On Saturday We left the Lima hotel at 7 to head to the airport for our flight to Cuzco (or Qosqo in Quechua, pronounced alarmingly like ‘Costco’). A medical emergency forced the plane back to the gate and we took off about an hour late. Cuzco is a city of 400,000, with a metropolitan area in excess of a million. That surprised me. And there are thousands of tourists here, as well. We are in the old part of the city which is full of restaurants, hotels, tchochke shops– you name it. Kind of feels like Aspen, although that is a bit of an unkind cut. Many more mestizo people up here as compared to Lima. The tourist infrastructure is pretty well developed.
And I’m on a group tour now, so everything takes longer than when I’m traveling alone or with Anne. After settling in to the hotel and having lunch we headed down to the Plaza de Armas, or central square, surrounded by two cathedrals and a lot of colonial style buildings. We encountered a large religious parade that came to the doors of the cathedral and sang. Very colorful, and soulful.

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We then boarded a bus for Sacsayhuaman, which you can read about in my prior post. After that, we went to Clara’s house for a large dinner prepared by her mother and sisters. Clara is the travel agent Lon works with in Cuzco; she also owns a sporting goods store. Clara has been hauling her ten month old son around everywhere, slung over her back in an inca blanket. Sometimes we get to see her very precocious six year old daughter Cielo as well. May as well introduce the group at this point.

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Sara, the Lima travel agent, crew members Aracely, age 13, and her mother Nayda.
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The whole group at M√Ęchu Picchu. Front row: me, Clara (her son is in the blanket), George, Sherry, Phaik-Foon, Aracely, Nayda. Back row: Brent (my roommate), Rob, Sara, Lon, Susan, Glenn, Dave, Ron, Alessandra. George, Dave and Phaik-Foon are going home,, and we will be joined by Vicki and a local driver, Roland for the ride. But back to dinner.

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Clara’s home. Three generations live there. They keep adding on, up the hill and on the roof, to accommodate the family. A part of the house is dug into the hill with the native stone as wall and floor, with steep steps accessing the built out portion. We began the evening on the balcony, which has a beautiful view out over Cuzco and also accommodates the kitchen.
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The kitchen. Note the guinea pig at the bottom of the photo.
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Roasted cuy, guinea pig. They are raised right on the floor of the kitchen.
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The back room of the store cleared out to accommodate us. By the way, I don’t know enough HTML to prevent the photo URL appearIng in a series of photos. Sorry!

Dinner was cuy, grilled chicken, potatoes and rice. We hardly saw the family, as they were busy serving us, although Clara sat with us. It was a different thing to do, and informative, although I did feel like a bit of an intruder. We at least got to help at least move tables from the balcony to the inside when it got too cold.
The following day we drove out to the Inca sites with a stop at the market in Chinchero. It’s big, with sections of tourist goods, fruit and vegetables, household goods, meat, and meals. It is a local market, although also a big stop on the tourist circuit, so lots of tourists were there.

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Top: a view of the vegetable market.
Bottom: a woman selling herbs. She is a widow, and offered,in Quechua, translated by Olga, to make Ron her husband. Much joviality ensued.

I have to say I haven’t really gotten into Cusco, as you may be able to tell from my unenthusiastic reporting. It’s probably because I have a cold, and have been laying low for much of today. But it started to feel like a bike tour today–bikes got assembled, stories exchanged, bike tech discussed.Tomorrow we start riding; it’s not a hard day, I’ll take it slow, and hope I recover well enough for our first big climb on Thursday. I’m armed with enough cold symptom suppression
drugs that I should be able to make it through. It is a bummer, probably caught it in La Paz where I was immersed with the locals more. Anyhow, we are riding to some pretty remote places and I don’t know what the Internet story will be. I’ll try to keep writing daily and post when I can; it may not be until Nazca in six days time.

Thanks for reading. You can comment or ask me questions in the box below.

Cuzco