Up, Up and... Cusco!

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So, we made it to Cusco on Monday afternoon. It was a short and uneventful flight and, after bargaining away a couple of "official" taxi drivers, we settled on a nice gentleman who offered us a ride for half the other guys' price. He got us up in the hill, in the Centro Historico, up narrow cobblestone streets - one car width and about a ten inch little sidewalk on each side. These were built a long time ago with a horse and carriage in mind, not cars.

We found our place okay and were welcomed by Gary, an Irishman who has been in Cusco for over seventeen years. It was nice to have someone speak English fluently and he gave us lots of great information.  Our apartment is just lovely, very picturesque. It's a very old house that has been renovated and now has all the modern conveniences, but still has all the character of the original building.

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Cusco is 11,200 feet above sea level - San Blas is pretty much near the top of Cusco. Stairs - Stairs - Stairs!!! 

Cusco is 11,200 feet above sea level - San Blas is pretty much near the top of Cusco. Stairs - Stairs - Stairs!!! 

 

 

We unpacked quickly and headed down the hill to find a grocery to buy some basics for breakfast, and perhaps somewhere to have dinner.  We are staying in a district called San Blas, one of the highest areas in Cusco. There is very little flatness around here. Wherever you go, it's either up or down. Actually it all seems to be up, but I'm sure that's not true.

We both felt well enough, but the altitude definitely gets to you, for the first little while, anyways. Just going up a few flights of stairs and you get winded and tired. So we took it slow. We found our way to the small grocery store Gary had told us about, but we went to have some dinner first. We ate at Mutu, a traditional restaurant nearby. I had my first try at alpaca! The dish I ordered was Alpaca Stroganoff with rice and it was delicious. The meat tastes closest to beef, but it was very tender, flavourful, and just a little different from beef. I enjoyed it a lot. The other specialty here is Cuy (guinea pig). I don't know that I will be trying that one. 

We were both tired, so we didn't linger long after dinner. We got what we needed from the shop and headed upward toward home. We had been mindful to buy only what we needed, but bottled water is a must, and keeping hydrated is very important. Well, four litres of water, and juice, and the rest of our stuff seemed pretty heavy, and the bags somehow seemed to magically get heavier and heavier as we walked up the hill. We were both huffing and puffing but we made it home, relieved to set all our bags down.


It wasn't long before we were off to bed. After the noisy Larco Boulevard in Lima, we found Cusco to be so quiet. We were looking forward to a good night sleep, which we got... until we were woken up suddenly by several very loud bangs outside. It's FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING PEOPLE!!! It almost sounded like it was coming from our courtyard, but I checked and there was no one there. The noise stopped and I tried to go back to sleep... but then the pops started again. By now it was obvious these were firecrackers and fireworks, but so early in the morning? I thought it might some people partying... and hoped that they had run out of supplies.  No such luck. They would go on and off... for another twenty minutes or so and then...

AND THEN! I hear a marching band at a distance, but not so far away and they're coming closer. Before long, they are marching right in front of our house, on that little street, with very narrow and tall walls that lets the sound bounce around! They walked past and the up to the end of the street where there is a small plaza - the San Blas Plaza, with a little church, the San Blas Church. Once they got there, the fireworks started again, this time they were full-on! And the band was marching around the plaza and playing and marching and playing!!! By now, it's just past five o'clock and they finally stop.  I couldn't figure out what this was: perhaps some pre-sunrise ritual of some kind? Who knows! But the noise had stopped so I managed to fall asleep again.

AND I WAKE UP AGAIN IN A STARTLE! There they go again! It's the same song, over and over, and the fireworks are going too. Now, it's about six thirty and I'm wide awake. I can't contain myself, I throw on a pair of pants and a sweater, grab my iPhone and I head out the door.

AND I WAKE UP AGAIN IN A STARTLE! There they go again! It's the same song, over and over, and the fireworks are going too. Now, it's about six thirty and I'm wide awake. I can't contain myself, I throw on a pair of pants and a sweater, grab my iPhone and I head out the door.

I have to see what this is about! I walk up to the square and I see the marching band going around in circle in the plaza, playing and marching and playing. They are carrying a religious banner of sorts, so I am guessing this has to do with a religious ritual. There is one guy who is busy lighting fireworks. There isn't a crowd or anything, just a few people, mostly those who are setting up for some sort of event. There are a few guys who seem to have been celebrating for a while already. They're passing a two-liter bottle of coke around the group and judging from how much fun they seem to have, it's pretty clear there's more than Coca-Cola in there!

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Having gotten some confirmation that this was actually happening, I headed back home, made some coffee and waited for Henry to wake up. Somehow, he had managed to get back to sleep. A little later that morning, I walked to a small store two doors down to buy more water (it's amazing how much bottle water you use when you even have to make your coffee with it! :-) In my minimal Spanish, I asked what the celebration was about. "It's the feast day for San Blas today", she explained. Now I understand... and this will go on all day. "Mucho Dias?" I ask? "Solo hoy" Only today. 

So I head home, with the marching band still playing and the fireworks still exploding. After a quick breakfast, we head out to check out the plaza again. It's still going strong and it would keep going for the whole day. Later in the afternoon, a band set up and played music for the evening. Some folks drank, some danced, some drank and danced. It was a party!!!

The music went on until eleven. Not too bad! but as I write this, it's nearly midnight and the fireworks are still going. I hope the lady was right about the celebration being only today. Otherwise, we might get awakened by the marching band at four o'clock in the morning again.

We had time to walk around and see a few sights. Because San Blas is already fairly high up in Cusco, we didn't have to climb too many stairs to get this view, but even then, we had to stop and rest a couple time as we walked up. It was totally worth it, and the clouds were a nice add-on ;-) We've only been here for one day, and Cusco has already surprised and entertained us. We can't wait to see what it has in store for us in the next few days.

We had time to walk around and see a few sights. Because San Blas is already fairly high up in Cusco, we didn't have to climb too many stairs to get this view, but even then, we had to stop and rest a couple time as we walked up. It was totally worth it, and the clouds were a nice add-on ;-)

We've only been here for one day, and Cusco has already surprised and entertained us. We can't wait to see what it has in store for us in the next few days.