel, to start the briefing. It was here we would meet the rest of our trekking tourists: Allessandro (from Italy) and Michael (from Australia). The other two, Matt and Joe (from England), appeared halfway through the description of day 2 so we didn’t really get to meet them but we learned the most important thing about them: they are always late. Aldo did his best mentally prepping us for what would come: long hikes, hot days, cold nights, flat, uphill, really uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill, really downhill, then Machu Picchu!!
We needed to be ready to be picked up from our hostel at 5:30 a.m. then next day. So, we found a reasonably priced dinner on our way back to the hostel. By 9 p.m. we were frantically attempting to pack our day bags which were now becoming our trekking bags: 2 pairs of clothes, one of which would be worn (we know, gross), thermals, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, camera, headlamp, passports, hats, sunscreen, bugspray… yadda yadda yadda. It all just barely fit!
We were in bed again by 10:30 p.m. not looking forward to the early morning.
Daily Walking Mileage: 8.6
- Cusco sits at 3300 m, leading to many cases of altitude sickness if you don’t properly adjust. We drank a ton of water which seemed to help.
- Cusco is South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city.
- Cusco has a somewhat confusing city flag. It represents the arco iris (rainbow) which is sacred to the Incas, and is not representative of gay-pride.