Cusco, Peru

Please find the photos for this entry here: Google Album - Cusco, Peru

Our visit to Cusco was the longest stay in one place of the trip so far (and likely the whole trip!). Cameron took time to visit his family in Vermont, Eli's mom and sister visited, and Noah spent time with Eli and his mom, Laurieann, and sister, Maggie, as well as some time exploring on his own. For this entry, Noah and Eli have each authored sections below: 

Noah writes:

To appreciate the city of Cusco as it sprawls amid the mountains, one must first change their perspective. You must look beyond the buildings to their foundations. Look past the present to the layers of the past. See not just the people but the places they came from. The beauty of the city is hidden in the taste of its food and the stones in its streets.

So often, we only see what is on the surface and do not look deeper or perceive what has come before to influence and form the present moment. In Cusco we got to see the layers of history one on top of the other. The murmurs of Quechua, the pre Spanish native language. Stones from the Incan empire. Foundations and walls shaped by hand with stone and bronze tools long before the West ever set eyes upon the land. The bones of their civilization buried under the next wave of culture as the Spanish Roman Catholic empire left its mark. Spanish architecture and cathedrals showing the glory of their conquest. Asian influence in the food and music from laborers brought by the Spanish ships to work their plantations. The new development of the modern age as railways and apartment buildings spread outward from the city's heart. Pavement meeting cobble stone streets built before cars or carts. Footpaths and stairs reaching where roads never could up the mountains sides. White plaster and tile next to cement and rebar. Worlds and times touching and intermingling to create something unto itself. Bustling markets with strange sights and smells. Hidden courtyards harboring music and drink. Central plazas crowded by tourist groups and the flash of their cameras. Local teens practicing their traditional dances in the streets. A moving flowing thing that comes together to become the city of Cusco.

Eli writes:

After five months of travel without spending more than a number of days in one region, we arrived in Cusco, Peru where we would spend two weeks. My (Eli) mom and sister would be spending a week with me and traveling to Machu Picchu, spending time visiting the towns of Ollantaytambo and Urubamba located in the Sacred Valley.

I was excited to have the opportunity to share traveling outside the US with my family. It’s hard to describe over a phone conversations or through pictures what it means to live in a completely foreign culture. After the 24 hours Cameron, Noah and I had in Cusco before my family arrived, I was relieved to know the region offered a choose your adventure style culture shock. In some ways, this was a shock to us after traveling through rural Peru and Bolivia before reaching Cusco, the site of Starbucks, Subway, KFC, and McDonalds in the main square felt somewhat uncomfortable. But, explore the smaller cobble streets and traditional food could be found. To welcome my mom and sister to Cusco we opted for the local option and promptly broke all the “food rules” the travel doctor had given them before leaving.

After a night in Cusco, we opted for private taxi to Ollantaytambo, this would offer the smoothest introduction to public transportation and driving in South America. Later, we would choose the cheaper options that really put you in the action on the roads of South America where driving seems to be more of a sport rather than mode of transportation. If Formula 1  was to start a bus class, the drivers here would be at the top of the game.

In Ollantaytambo we would take the train to Aguas Calientes, essentially basecamp for Machu Picchu. We woke up at 5 am to find the line already growing for the buses that take up the winding road leading to Machu Picchu. We explored the site of Machu Picchu and began the hike up montaña Machu Picchu for the view of the main site and Huayna Picchu mountain, this is the iconic mountain just beyond the main site in many pictures. What I found most amazing was just how difficult it must have been to construct stone buildings at the location. Just what did day one of construction entail high up on the granite ridge covered with nearly impenetrable jungle.

As we began to summit montaña Machu Picchu clouds began drifting by, after a few minutes of looking over the cliff edges at the surrounding jungle and site of Machu Picchu the clouds thickened blocking the view just as rain started to fall. Pulling out the rain jackets we started down the stone steps leading back lines of people waiting for the bus back the Aquas Calientes.

*After reuniting in Cusco, Cameron, Eli, and Noah continued by bicycle to Abancay, Peru - through incredible mountains and valleys. The next entry will cover the ride to Abancay, some busing to Ica, Huacachina, Lima, pedaling from Huaraz to Trujillo, and the ride from Guayaquil, Ecuador north to Colombia!

Please find the photos for this entry here: Google Album - Cusco, Peru