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First taste of life in high altitude: Trying to acclimatize in Cusco

Peru is one of those places where its more rewarding to have a guide to explain the rich history. Edwin, our guide for the Inca trail, says that the Inca lord decided where he wants his people to live & just hauls them all there. After the Macchupichu Incan ruler passed away, his successor brought the whole cavalry over to Cusco. They lived there until the Spaniards came, took advantage of the internal conflicts & used religion to control them all. The people were forbidden to speak of Macchupichu. The lost city in the clouds remained hidden & forgotten(from the west) until Hiram Bingham shed light on it. Anyway, sorry, that is not exactly Cusco's history. I almost got pick-pocketed twice while walking around Cusco! Twice in half an hour!!! Wth!

Highlights: Awesome Inca stone walled streets. Great architecture (a place is not complete for me without good architecture). I had a really good Milky Way McFlurry from the McDonalds at Plaza de Armas in Cusco. I just walked around the plaza & the neighboring ancient streets munching on my ice cream. Man that was some good ice cream (better than what they have in US!)
Cast of Characters: just me
Logistics/ Links: here's some good websites for travelers. Andean travel web & Wikitravel
When: I got into town on May 5, 2012. My Inca trail hike was scheduled for May 7. I had 1.5 days to acclimatize(not enough). The weather was beautiful. It hardly rained for the whole month of May. It was pretty cold (30's), make sure to bundle up!
Location: Cusco, Peru
Cost: Peru cost me an average of $85/day! Yikes!!! Actually, without the 4 day Inca trail tour it would only be about $46/day. I traveled by myself & stayed at private rooms(~$15/night) with their own bathrooms, hot water & wifi. Don't get tempted by hotels breakfast offer, it always sucks. I found Peru does not have too many good street food options. I ate at cheap restaurants where locals go & each meal would still come out to about $6.
Trip Report: There were seriously so many clinics around this place. That was the first thing I noticed. At hotels, they would have brochures of clinics & doctors services. It definitely does not make you feel more comfortable about altitude sickness. Make sure to buy a stash of 'Sorochi' pills from one of the (too many) pharmacies in town. 
The city is beautifully nestled in a valley. You can easily explore the city on foot. There's a lot of uphill/downhill walking around town. I found myself gasping for air, just after walking a few feet of incline. The diesel fumes from the streets also did not help. But, its still a wonderful city. There's so many historical tourist attractions, you can easily spend 1 week in Cusco with the daytrips & sights available.
If you're short on time, I think 2 must sees are the Inca museum & Sto. Domingo church/ Qoricancha. I did not think Sta. Catalina convent was that interesting. It was nice to walk around Plaza de Armas & explore the stone walled streets. 
Beware when walking around at night. I was wearing a backpack with a front pocket & I felt somebody trying to open the zipper. My hand immediately shot up to the pocket & the guy just crossed the street & fled. He looked back at me as he was getting away, which just made him so much more obvious. 15mins later, the exact same thing happened again. What the hell?! Cusco City gets 2M tourists/yr so I suppose preying on easy tourists is no surprise.
Anyway, Cusco is a touristy, cool city. I felt like it was the best city to represent the essence of Peruvian Inca culture. It was awesome!
Getting into Cusco via LAN. Make sure you're on the right line at the airport because there's several different LAN lines, you could be waiting at the wrong one only to be told after 30mins in line. Not very pleasant.

I have never been to a place like Cusco before. The city itself is an attraction. Peru is just so wonderfully blessed naturally & historically. They have jungles, deserts, lake, mountains, beach...very lucky.

Cute little fashionable dog.

Nice architectural details.


Streets of Cusco
Some event at Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Moi at Plaza de Armas
  
More awesome architectural details. I love their doors in Peru! Its kind of funny how those door knockers are so high up when most Peruvians are not the tallest

I went to Lima's water park & I swear there were people making out everywhere. Turns out its pretty common in the whole Peru. It seems like everywhere in Cusco you'll see couples making out! Get a room!

Lady begging at the streets of Cusco. She had her palm out 2 seconds ago, that would have been a better shot. Oh well.
Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru

Cusco valley from Sto Domingo church


Little kids in full traditional Peruvian dress hanging out by Sto Domingo church. Later on my travels, I met a German lady who has been living in Peru for a while. She told me its not a good idea to pay children for photos, because they'll learn they don't have to go to school & just hang out around here instead. I did not know that.


The 2 sides of Peruvian women: Classic & Sexy


Cusco courtyard

Cuuuute alpaca! Sooo fluffy!

Plaza de Armas cathedral

Awesome stone walls along the ancient streets of Cusco

Streets of Cusco. The ladies pose for pictures & you can just give them however much you want.

I thought this was pretty cool!

Hmmm...this pic is kinda boring. Doesn't even have those cool stone walls, lighting is flat. Hm.

Rolling duffel bag for Cusco was not the best idea, lol.


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