Coordinates: 13°31′30″ S 71°58′20″O
After our trip through the southern route, we were exhausted. We arrived at Hotel Casa Andina Catedral where we were welcomed with more Coca Tea. We had already been in Puno, where the altitude is higher than in Cusco. In fact, we had been in La Raya, which is even higher than Puno. Perhaps we didn’t need the Coca Tea and Sorojchi Pills® to avoid mountain sickness anymore. Wrong!
We searched for a nearby place to dine; we wanted to go to bed early and discover the city in the morning. I was already feeling a little dizzy and thought it was due to tiredness and the long journey, so I decided to stay in the room and ordered a fruit salad for dinner. Although I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t want to go to sleep on an empty stomach. I spent the entire night in the bathroom with digestive disorders, tremors and chills. I’m not sure whether it was the altitude or the fruit, but truth be told, I was very dehydrated the next day. My husband went to the botica, as they call pharmacies, and bought me a concoction similar to Pedialyte; which is an electrolyte solution. I stayed in that day with hopes of recuperating before the long awaited trip to Machu Picchu. So in addition to electrolytes, I started taking the Coca Tea and mountain sickness pills again.
The next day, once hydrated and relieved, I joined the Cusco tourism. It was impossible to miss the chance of touring a town of extreme gallantry and feline strength. This city, declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO, is shaped like a puma. Furthermore, Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire and one of the most important cities of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
The Rome of the Americas
Cusco has such a historical richness and variety of monuments that it is known as the Rome of the Americas. With six museums and eleven churches they can easily fill the quota of an extensive historical collection. The most important religious monument of the city is the Cathedral of Cusco; which they have preserved in very good condition. This impressive temple is divided into three naves built in stone. We continued our historical journey to reach the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The exhibition, of great elegance and good taste, presented art pieces made out of clay. The amount of gold used in many of the works was amazing; I don’t even want to imagine how much was taken during the colonial era.
Through the City
Most of the old houses are on two levels with wooden balconies carved to detail; we only saw an occasional three-story building. Gabled roofs in terracotta contrast with the green of the mountains surrounding the city. The streets are steep and narrow, and also very clean.
We were struck by the regulations of the banks. To switch to the local currency, the Nuevo Sol, the dollar had to be immaculate. They do not accept dollars with the most minimal mark or fold, much less damaged; only those in perfect condition.
The scene of the Raqchi Town was repeated in Cusco. On the streets, we were stopped by families asking to be photographed in exchange for a few Soles. However, unlike in Raqchi, we didn’t see many people wearing traditional costumes, most of this urban center’s population carries contemporary clothing.
The city tour ended with a dinner at the restaurant Incanto; where bread and pizza are made in a clay oven. We kept eating light to avoid mountain sickness, so the Peruvian pisco was not served at our table that night.
The attack of, which I understood, was altitude sickness could not overshadow the interesting cultural tour of the city of Cusco. That night I was able to rest and get ready for our excursion to Machu Picchu the next day; the reason for this entire trip.
(This article is the sixth in a series of stories of Perú.)
Conscious Travel Practices:
1. Learn about the art, history and culture of the country.
2. Support the economy by sponsoring the local lodgings and restaurants.
3. Enjoy the historic places without leaving trash behind.
Places of interest:
Compañía de Jesús
Museo de Arte Precolombino
Museo de Arte Religioso del Arzobispado
Museo de Arte y Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Museo Arqueológico de Koricacha
Museo Histórico Regional (Casa Garcilazo)