We arrived in Cusco yesterday morning after a short, hour long flight from Lima. Cusco was sunny and warmer than Lima, although being high in the Andes, the temperature quickly changes to cool and cold. Cusco sits in the Andes at 10,100+ feet above sea level, which is a about twice as high as Denver and about 2,500 feet higher than Bogota, by comparison. Aside from feeling a bit winded and having a bit of a headache though, it's not bad.
Our hotel - the Amaru Hostel - is wonderful. Bright yellow with two flowery courtyards and views over rooftops of the city. Our room is small and cozy. We are in the San Blas district of Cusco, which is a short walk from the main square, although that short walk is up (or down, depending on your direction) a very steep street lined with anorexic sidewalks paved with slippery, centuries-old stones. It's an adventure.
The first day we had the late afternoon, during which we walked the city, getting our bearings, and enjoying the cobbled streets, welcoming squares, and numerous cathedrals and churches.
The city is delightful and is so different from Lima, and even different than other places i have been in South America. Maybe because it is so historic and well preserved, or maybe because of how touristy it is. So far, we like it; lots of places to explore.
Being a very touristy town, unlike on Lima, there are tourists everywhere and the usual touts promoting the best tours, restaurants, souvenirs, etc. English is more widely spoken, but by no means is it universal. I am adding Spanish words and phrases to my lexicon daily.
We went to some of the main cathedrals, through the main plaza, and then to an alleged chocolate "museum" (really just a shop) where i had some wonderful and spicy hot chocolate outside in the square. After that we went walking until we stumbled upon the Mercado San Pedro, Cusco's main market.
There are stalls selling handicrafts, but it is predominantly a food market. Stalls of produce, including massive yellow squash and white cauliflowers and sinister black corn; aisles of women selling made to order fruit and veg juice concoctions; walls of rounds of white, salty cheese; stacks of bread, both hearty and decorative; aromatic peppers and spices; fresh olives; huge white sacks of quinoa and other grains....It was endless and wonderful.
We bought some cheese and bread before wandering down to the food stalls where people cook and sell fresh from the market meals to hungry locals. Along side that are rows of fishmongers and butchers. The butchers were some of the most remarkable i have seen. The ground was bloody and dogs ran free searching for dropped scraps. Piles of skinned bulls heads lay on the ground. On the counters were mounds of pristine white stomachs, baskets of red hearts, assorted organs, eyeballs, brains, spinal cords, more skinned heads, and stacks of snouts (from what animal i am not sure). I took as many pictures as i could without making a nuisance of myself.
After that we had coffee and a cigar on a patio on a square (it would seem that the smoking rules are more relaxed here) before having dinner and, after yet more wandering, heading to bed.
Today has been a but more of the same - wandering and exploring the streets and sights, eating, picture taking, etc. currently, we are taking a break at the hotel to wait out a particularly cold rain.
I should say, today was especially similar to yesterday because late yesterday, i lost my camera. Not stolen. Lost. I know where i left it. I don't lose things and certainly not while traveling when i am especially vigilant, but i got lazy or negligent and i lost it. It was a cheap camera, so the loss in that sense is not great. The pictures are all i care about. The only thing that kept my from panicking is that all of my pictures (except from yesterday) were already backed up on the iPad, so nothing was lost. Today we back tracked to the market and a church or two so i could retake some of the pictures. Now for the remainder of the trip Betty-Lou and i shall be sharing a camera. One less thing to carry home for me i guess.
None of this stopped me from getting about a million pictures of the Andean women in their standard and traditional dress of sturdy skirts, woollen leggings, sweaters, long black braids, and tall, brimmed hats.
I also have tons of pictures of the women dressed in colorful fancy dress and their baby llamas. Vancouver would be a much happier place if its streets were filled with baby llamas.
I don't know what's up for the rest of today, but tomorrow we head out of Cusco for an over night journey that includes Ollantaytambo, Aguas Callientes, and (of course) Machu Picchu.