I should be following my father´s example and taking a siesta. Cusco, from whence I am corresponding, sits at about 11000 feet above sea level, and even half a day walking around is enough to put a strong man (or woman) to sleep. Back in the day, in Colorado, I lived at around 8000, and it never took more than a day or two to adjust. I´ve been here almost a week, and I still wake in the night short of breath. But it´s been totally worth it. Where to begin? At the beginning, I suppose. Thanks to a series of small kerfuffles, I was obliged to fly in to Lima a day late. My father, with whom I´ve been travelling, was waiting in the terminal, and my homey from way back Curtis was waiting for both of us outside. Never have I ever had such a soft landing in a foreign country. He and his wife gave us our first taste of Peruvian hospitality, and it has been lovely ever since. We spent a day in Lima arranging travel to Cusco and Macchu Pichu, and eating. Lima is a massive city, with all the things you would expect a city to have, We had lunch at a buffet overlooking the Pacific, and dinner at the fanciest sushi restaurant I´ve ever seen. While we waited for our table, the manager came out and did card tricks to entertain us. Peruanos are very friendly people. The next day, we boarded our flight to Cusco, where we stayed at aout-of-the-way hostal with a small garden and a hairless dog named Tina who barked at us whenever we walked by, but seemed to like us anyway. We spent a day or two acclimating and wandering the city, drinking in the world´s highest Irish-owned pub and climbing the narrow cobbled streets to San Blas, where we shopped for trinkets and visited the South American Explorers Club. There we bought another copy of the guidebook we thought we had left at Curtis and De´s. It will not surprise you to learn that we found the originally-purchased guidebook shortly thereafter. The misplacement of important paper things will be a running theme in these missives, I suspect. Neither Dad nor I is much for your typical touristy stuff, so we skipped the Boleto Turistico, with the attendant visits to museums, cathedrals, et al, but we did have a spectacular meal at Marcelo Batata, a cutting edge fusion restaurant and lounge that would succeed in any city, and I have learned several ways to say say ´No, thank you¨in Spanish. Sunday we arose at the butt-crack o´dawn to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, the town from which one ascends to Macchu Pichu. The little cab that could felt, once or twice, like it might not make it to the station, which is outside Cuzco in the town of Poroy. Later, both Dad and I revealed that we´d both been saying I think I can, I think I can under our breath, but we made it in plenty of time for the train, which follows the Rio Urubamba through the Sacred Valley and up into the Andes to Aguas Calientes, which might be the charmingest little tourist trap I´ve ever been to. The train ride was spectacular (apologies for the lack of pics, but I am nervous plugging the camera into the hostal computer I am writing this on). The Andes are some of the most rugged mountains I´ve ever seen, comparable to the Rockies but green all the way up to all but the highest peaks. The river itself is pretty spectacular, too, and feeds a green belt that´s all the more amazing for how dry some of the country in the Sacred Valley is.
Once we got checked in to our hostal, we ditched our bags and took the bus up to Macchu Pichu. Before we got there, and everything was still theoretical, we had briefly considered taking the foot-path, which is basically a set of stone steps that goes straight up through the switchbacks the buses run up. Once we realized that that would mean ascending 1300 feet in less than a mile, we came to our senses and took the bus.
The bus was very exciting.
I´m sure we were never in danger. The guys that drive those buses do it all day, everyday, and honestly, it´s no different from anywhere else in Peru, where driving borders on being a contact sport, though everyone is fairly cooperative about it. But these were like half the size of a Greyhound, driving a narrow, unpaved road up a steep, steep mountainside. At several points we had to stop and back up to a spot wide enough for the descending bus to pass us by, and even then there was never more than twelve inches of space between the two. Luckily, the anticipation outweighed the fear, and at that elevation your heart is already pumping double-time just to keep brain and body oxygenated, so it wasn´t that scary, and once we arrived, what little trepidation we´d felt evaporated as one of the new Wonders of the World appeared in the front window and all the anticipation paid off.
I´ll tell you all about it in the next installment. For now, it´s time for me to get back to this whole living the dream thing I´m doing these days. I´ll try not to keep you waiting too long.