We weren't just travelling north. We were also travelling up. Cuzco lies more than 3,000 meters above sea level, and the altitude hit all of us almost immediately upon our 6 a.m. arrival. Initial lightheadedness soon turned into a steady headache that lasted most of the day. The altitude hit Auggie the worst, and he took a personal day to rest up. By the end of our first day, we were all hurting. Especially the legs, which became really sore under the high pressure.
The highlight of day 1, other than our altitude issues, was a protest that took place outside the police station in the center of town. 300-strong turned out to protest what Phil translated as volations of social justice by the local government against the people. Eventually the riot police arrived to clear the street, but not before a small flare fragment buzzed by and nicked Phil's nose.
By day 2 we all felt much better and were able to enjoy Cuzco, the natural jumping-off point for anyone looking to check out Machu Picchu. Our guidebook dubbed Cuzco the "gringo capital of South America," and we saw it for ourselves. This place is crawling with foreigners, which made us all feel a little less cool. Still, there's a reason why gringos flock to Cuzco. The city, surrounded by lush sprawling hills, has great old buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. You also feel like you can touch the clouds because you are so high up. The local delicacy here is guinea pig, served streetside (see the before and after photos below). Most restaurants also serve Alpaca meat (very tasty). You'd also be hard-pressed to find a dish that doesn't come with avocado, continuing a much-welcomed trend from Chile.
In between our good meals, we've had a chance to visit some of the Incan ruins in the immediate area surrounding Cuzco. Today we took an all-day tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which started frustratingly as a market-hopping bus ride but culminated in a trip to Olantaytambo and one of the Incan empire's more important temples.
Today was just an appetizer, and we start on the road to our main course tomorrow. A bus will pick us up at 4 a.m. and take us to where we will start our 4-day trek to Macchu Picchu. We were all hoping to get one last shower in before the trek, but the water supply to the entire city of Cuzco shut down this evening and word on the street is that it won't be on again until 5 a.m. tomorrow.
We will be off the grid until April 9 or 10, but expect major reflections from all four of us following the trek.