Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Arrived in Cusco and had a NAP!
Sunrise over the Andes

We left Lima at about 5:20am and the dawn was just breaking as we ascended in the plane. The sunrise over the Andes is spectacular and the mountains are as wide as the eye can see from any direction in the plane. We were told later by our taxi person Catherine that today is very sunny - not like it has been for some time. The weather is supposed to go to the mid 20C for the rest of the week and cool down at night to about 6C.
Andes as far as the eye could see
We arrived in Cusco at 6:30am and had our taxi person Catherine waiting for us. She speaks pretty good English so it was not too overtaxing on our oxygen deprived brains to try to communicate in Spanish. The Llipimpac Guesthouse is about 10 minutes from the airport so we didn't have a long drive. Cusco looks much like I had pictured it in my mind - old (but in a good way) with narrow cobblestone streets, high stone walls and lots and lots of museums, palaces and money exchanges (very touristy) everywhere! The buildings are old and the streets are a bit dusty and uneven so it is not a good idea to be wearing high heels. Good thing because I didn't bring any.
Catherine works for a tourist company called Apacheta Tours Travel and Adventure and she explained the many options that we have for our stay here. She had a suggested list of things we could do each day and as she was telling me what they were and the cost of each, I was checking them off on my mental list because it was all the places that I wanted to see. So we arranged all the events for the days with her. That way, I don't have to figure out what to do each day and how to get the the destination and back with taxi or combi (mini bus that makes you feel like a sardine in a very tight can). If you are claustrophobic, this is probably not a good option for you.  She also told us where we could buy a tourist card for 10 days that can be used at almost all the museums in Cusco and the surrounding areas where we plan to visit. It cost us about 130 Peruvian Soles (about $50 using a 2.2 conversion rate). 

Llipimpac courtyard
Guesthouse room
After she left, we went to have a real breakfast of fruit salad, rolls, eggs, juice and coffee. I was hungry but soon after I started eating I was full so I didn't finish everything. I think it's the combined travel and altitude. We went to our room which is quite lovely and overlooks a small courtyard. The rooms are all built in small groups of 3-4 each overlooking small but separate courtyards.

We showered and had a nap - on and off for about 3 hours. Then we got up and went out to find something to eat and a bank to withdraw some currency to pay for the activities for the next few days. That cost us about $USD450 for the two of us. I'll be writing about those each day so I won't mention them now. We walked up and down the main street - Avenue El Sol - and I was quickly able to get my bearings (with the help of a map provided by Catherine). We found a nice restaurant called Pachamama just North of the Plaza De Armes. We ordered soup and a small chicken, tomato and mozzarella pizza but I was full after the soup. Robin had his soup and 2 slices of pizza. We brought the rest back to the guesthouse because I am sure that I'll be hungry later. We also went to a small store and bought 2 bottles of water, 2 bananas and 2 oranges for 3.3 soles (less than the bottle of water at the restaurant where we ate). The lesson here - buy your water at a local store. Much cheaper since you will be going through lots of them.
At the Plaza de Armes
Then we went off to look for an ATM which turned out to be an adventure by itself. The first one we tried only allowed us to take out a maximum of 400 Soles with our debit card and charged USD$5 for each transaction.  We needed more so we found another machine that was much the same. We decided that a bank might be a better option so we found one and that allowed us to take out more so we tried for 1200 Soles but the machine would not allow us to do that. Then we used our MC credit card. Nothing doing there either. Then I tried my bank card. Nada. Then I tried my Visa. Nada again. We left and went to another bank. Same thing at the ATM. So we went into the bank where no one spoke English. Anyway, we understood that that bank did not do foreign transactions. So we were told to go back to the bank we tried just prior. We went back and found someone who worked there who spoke English. She said that sometimes the debit and credit cards don't work that day but it might work the next day. I said we needed money this day so she suggested that we go to the Continental Bank a block away. Same story. Nada. No hay suerte (see how good my Spanish is getting?)-  Means "no Luck". So we went tried the last one - the Interbank - and the Creator must have sensed our frustration because that machine worked! It only allowed us to take out 400 Soles at each transaction and charged 20 Soles for each but we got the three transactions done and walked back feeling quite relieved.

Santo Domingo church
Tomorrow morning we'll visit some of museums and/or palaces and right beside the guesthouse is the Santo Domingo church which is supposed to have quite beautiful stained glass windows.  Off to meet Catherine and pay her and confirm arrangements for tomorrow.

We went with Catherine to a store that makes alpaca clothes so I bought myself a 100% baby vicuna wool shawl. Worth the money because it feels so soft. We also saw how they collect and dye the wool with all natural ingredients such as minerals, flowers, bark and salt (to wash the wool). Very good day and I walked a lot. Yesterday I did 10.448 steps all over the airports. Today a bit over 12,000 walking up and down El Sol and the Plaza de Armes. An this was only Day 1. Lucky for us we are not feeling the effects of the altitude except for a slight headache but that could be from using my backpack as a pillow last night and this morning. Sunita start preparing for Kilimanjaro next year. I'm calling it a night.   

1 comment:

  1. OK, I will be doing my hill training from now on


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