There is much to love about Cusco. I'm surely not the first to say so.
I wouldn't include the travel that it takes to get here from San
Francisco. Virtually 24 hours of flights, layovers, baggage and
airports that all look the same, no matter which continent you are on.
The confusing thing about arriving in South America for the first time
is that there is no apparent difference as you step off the plane and
no apparent distance covered. You have been in a box for eight hours
and then you step into a terminal that might as well be in Denver.
We flew into Lima and, after a six hour layover and one lost bag,
continued to Cusco. We were so tired that the cab ride to our hotel is
no longer a memory. We all tried to sleep for five hours and decided
to force ourselves into motion so that waking the following morning
would approach normal.
At some point it begins to sink in. The cobblestone streets with
sidewalks so narrow that you have to hug the wall to keep from falling
into the street. The terraced mountains that circle the city, reaching
at least a thousand feet higher then Cusco. Shortness of breath. Yes,
the city is stunning, but I'm referring to the altitude of eleven
A surprising thing, but more common these days, is how international
and current this ancient city is when you're expecting something more
familiar to your imaginary image of Peru. For example, there were
more Irish Pubs then Peruvian. There were more young foreign travelers
then locals and more flat screen TVs then Llamas. The more places I
travel, the more I'm reminded that the world of 2009 is everywhere.
There is some sense of loss there, but the refreshing dose of reality
saves you from wallowing in naive cliches.
We spent today (April 5, Palm Sunday in a very Catholic city) watching
processions of people carrying palm fronds, filming in the first
Monastery built by the Spanish and recording the songs of cloistered
nuns in a Cathedral. We also visited an open market where I asked
people to sing and ended up recording children until we had to escape
the crowd that gathered. Later, we filmed in the town square and went
to Inka ruins above the city. Amazing how they built these walls of
stone, so perfect that you couldn't slide a piece of paper between.
Tomorrow, we are off to Machu Picchu at 4:30 in the morning. We have
to take the train through a river gorge that is so steep that no road
could be built there. I won't be able to report if there is no
internet, which I suspect, but will continue in a couple of days.