After battling altitude sickness, Melissa and I could hardly wait to be in lower elevation in Cusco. But first we needed to take the bus through the Andes to an even higher elevation. We took Dramamine that causes drowsiness and took off in the nicest buses I had been on since Taiwan. The seats were huge and they laid down with foot rests. We were very comfortable.
While we traveled in comfort, we were still sick and exhausted. Emotions were heightened and our arrival in Cusco was not pleasant. Taxi drivers vied for our attention and with no plan as to where we really wanted/needed to go first (hostel or Maccu Picchu ticket office) our first sisterly fight may have taken place. But fear not, as only sisters can do, we made it through somewhat unscathed and with a slight plan.
We had one day to get Maccu Picchu tickets for us and Kate and JaNahn who would be joining us the next day. We also wanted to see a few sites. However, with our late afternoon arrival and indecision of where to go, we arrived at the Maccu Picchu office after it had closed. We found a hostel and decided to venture out long enough to get dinner then go back and go to bed. We walked down to the Plaza de Armas and surprisingly to me, not to Melissa, we ate really good pizza (our first Western meal) and drank orange Fanta looking out over the plaza. It was a nice evening.
The next morning we got up and went straight to the Maccu Picchu office to buy tickets. When we were almost there I realized I had forgotten my passport in the hostel. Figuring no one would really even check to see if the correct passport number matched up with my ticket at Maccu Picchu, I decided to make one up. And I did, almost completely confident it would work. We then had a nice breakfast and I got coffee before we went back to our hostel to await the arrival of JaNahn (our family friend) and Kate (Melissa's college roommate). JaNahn and Kate were joining us for the rest of our trip.
With every car that drove past and every set of footsteps we heard walking by, Melissa would jump up and look out the window to see if it was them. A few hours after their expected arrival, the girls pulled up in a taxi. The street was incredibly narrow to the point where the hostel door almost had to be open so that the car door could be opened and they could shoot out. There were hugs, lots of laughter and stories to be told of canceled flights, sleeping in the Lima airport and also of our slowly improving health. We were all excited to see each other and continue (for them, start) our adventures.
We quickly took off to explore Cusco. We visited Inca ruins, Spanish cathedrals filled with gold and silver, and made stops for hot chocolate and coca tea. Coca tea is supposed to help with altitude sickness and is made from the leaves of the coca plant which also can be made into cocaine. It has been a controversial plant for centuries.
The carnivores in the group also tried the traditional dish of Peru: guinea pig. It came out looking at us and while they made valiant attempts to finish it, they just couldn't.
Melissa and I had stocked up on our alpaca gear in Puno, where it is said to be the cheapest, but JaNahn and Kate needed to make some purchases. Maybe due to the fact that is was really cold or maybe because they were overly tired, the shopping got a bit out of control and later that night we put on all the alpaca gear we had accumulated between the four of us. Yes, we had become the epitome of tourist. But at least we were warm tourists.
Cusco was beautiful and rich in history. We did not have enough time there. I need to go back some day.