Beautiful people, vibrant fiestas, llamas, alpacas, burros, coca tea, lomo saltado, solterito, cuy, maiz, pisco sours, Spanish and Quechua culture, ancient stone cities, and the second tallest mountain range in the world. Welcome to Peru! First stop: Cusco…
I arrived in Cusco at high noon and was greeted with brilliant blues skies and the opportunity to practice my fledgling Spanish with my chófer (taxi driver).
Upon arrival at my hotel, I was greeted with warm smiles and hot coca tea. Before I finished my second cup of tea on the terrace, the silence was broken by a chorus of drums, trumpets, and fireworks echoing over the Spanish tile rooftops.
So I followed the echoes down the narrow cobbled lane and walked right into a huge fiesta in the Plaza de Armas, the main plaza in Cusco…
I had just landed in Cusco an hour before discovering this sea of color, sound, and humanity!
There were no barriers, literally or figuratively, to mixing with the crowd or performers. Here is a band at the doors of the cathedral, waiting their turn to play.
It was a never-ending parade of faces, colors, shapes, motions, sounds, and smells. The energy that flowed gave me goose bumps.
The joy expressed by the dancers was contagious…
The audience was also part of the festivities. I had lots of fun connecting with some of the other attendees. By the way, does anybody else here look familiar (and not so happy with me)?
I almost got these three lovely ladies to smile!
“¡No toma el aqua!” Don’t Drink the Water! If you want to avoid gastro-intestinal distress, be prepared to buy plenty of bottled water. You should even use bottled water when you brush your teeth and be careful not to swallow any water when taking a shower!
Now that I feel at home, it’s time to stimulate the local economy. Let’s get and spend some dinero!
Now that I have a few soles in my pocket, let’s explore some more of Cusco, which is nestled in a semi-arid valley at 11,000 feet (more than two miles high)!
Plaza de Armas (literally “Weapons Square”). Vive El Peru! And yes, you will find both a Starbucks and McDonald’s here.
Mis amigos… Jim (Jaime), Gary (Gustavo), and John (Juan)… three really good guys who were an absolute pleasure to travel with. I hope that I am half as cool as them when I grow up!
The Conquistadors destroyed Qoricancha, the revered Incan Sun Temple, and built the Church of Santo Domingo atop the ruins. All seems to be forgiven now.
Lomo Saltado (salted beef with rice and potatoes) is a Peruvian staple.
You learn a lot by simply walking through the neighborhoods. For example, old-school Volkswagen Beetles are quite popular.
Ancient Inca stone work can be found all over town.
Stuffed chicken (pollo relleno) with mashed sweet potatoes…
Be careful crossing the street!
Some curious and delightful young ladies in primary school.
Some pasta and local beer (cerveza).
Feral dogs seem to be everywhere in Peru. Here’s a pooch chillin’ on the steps of the cathedral in Cusco…
None of the dogs seemed threatening, although some appeared to own certain territories… Here are a couple on guard duty at San Cristobal…
Super fresh avocado salad…
Who needs a backhoe or jack hammer when you have a massive manual labor force?
Solterito, a salad made with lima beans or fava beans, Andean corn, peppers, cheese, and maybe some onions, olives, carrots, or parsley…
Mercado San Pedro… Nothing wasted!
There is every kind of food imaginable. Here is a colorful and tidy array of corn, beans, nuts, and spices…
Free Enterprise! I walked up to San Cristobal Church and met these ladies on their way to work. They have spun a burro, llama (alpaca?), and baby into gold. For a sole or two you can have your picture taken with them, a pretty good gig in a subsistence economy. I wish I could make money selling photo ops with me and my peeps!
The plaza area felt very safe, even at night, but notice the police presence…
Although the square is flanked by two Spanish churches, the centerpiece of the square is a fountain that now celebrates an Inca king (name?)…
A nice way to relax at the end of a perfect day. Let’s toast with a pisco sour: pisco (a grape-based liquor), lime, egg white, and a little sweetener… “¡Arriba, abajo, a centro, adentro!”
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