Our travel plans included two places we had to visit and one was Machu Picchu. So we had booked the train ticket (to get from Cusco to Macchu Picchu) and the entry tickets online before leaving the UK. All we had to do was get from Lima to Cusco. The options were either a long bus journey along mountainous roads or a short, one hour flight.
The flight was smooth and although the descent into Cusco airport was steep we were soon through the airport and experiencing what it felt like to be at 3400 meters high. Fortunatley for us, no immediate effects from the altitude.
After dropping our luggage off at our hotel we went exploring to orientate ourselves and to find the historic centre of the city. The walk was downhill and along narrow, cobbled streets. Quaint yet busy with traffic; we later learnt that heavy traffic and coaches were not permitted in the historic centre.
We soon found ourselves in a large crowd and realised a carnival was in procession. Carnival groups were in very colourful dresses although some were wearing worrying masks! And then — “ Are they carrying dead baby llamas on their backs?” — (no, must be puppets).
Arriving at the main square of Plaza de Armas we soon realised Cusco was set up for tourists. There are many shops selling souvenirs , artisan products and tours; street sellers lined many streets; touts were out in force; and eating places were aplenty.
Acclimatizing to altitude
After a tasty meal we had to walk back to the hotel and it was uphill. We remembered to take it steady because of the high altitude. The pace enabled us to survey the street scene which had a contrasting mix of property standards. Even on the same street there were tin roof shacks, multi-level apartments and modern stylish affluent housing.
We saw a pack of dogs and although we were wary of them we knew we couldn’t out run them! The man in Lima had been right about the dogs. Fortunately we didn’t need to break into a sprint and we ended an enjoyable day with just a brief shortness of breath from the steepness of the final section.
Date of visit: September 2016