Oh Cusco, how I love you: your terracotta tiled roofs, bright blue skies, your creaky and windy streets, even your pain in the ass resbalosa staircase that left me stopping to catch my breath every three steps. At an altitude of 3400 meters above sea level, heading to Cusco a day after my soroche adventure in the Colca Canyon probably wasn’t the best idea, but it’s where I found myself on Boxing Day. Luckily, the landlady at the Hostal Resbalosa took superb care of me making sure I had plenty of coca tea and water, giving me a fantastic room with a view of the city that I could look at from the comfort of my bed.
After making my way down the stairs to the Plaza de Arma, I had to sit and catch my breath (the alternative was to pass out). Luckily there are steps and benches everywhere in the plaza, precisely for this reason. If you aren’t from the area, chances are good you will need at least a few days to acclimatize to the altitude. A lot of visitors go crazy in Cusco, drinking lots of tasty and cheap beer, and getting super sick as a result. At least twice during my 10 day stay in Cusco paramedics and doctors were sent to my guesthouse to take care of people suffering from just this thing. Trust me, don’t underestimate the affects of being at altitude!
Cusco’s Nativity Scene was by far the most spectacular one that I saw in Peru. Adopting the local Quechua fashion sense, the Holy Family was wrapped in brightly garbed fabric and designs. It was also the only one I saw that had the Baby Jesus present, thanks to being after Christmas when I visited it. I really regret missing one of the processionals that brought the baby to his manger, but I was deep in the Colca Canyon on Christmas Eve and in no shape to be out processing anywhere.
While in Cusco for ten days, New Year’s Eve was spent walking to Machu Picchu on the “two day but really it’s just one” short Inca trek. More on that later =)