Peru wedding and honeymoon, 1999. Seattle reception, 2000.
After an evening in Miami and a few hours outside of the airport reading, we boarded Aero Continente to Lima. We were rather surprised at what seemed to be a lack of security, especially in comparison to the paranoid situation we left in Seattle. We sat next to a friendly New Yorker who was on his way to meet his wife in Lima. Frankie was a wonderful source of information and kept us entertained for most of the flight.
Lima is much like any other big city we have visited, with few apparent traffic rules made up by abundant horns. We arrived at our hotel safely, and were ushered to our room by a rather unfriendly gent who wasn't too happy when we informed him we had no soles (Peruvian currency) for a tip. After a few minutes surfing the surprisingly extensive cable (including quite a few US stations) we settled into bed knowing we needed to get up early for our flight to Cusco, high up in the Andes.
Fernando picked us up at the airport in Cusco and filled us in on details of the wedding. We were a couple blocks from Hostal Centenario, when we were jolted out of our seats by a loud bang within feet behind our car. Were the fireworks starting early? Suddenly, a man streaked past followed by a police officer in pursuit shooting at the ground near him. The only thing that came to my mind was to thank my Aunt Kathy for putting us in the middle of the Wild, Wild West! Soon, the man was caught and handed over the pocketbook he held under his jacket. It is natural to be a bit wary when traveling to foreign countries, but this put us on high alert. But the fear turned to be unjustified. At no other time did we experience any other concerns.
Cuzco is at 11,000 feet of altitude, which can take some getting used to. Lima is at sea level. We had been taking Diamox to help alleviate the effects of altitude. But Fernando suggested drinking coca tea, which is the local remedy. So, when in Cusco...do like the Cusquenians. Feeling fine, we went on a tour of the sites in town, as well as Sacsayhuamán and other sites outside the city. We did actually see a couple tourists hit the pavement due to the high altitude.
Cuzco, a World Heritage Site, was the ancient capital of the Inca empire, which lasted from the the 11th to the 16th century. The Spanish arrived in the early 1500's and promptly did their best to wipe out all traces of the Inca. Inca temples and fortresses were destroyed and used as building material for the Spanish churches and buildings, many of which stand today on foundations built by the Inca.
High above the city are the remains of the ancient Inca religious structure and fortress of Sacsayhuamán. Most of the stones have long since been removed by the Spanish, but what remains offers an outline of the former grandeur of the place. It also offers beautiful vistas of the city below (with its red tile roofs) and the surrounding mountains. If anyone ever visits there, pick up a couple Toro de Pucara for us! These red, clay bulls are fastened to rooftops for good luck.