The wake up call came early and L felt like he had just closed his eyes. But, to his credit, he got up, packed and was ready in time for the bus to the airport.
The flight was less than an hour long. Most of this time was spent flying over the Andes Mountains. I could not believe how far they stretched and we didn't even see the entire range. Of course I've seen mountains from an airplane before but nothing like this. Magic.
We arrived in Cuzco by 10am. This was a free day on the tour, no guide,no agenda. We were told when we arrived that we should rest in order to acclimatize ourselves. Cuzco is elevated at 3,326m and we did feel the altitude almost immediately. It was hard to catch a full breath of air but it wasn't life threatening. They served us tea with cocoa leaves at the hotel when we arrived as that is meant to help the body adjust faster.
We did rest for about 2 hours, then hit the town.
Cuzco is another beautiful colonial town, population 350,000. It was once the foremost city of the Inca empire and our first brush with the historic Inca legacy and architecture. The heart of the town is the Plaza de Armas, a square with cobbled streets, giant stone buildings and gates, churches, etc on each side. It also has several restaurants where you can sit and eat on a balcony that overlooks the square. We decided that was the perfect place to have lunch. Bad idea.
Before even stepping foot near the restaurants, we got swarmed by people shoving menus in our faces, pleading for us to eat at their restaurants. We finally just walked into one, hoping that would be the end of the harassment. Thankfully it was.
We were promptly offered a complimentary Pisco sour, the local drink. Tastes just like a
whisky sour, but they use Pisco, a Peruvian spirit. They were yummy.
Luckily, Andrew speaks fluent Spanish so he was able to help out with the menu and talking to the waiter who spoke little English. It was great having him with us for the trip. He made getting by a lot easier. In fact, he saved us on a number of occasions.
It was during this lunch that we got to know our new travel mate. One of ndrew's (Andres) mottos is "A wise man learns from his mistakes. A wiser man learns from the mistakes of others." He is a free spirit who carries his Ipod and speakers with him everywhere he goes and just about everything but the kitchen sink. He is also quite spiritual and thanks the food he eats before every meal for becoming a part of him. His energy was contagious and we never had a dull moment in the next week of travel with him.
L and Andrew both had the alpaca for lunch (llama). A bit overcooked and tough but not decent for llama, I guess. L had a quinoa risotto with his, which is a grain about a tenth of the size of a grain if rice.
Later the waiter asked us who ushered us into the restaurant as 2 kids were fighting over who deserved the commission. Andrew told him one of them grabbed L and the other one grabbed him. So they split the cash. Everyone was happy.
After lunch we walked and walked and walked around the entire city. Walked through another impressive huge indoor food market selling everything from freshly butchered meat to the tiny quinoa grain. Saw some giant green pumpkins that kids were desperately trying to lift. I wouldn't't have been able to lift these things!
After a very long day and feeling a bit queezy from the altitude, we turned in early. Was fine with me because we had another early start in the morning and L was happy to have a full nights sleep. Andrew, however, hit the town to mix with the locals and to practice his Spanish. He was out til after 2am!