Cusco

Early morning flight over the Andes from Lima on Peruvian Airlines on an elderly 737. Was slightly concerned given that the airline was grounded a year or two back but all went well. Luckily the weather wasn’t too bad, I think the approach would be pretty hairy in poor weather, which I’m told happens a lot. Eek.

Very touristy here, but none the worse for it really. It’s a really interesting place, set around the Plaza de Armas  with a Cathedral and Church basically set right across from each other. I’ll get more time here on Monday so plan to see a bit more then.

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The San Blas area is  full of artisans and it has nice views across the valleys.

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Lots of traditional weaving going on in the streets:

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I will admit it,  Llamas and Alpacas are pretty cute. I wouldn’t want to try and snog one though, get the impression they’d be pretty slobbery.

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Excitement is almost at fever pitch in town tonight as its Peru vs Chile in a World Cup qualifier. At the Town Hall and library in Lima yesterday we learnt about how the Chileans burnt many sacred texts during their conflict. As I’m probably going out to a locals bar to watch it later there’s clearly only one team for me today. (UPDATE: “WE” WON 1-0)

Lunch today was a traditional duck dish from Northern Peru, fermented in corn beer and black beans. Delicious, and almost curry-like consistency and spicing.

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Altitude sickness is of course a pretty big issue here, particularly when you come from sea level straight up to the High Andes without acclimatising on the way. There are two things that can assist the body with the process, prescription drugs and the strangely moreish Coca Tea. Apparently quite legal in Peru, but I’ve been told that it stays in your system for some time and you would likely fail a random drugs test (not that I’m that keen a cyclist anyway). I always wondered where the phrase ‘for medicinal purposes’ came from.

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Tomorrow we tour the Sacred Valley, culminating in a homestay with a local family. I’m guessing they won’t have wi-fi. Sunday is The Big Machu Picchu Day, so I’m very much looking forward to that.

Q. Why did the Llama cross the road?

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A. Cos it had no feckin choice.

UPDATE Religious ceremonies are massive across Peruvian towns and cities, and no more so in Holy Week. The entire city of Cusco came to a halt when we were there on Easter Monday for the annual Taitacha Temblores (The Black Lord of Earthquakes) parade.

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In 1650, the impact of a devastating earthquake was reportedly held at bay by an oil painting of Jesus. The black-skinned Taitacha Temblores was a melange of Jesus and the pre-Christian God of Earthquakes. Everyone was queuing up to throw crimson flowers at the statue. The parade started just after 2pm and was scheduled to finish around 7pm back in the main square. It’s said that most of the city’s 350,000 population would either directly take part or watch the procession through the streets, and it did seem as if that was the case.