I could barely sleep on the overnight Lan Airlines flight down to Peru on our next leg of #OnlyInSouthAmerica adventure. Machu Picchu has been on my travel wish list since I fist learned about it in elementary school but before we could make the main trek we started out in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire before the Spaniards conquered it in the 1500s. You can see the layers and layers of history and culture – the original Inca walls resting under European style architecture. You discover a city that is more rich and mystical than what meets the eye as you learn about the centuries of battles, a lost culture, a mixture indigenous roots and Spanish influence and a strong connection to the earth. Mostly in Cusco, I enjoyed walking the little narrow streets, up and down the corridors, looking at the women in their amazing hats as they went about their day.
Most people ask me first about altitude sickness. I did not get sick, however, I would get winded on the first day walking up hill and just overall felt tired I think from lack of oxygen. By my 3rd day in Peru I was totally back to normal. It also made the effect of one pisco sour feel like you had ten… which I kind of loved. I also loved the flavor and effect of coca tea which was offered everywhere we went as a way to help ease altitude sickness… mostly for me it was like drinking ten cups of coffee.
Other things about Cusco I loved: the ceviche game here is STRONG. I have yet to have a ceviche as good since. The San Pedro market was amazing to see. An aisle for meat, an aisle for flowers, an aisle for cheese, an aisle for potatoes, it was endless and so rich with culture. Also, fruit smoothie with beer in it- game changer. Cacao tea, who knew! Wandering through all the little shops tucked away in courtyards to hunt down the perfect alpaca sweater or hand made pottery bowl was also very fun and with a very friendly exchange rate.
As a place that has such a strong unique culture there are exotic things you can try such as chicha beer (it was purple!) made from corn or the most popular dinner dish for locals- guinea pig… both things I’m glad I tried but I’ll leave those (and the frog juice to cure headaches!) to the locals.
If I ever find myself on the way to Cusco again I’ll look forward to the way the city transports you not only to a different place but what feels like a different time…