Saturday, December 3, 2011 – Lima to Cusco, Peru
I am seated with an Ecuadorian couple (who live in San Diego) at breakfast this morning in the dining room aboard the ship. The man is very impressed that I am on a self-booked tour to Machu Picchu, and validates my expectation that this site will be the highlight of the trip. He tells me Machu Picchu is actually in a tropical climate, which will be wetter and warmer than Cusco, and which will also be cool in the mornings but pleasantly warm by afternoon. I have my trusty Hally Hansen sailing jacket with me, which has an outer rainproof coat and an inner fleece jacket, so I should be able to cope with changing conditions, including rain, which is common at Machu Picchu this time of year.
Rotterdam arrives on time at 10AM despite being delayed by a Peruvian navy ship that had priority in the harbour. It’s exciting to finally be in Callao (Lima’s port) and on our way. We debark the ship and immediately see my name on a placard, and meet the young woman who will guide us to the airport and help us find our flight to Cusco. Although I’m sure we would have managed on our own by taking a taxi, it is so much easier to have someone else deal with the transfer and check-in using Spanish. This is the start of our private group tour (just my two friends and myself) which I arranged through Bestway Tours and Safaris.
Since the port and the Lima airport are both located in Callao, we don’t have to drive through Lima proper, so the transfer to the airport takes less than a half hour. We have about three hours to kill in the airport before our flight departs, so we settle into the food fair area outside the secure gate area – Starbucks and MacDonalds are both available, as well as chicken and sandwich places. We eat our own snacks instead. I spot quite a few passengers from the Rotterdam in the airport. Flight announcements are in Spanish and English. We find this area of the airport to be very noisy, so we move through security to the boarding gate waiting area, which has nice padded seats and is a bit quieter.
Our LANPeru flight to Cusco leaves on time, and it is not full. The scenery outside the window is nothing short of spectacular. As we climb away from Lima, we can appreciate just how huge the city is. The flight across Peru on our way to Cusco takes us over the Andes mountains, which are simply amazing. As we approach the valley where Cusco is located, there is beautiful scenery at every turn the aircraft makes on approach (see banner photo above). After landing and retrieving our bags, we find the bonus outside – the weather is warm and sunny in Cusco, unlike the coastal cities of Lima and Trujillo, which were cold, foggy, and overcast.
Our guide and driver meet us at the Cusco airport and take us to our hotel, the Casa Andina Private Collection – an amazing hotel right in the centre of the city. Although we haven’t had a chance to explore it fully since it is so labyrinthine, what we have experienced is very nice indeed. Our three nights here will be very comfortable. Our rooms have king beds and all rooms look over courtyards, which means they are very quiet. The hotel was created from an 18th century manor house. Having free access to high speed Internet is a real bonus for me…hopefully I will have time to catch up on blogs and email while I’m here.
We all are a bit wobbly and not feeling 100%, although it is hard to tell if the cause is spending the last 11 days on board a ship, or the high altitude, or a combination of the two. In any case, we are coping well, since the symptoms aren’t preventing us from exploring this interesting city. Cusco is a safe city to wander through day or night since it is so tourist-oriented. We have a wonderful wood fired pizza for dinner at a little pizzeria only a block from the hotel called La Pizza Carlo – recommended by our guide, TripAdvisor, and me too!
After dinner, I buy a watercolour painting from an artist hawking his wares outside the hotel. It is an abstract of an Inca, an Indian, a puma and Machu Picchu, which I find out later depicts the Chakana or Inca Cross (see Inca mythology). I sometimes purchase small paintings as mementos while traveling, since I routinely pass by all the other souvenirs.
It is time for bed and some rest, since we have a full day tour of the Sacred Valley tomorrow. I wake up at 3AM and decide to stay up for awhile. By then I’m feeling considerably better than I was earlier, which is encouraging. I use my time to go online to update my blog and drill through a bunch of emails. After an hour, I crawl back into bed and rest for an hour or so before arising again as the morning starts.