First Day In Peru: A Casual Day Around Cuzco

Last modified on August 27th, 2013

Luciana and I headed to the airport around 1am last night, with plans to catch a flight at 3:50am for Lima. Obviously that’s not an ideal flight time, but since it was heavily discounted we thought we could live with it. Another reason we booked that particular flight is that it was with TAM airlines, and they happen to be with Star Alliance. Since I’m going for Gold Status this year with Star Alliance, I welcomed the chance to get 6,000 more miles with them.

Unfortunately when we got to the airport, TAM told us that we had to go over to LAN’s counter and check-in with them. I said I was confused because the tickets we had clearly said they were for TAM, even though the flight was operated by LAN Peru. The end result of this 15 minute discussion is that all my efforts to book with a Star Alliance carrier didn’t amount to anything since we ultimately had to check-in with LAN instead, and they are One World. I’ll still be able to collect the mileage on my British Airways account, but I’m a bit choked that I purposefully booked a ticket with a Star Alliance airline only to be left without the ability to collect my mileage.

Obviously when the flight took off at around 4am Luciana and I were both pretty exhausted. I fell asleep right away, only waking up at one point to tell someone I didn’t really want any food. It was actually a really bumpy flight from what I recall, but thanks to Ativan my memory of the flight is quickly fading.

We were both tired when we landed in Lima, and decided to get a quick breakfast of coffee and an empanada before boarding the next flight. Other than a really emotional waitress who was getting in trouble from all of her tables, that was pretty uneventful. We came close to missing our flight to Cuzco though since they had changed the gate number on us and failed to notify anyone in the terminal of this change. But thankfully we followed a few other people who seemed almost as lost as us and we eventually found where we were supposed to be.

Approaching Cuzco

Approaching Lima, Peru, from the air

We arrived in Cuzco, Peru at around 10:30am. Cuzco is actually up in the mountains at around 11,000 feet, so altitude sickness is a real concern here. I noticed right away that breathing seemed to be a bit more laborious, and that the air tasted a bit funny (if that’s possible). Mostly thought it was a non issue, although we both found ourselves getting tired from doing simple tasks like lifting our backpacks and placing them into the trunk of a car.

Final Approach into Cuzco

Final Approach into Cuzco

The hostel we decided on was Pisko & Soul, mainly because it had very good reviews on the various hostel booking sites that we were looking at in Brazil. A driver from the hostel actually picked us up from the airport and brought us to the hotel to check in for the low cost of 20 Peruvian Soles (about $9 CAD), which was quite affordable given how long it took us to get there.

Checking into the hostel was a breeze, and after we entered our private room I pulled out my laptop and quickly got caught up on my email. Since neither of us slept really great during the flights, we decided to lie down for a little nap. Jump ahead nearly three hours, and we were both still sleeping – I guess we were more tired than we thought.

Beer and Pizza in Cuzco

Beer and Pizza in Cuzco

I actually woke up with a bit of a headache which I attribute to an effect of altitude sickness. It wasn’t that bad, and I took an over-the-counter pain killer right away to counteract it. After that we went down the street to a restaurant we were recommended here at the hostel and tried some Peruvian beers and pizza.

One of the local remedies here in Peru for altitude sickness is tea made from Coca Leaves. Coca leaves are actually used to make cocaine, so some of the same positive effects that help altitude sickness are the qualities that are in coca that make cocaine so attractive. Obviously the leaves don’t give you very much of the active ingredient, but Luciana and I both had some and we think it definitely made us feel better upon arriving in the hostel. The taste is actually pretty nice as well, not being as bitter as some green teas – neither of us felt the need to add any sugar to it.

The pizza we had was actually a really nice thin-crust pizza cooked in an actual wood-fired pizza over, and we both really enjoyed it. The name of the restaurant was Pachapapa, and it’s only a few blocks away from the centre of town. Although it was recommended to us not to have any alcohol on our first day here (due to the altitude), we both couldn’t wait to sample some Peruvian beer, which went well with the pizza.

Afterwards we thought we would simply head back to the hostel and relax, but we ended up going on a detour towards town. We ended up going into this Peruvian clothing shop and both of us found a llmama hair shirt that decided to both. The price for was 25 CAD, so it was definitely a bargain to get a nice warm (and soft!) sweater here in Peru.

Coca Leaves - A Local Remedy for Altitude Sickness

Coca Leaves – A Local Remedy for Altitude Sickness

Since we were so close, we decided then to walk down to Plaza de Armas (the famous square in the center of Cuzco) for a few more beers and to take a look at some of the scenery. The geography here, 11,000 feet in the mountains, really is quite amazing, and you can see why the Inca’s chose this location as the heart of their empire so long ago.

Luciana and her new alpaca sweater here in Cuzco

Luciana and her new alpaca sweater here in Cuzco

Afterwards we wandered back to the hostel for a little meet and greet at 9pm, including some free drinks. We are both pretty tired though, so we are going to head to bed and get rested up. I’m going to do some BraveNewCode work in the morning for a while, and then we’ll head out and do a bit of exploring here in Cuzco.

If you’re thinking about heading to Peru, consider picking up The Lonely Planet Guide for Peru to make the most of your trip there.

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