Today began the latest of any previous day. We woke up at 8:00, and quickly went to breakfast. Breakfast was the same as past days, except that we drank coca tea to prepare for the high altitude of Cuzco. From then until 11:00, we said our goodbyes to the lodge by feeding the agutis and receiving a response from the Irish people whose cabin we left the card in front of. They responded that they would be unable to play any games, as they’re leaving today as well. Our goal had been to find out the boy’s name. We thought he either looked like Caleb, one of our old neighbors, or Aaron, a classmate of mine. Our bags were picked up from our rooms at 10:40, and we convened in the Ecocenter at 11:00, with all our luggage. After Jesus said goodbye to us, Tony, another guide, took us down to the boat which would take us back upriver to Puerto Maldonado. Since the current was against us, the trip took 1 hour rather than 45 minutes. On the way, we saw several machines for filtering mining residue for gold, and played a game in which we had to unscramble various words and phrases related to the itinerary of our trip. Upon our arrival at the dock at Puerto Maldonado, we boarded a bus which took us to the Inkaterra Butterfly House. At the Butterfly House, Tony retrieved our newly printed boarding passes for our flight to Cuzco. Once we arrived at the airport, which was a 2 minute drive away, we received our lunches and checked in. My fish sandwich was surprisingly good. I had expected it to go bad. Our flight was through LAN airlines, and boarded at 1:35, taking off at 2:10. I am onboard right now, and the time is 2:18.
Upon our arrival at the Cuzco Airport, we picked up our bags and were met by a representative from CAT, the travel agency that we booked our trip through. She welcomed us to Cuzco, and told us a bit of history about the city as we drove to our hotel, the Andean Wings Boutique Hotel. Before the Spaniards colonized Peru, Cuzco was the capital of the Incan Empire. It’s name at the time was Qosqo, which means “navel” in Quechua. The population was limited to the valley, which, in part, is why the Spaniards made Lima the capital. The more important reason, though, is that Lima is on the coast, which allowed for better access via the Pacific Ocean. The population of Cuzco has now spread out onto the surrounding hills, and is valued at 1.2 million people. Lima, on the other hand, has a population of 9 million. We quickly reached a group of flags, including those of Peru, UNICEF, and Cuzco. The Cuzco flag is made up of the colors of the rainbow, since the rainbow god is one of the most important to the Incas. However, this tends to be a problem, since it is the same as that of the gay community. The Cuzco flag, of course, outdated its competitor, since it was created by the Incas when they were first colonized by the Spaniards. Accompanying the flags are two statues of the liberators of Peru. From this roundabout, we turned onto Veintiocho de Julio Avenue. The 28th of July is Peru’s Independence Day. At the end of this avenue is a tower with a statue of Pacaha Cutaq on top. Pacaha Cutaq was the ninth Inca king, who is considered the best king for the Inca Empire. There is another statue of Pacaha Cutaq on the hillside, built by a different mayor. Upon our arrival at the hotel, we received tickets for all our activities until we reach Puno. We also drank some coca tea again to deal with the altitude. Finally, we were brought to our rooms, which have turned out to be really nice.
I am sharing the Andean Pop Twin room with Sahil, which is honestly much more fun than being with Seona. Around 4:30, we set out to explore the city. Though we suffered from altitude sickness the entire time, we had fun checking out a Saturday market selling various locally manufactured goods. I had a great time translating for the rest of my party, since I’m the only one who speaks Spanish. The only thing I ended up buying was a new pair of sunglasses (Ray-bans Aviators) for 38 soles ($15 or so). We even spent a few minutes watching a local band and fireworks from a wedding that we also witnessed. Before long, though, we all started feeling a bit sick, and decided to head back to the hotel. We ended up rescheduling our reservation at the restaurant of a friend of an employee of Winshuttle who works out of Lima for Monday. The following hour before dinner we spent drinking tea and reading by the fire (a strange thing to do in August, especially considering the fact that the temperature in Seattle is 90 degrees Fahrenheit right now, and Puerto Maldonado on Wednesday was 112 degrees). We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, where I ate Aji Fettuccine (the sauce was made of the popular Peruvian pepper) with Inca Cola (a Peruvian soda made from lemongrass and chamomile). Both were delicious. I finished off dinner with a cup of digestive tea.