Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Peru: Cusco

We took a shoddy little airline and got seated apart from each other in a cramped row. However, I overheard a German couple explaining they couldn't sit in the exit row since they didn't know Spanish or English. I jumped on it and told the flight attendant we would happily switch. Much roomier aisle seats! It didn't matter to me, but Puhg literally didn't fit in his previous chair. He did all the heavy lifting for this trip so when I contributed any minute thing, I felt very proud, puffed up my chest, and sometimes even bellowed, "That's what the money's for!"

Our hotel was so lovely! There was a waterfall outside our room, big wooden furniture, fire pits in the lobby, and coca tea available 24/7. We arrived and relaxed briefly (okay I checked my email and had to respond to a bunch of stuff) before hitting the town for dinner. I was in love with the city right away. Narrow itty bitty streets full of art and stone, woven goods, fountains, big beautiful churches. Puhg felt slightly light-headed after landing, but I only noticed walking up hill left me out of breath. We were exhausted and went to bed at like 10 PM. At 2:30 I woke up.

It was maybe the worst I have ever felt in my life. It rivaled food poisoning for sure. The room was spinning out of control, an elephant had sat on my head, and I was beyond nauseous. I threw up violently over and over. Puhg had a headache, so we were both awake, miserable. I was in so much pain I couldn't even look at my phone or listen to a podcast. Altitude sickness--apparently very real. Eventually at about 6 AM I got a couple more hours of sleep. The complimentary breakfast was served until 10, so Puhg guided me slowly out of our room where I, shivering and avoiding eye contact with the servers, ate two small wheat buns. Back in the room, Puhg fell asleep and I read. As suddenly as it came, it was lifted. I felt 95% recovered. Originally we had planned to go on a tour of some ruins, but I had pushed against booking anything our first day. We were both relieved all we had to do for the rest of the day was explore the city. (Another tally in my box for "What Alice helped with on this trip.")
We walked around the square looking for trinkets and enjoying all the stray dogs (so so many). We visited a chocolate museum and had spicy cocoa overlooking the main square, I got roped into a $6 hour massage (I mean, how do you pass that up?), and marveled at the huge market. The best part of Cusco was the snacks. I got a little poptart pastry at the market, some fresh juice, a marshmallow on a stick from a street vendor, pink sweet popcorn from another. All for around $2 American. I love snacks! We went to a big deal chef's restaurant for dinner and I ate the best veggie burger I've ever had in my life--it was sprouts and beets and incredible.
The next morning was my birthday! We were healthy enough to fully enjoy the hotel breakfast spread! It was, like most eating in Peru, above and beyond wonderful! Fresh yogurts and fruits and buns. Plus a breakfast burrito with Cusco avocados and more of that coca tea. At the end of the meal the staff came out with an incredible mousse and sang Happy Birthday! We hadn't even mentioned it! They just noticed the detail on my passport at check-in! It was so sweet and surprising.
We decided to spend the day in Pisac--an Incan ruin high off a cliff. We took a forty-minute cab up winding roads and ended in a teeny town. I held a baby alpaca and bought myself a llama sweater from a vendor. We also came across a guinea pig village in the back of a restaurant. Adorable even if they were only there to be cooked. PISAC BLEW MY MIND. I don't even want to try to describe it, but I kept accidentally saying, "Wow." The mountains, the detail of the steps, the intricate rock houses. I sat on a rock overlooking all of it and opened the birthday cards from my parents I had packed. We hiked down the mountain, chatting and contemplating life for these peoples. My favorite part was seeing the extremely uncanny catacombs in the cliffsides. So creepy! The hike took about an hour, and at the end I was very thirsty. Wouldn't you know a little old woman had a fresh orange juice stand at the end of the trail? For 1 sol she pumped two oranges into a plastic cup, and we gratefully gulped it down.
Before heading back to the city I wanted to try some of the big corn I saw as street food. I really just wanted the novelty of eating giant corn kernals, but it was honestly so delicious. A woman took a huge corn sitting in boiling water out and layered some soft cheese into the ear. I ate it the whole cab back, soaking in the scenery from a backseat in Peru. Our driver had lied about how much we had to pay--the literal only time someone wasn't exceedingly nice to us in Peru (what a people!)--so I left the cob in his car. Boop!

For dinner we tried a stereotypical fancy place, and it was one of our least favorite meals of the trip. The norm in Peru is so excellent--no need for it to front. I had a stressful night of packing for an early Machu Piccu go time (more on this later), but it was interrupted by housekeeping at the door at 9 PM. The hotel staff was all there with ANOTHER mouse cake and sang again! The hospitality! I was luckily in bed by 10, read Puhg's card to me, and passed out.

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