Off to Cuzco, The Incan Capital

Saturday, October 14, 2007:  We did the whole early airport routine to Lima's airport at 4:30 a.m. but this time we had some coffee and hot chocolate.  The plane ride from Lima to Cuzco was pretty spectacular because we made sure we were seated on the side of the plane were we could look out and see all the snow covered Andean mountains.  I felt like I could reach out the window and touch the mountains. I was so excited that in two days we would be hiking where my ancestors hiked.

The airplane's descent felt strange because we were used to a long descent from the sky to almost sea level, but Cuzco is at almost 11,000 ft (depending where in Cuzco) so it felt like the plane dropped 10 ft and we were on the runway.  Cuzco's weather felt like the San Francisco Bay Area's fall/winter weather, cold in the shade but relatively warm in the sun.  +Jesse Avery and I felt the altitude almost immediately after getting off the plane.  I actually felt dizzy and out of breath walking from the plane to baggage claim.

Our hotel, Casa de Campo had set up a taxi driver to pick us up at the airport and take us to the hotel.  This was the first time I was somewhat nervous because in Iquitos and Lima I had my local family but now it was just me and Jesse, two American tourists roaming around the Incan capital.  After we checked in at the hotel, the hotel personnel immediately told us to leave everything and have some "mate" or coca leave tea on the terrace.  Even the few steps up to the terrace really winded me, Jesse felt fine but we both felt a little weird either from the excitement or the altitude.

We drank our mate's on the terrace for an hour and proceeded to nap in the warm Cuzco sun on the terrace while our room was being prepared.  The hotel was located on a hill so our room was on the third level and by the time we reached our room I was out of breath.  Our room had hot water, a fireplace and a wonderful bed.  It felt like heaven, I loved Iquitos but having hot water and a somewhat soft bed felt so luxurious.

After we had settled in, we walked down to the Plaza de Armas, then +Llama Path our trekking agency that was recommended in our Peru +Lonely Planet book, but their doors hadn't opened for the day yet.

We continued our errands, checking in on my co-worker and her friends who joined us on our adventure at the Hotel Libertador, a super fancy hotel.  We decided to meet up for dinner later after our Llama Path briefing, so we left the fancy hotel and headed to a pizza restaurant in the Plaza de Armas.

The altitude was really getting to us, but after lunch we felt a little better whether it was the food or the mate's  something made us feel better.  We ran more errands, getting cash, trying +Llama Path again but now they were closed for lunch so we headed back up the hill to San Blas area.

After a nap I had full blown altitude sickness, giant headache and nausea, in addition to some "stomach issues" that I had brought from Iquitos or Lima.  A hot shower, some mate, antibiotics and a fireplace made me feel a little better.  Our briefing at the Llama Path was exciting but I wasn't feeling well so I couldn't concentrate as much as I wanted too.  After dinner with my co-worker and friends we headed back up the hill to the San Blas neighborhood.  I just hoped no one would attack up the the dark alley's back to our hotel, no one ever did.

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