Departing Lima was easier than we thought. A friendly cab driver offered to take us to the airport and shared great stories about his family. He has been married 20 years and his wife has some health issues … he was prompt to share examples of his daily life and how his role in the household is a bit unusual, as he needs to be both a mom and a dad for his 3 daughters. This guy’s work ethic and enthusiasm reminded me of my dad.
So long Lima – Hello Cuzco.
No words can describe the joy that has overcome me today. I have seen the Andes again, I have set foot on the mountain range that owns my heart. The warmth and hospitality offered in Cuzco can be compared to none. Our guide, Claudio, had a welcoming smile and was extremely proud of his Inca ancestry … he took us to a tiny hole in the wall where a very shy lady served us stomach soup, ‘patitas’ and ‘seco de pollo’. We enjoyed our meal and paid a very reasonable price.
Cuzco is located at about 12,000 ft above sea level. I wasn’t worried about getting sick as I trusted my body would remember what altitude feels like (I was born in the Andes). Just as I thought, I have felt at home all day. My poor Garrett has endured a bad headache but the ‘coca mate’ we have been drinking seems to help.
There are alpacas and lamas everywhere and you must give ‘propina’ if you take pictures with them. We walked around Cuzco and the Temple of the Sun then took off to visit archeological sites. Inca architecture is impressive.
Garrett haggled with a few vendors and got us beautiful woven articrafts. The views of Cuzco from high above are breathtaking. There are mountains as far as the eye can see, the clouds create amazing shadow effects on the ground giving the place a magical touch.
On our way to Ollaytantambo, our new friend Narciso took us to Chichero, a small community of indian ladies who weave and sell their products. They welcomed us with fresh coca mate and demonstrated how their products are made. Our guide, Paulina, had a beautiful face graced with soft indian features. She asked if she could do her presentation in English as she wanted to practice the language. She did great. She shared a few rehearsed jokes and answered all of our questions.
I painted my lips with freshly squeezed beetle blood, courtesy of Paulina. She showed us how the wool is painted with crops and modified with salt and lime juice, amazing! Garrett and I left very grateful for their stories, and looked like ‘cholitos’ with our new alpaca sweaters which came in handy as the temperature drops rapidly when the sun sets.
The highest point of our trip brought us close to a snow peak at 13,000 ft. Watching the sun set behind the Andes was exciting and nostalgic at the same time. It felt like being in my mother’s womb again. The snow peaks were embraced by clouds as if saying good night. We caught a glimpse of an indian lady leading her mule in the distance. We saw the silhouettes of grazing animals. I saw the stars come out and was transported to my childhood.
Traveling by road in Colombia meant seeing endless lines of mountains while playing a ‘name that constellation’ game with my dad. He would point to the sky, free from light pollution, and ask us to identify the shapes clearly evident in the Milky Way above us. My mountains, my stars, my South America … my home.
We are now on a slow moving train on our way to Aguas Calientes. It’s very dark and the only thing we can see is a river by pressing our face against the window. We enjoy yet another cup of coca mate and sigh at the thought of what tomorrow holds for us … Machu Picchu.