Cusco, Capital of the Inca Empire

Street in front of Hotel Los Andes de AmericaWe made it to Cusco Peru, the capital of the Inca empire. As our driver took us from the airport to the hotel he was explaining  to us several of the attractions that were not to be missed while visiting Cusco, a typical looking Spanish town, the difference I noticed was the city was cleaner looking than most I have been too.

As we made our way through narrow cobblestone streets I was admiring the architecture of the buildings, very Spanish Colonial, when the driver came to a stop on one of these narrow streets and announced that we were at our hotel, I looked around, and there almost hidden was the entrance to our hotel. Now I should mentioned that before we left Lima we had looked on the Internet for Hotels in Cusco, my wife and son had picked one out, actually a Best Western, my first thought was I did not want to stay at an American Hotel chain, yet with our mishap in Lima and my wife ready to head back to the States, I figured I could suck it up and go with the flow to keep the trip going.

Lobby Courtyard Los Andes de America, Cusco PeruBoy was I surprised, The hotel might have been part of the Best Western Chain, but the hotel did not look like any that I had seen before from the chain. As we entered the Los Andes de America Hotel I was shocked to find the kind of hotel I was wanting in this colonial town. We were greeted right away by the friendly staff and asked to take a seat in the courtyard/lobby, with a smile on my face as I took in the surroundings, we were next offered cups of coco tea.

Up till the moment that we were offered the coco tea, for the altitude, I had totally forgotten about the altitude of Cusco, some 10,800 feet, not that I was expecting it to be a problem with as many times that I had flown into La Paz, Bolivia, but I think my wife had not even thought about the altitude. I think she was still occupied by the incident in Lima that she totally forgot about everything she had read about problems with the altitude in Cusco. I believe if you think about the altitude you are going to have problem, where if you Coco Tea Cusco Perudon't you will be ok. Now I am not saying go all out and exert yourself because you can or will run into problems.

Checked into the hotel, and within 15 minutes we were out the door to explore Cusco. First stop a half block from the hotel we found a sidewalk cafe overlooking Plaza Regocijo. What to eat? Well when in Rome! Ok, we are in Cusco, start out with a Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru, for eats, and being me, I chose the Alpaca with salad. My wife and son were not as adventures as me when it comes to local cuisine.

Plaza Regocijo (Happy Park) Cusco PeruI could have just sat there the rest of the day, watching the people, enjoying the park and drinking Pisco Sours, yet we had places to see and explore in Cusco.


Lima to Cusco, In Search of Ancient Gods

If you are headed to Cusco, most likely you will be traveling from Lima, now there are other cities that travelers arrive to Cusco from, yet Lima is the major entry point into Peru. Unless you want to make the 22 hour trip from Lima to Cusco by bus or auto you will be traveling from Jorge Chavez International Airport.

Arriving at the airport at 10.00 am we proceeded to the LAN Peru ticket counter, LAN Peru is not the only airline flying to Cusco, yet they have the most frequency and this is the airline we had our standby ticket on.

Checking in we were told that our suitcases would have to be checked in, LAN Peru has a weight limit of 8 Kilos (17 pounds) that is allowed in the cabin, basically a purse or small backpack. As the agent was checking us in for the 10:30 am flight and talking to us, the flight closed for additional passengers, no problem she told us the next flight was at 10:50 am. LAN Peru operates flights to Cusco almost every 15 to 20 minutes during the morning hours and every hour in the afternoons.

Next, off to the gate, passing through the new food court, security and shops that Jorge Chavez International has to offer we made it to our flight. Door closed at exactly 10:50 am, only 50 minutes after we had arrived to the airport. It seems LAN Peru airlines has got this down to a science as they are moving a lot of people between Lima and Cusco, basically a air shuttle.

Rolling Hills Peruvin AndesTaking off to the south we were given small glimpses of the city of Lima and the coastline peaking through the early morning fog that Lima is known for. Next it was a turn inland as we started the climb to make the ascent into the Peruvian Andes and the city of Cusco at 10,860 feet . During the climb we only got an occasional view of snow covered mountain peaks through the clouds covering the mountains, The 45 minute flight from the Lima to Cusco went quick, yet the flight attendants still were able to do a beverage and snack service, you don’t see that in the States any more.

Popping out of the clouds we were greeted with the sight of fantastic mountain peaks and rolling hills of the Peruvian Andes. As the airplane made the descent into the valley that is home to Cusco and the Alejandro Velesco Aste International Airport, we had a excellent view of the city on the left side of the plane, to the right it seemed you could almost reach out and touch the mountains, a 180 degree turn at the one end of the valley lined us up with our landing at he airport.

Cusco Airport Peru Baggage Area Entering the luggage and arrival area of the airport, you will find numerous hotel desks as well as tour operators for those of you who have not made plans for you stay or adventure in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area.

Outside the terminal we found plenty of taxis on hand, we chose one, or maybe he chose us, told us the name of the hotel and off we went. Introduced ourselves and stuck up a good conversation with our driver Isaac. In the 15 minute drive through the city and to the hotel the driver was very friendly and informative. He was telling us about everything we wanted to see in Cusco, the all day tours to the Sacred Valley that were offered, we could go via a tour group, about 30 people and $90 for the 3 of us, or a private tour with him for $130 with him including lunch.

By the time we arrived at the hotel  I decided to take the driver up on his offer of an all day tour for the next day of the Sacred Valley. We made arrangements and said our good byes till tomorrow.

Next exploring Cusco




Lima Peru, Next Stop on the way to Ancient Gods


Jorge Chavez International Airport Lima PeruAn uneventful 5 ½ hour flight from Miami to Lima saw us arriving at Jorge Chavez International Airport.
A big change since my last time into Lima, about 8 years ago, today the airport has numerous jet bridges, many food courts , restaurants, bars and café’s, just about what you would expect to see back in the States.

Cleared customs in record time, and upon exciting the immigration area we found our taxi driver that the Hotel had sent for us. Off we went for a short night in Lima before we headed to Cusco the next morning.
The taxi was a little small and would only hold 2 suitcases in the trunk and the 3rd went between my wife and son in the rear, myself up front.

I had a lively conversation with the driver as I caught up with all the changes in Peru over the last 8 years, I had flown well over 50 flights over the years to Lima and have spent sometime getting to know the city. Friday night in Lima saw quite a bit of traffic on the road, as we neared the area of the hotel the driver took some smaller roads to avoid the traffic.

Bam, sound of breaking glass, screaming from the back seat, commotion, as I turned I saw that someone had broken the car window on my wife side of the car, a man was reaching in trying to grab a carryall bag my wife had on her lap. I call it her grandma bag, nothing really of value, except cosmetics, a IPOD and contact lens stuff. My wife now shaken had had her arms woven through the straps, my son reached over and grab the bag with one hand and was punching the thief, I from the front seat had gotten a hold of the bag. The thief ended up giving up, an ran off empty handed.

Arriving at the hotel 5 minutes later , shaken and scared we found that all three of us had been cut from the glass of the window, nothing serious, but enough to add to the tension and fright.

The hotel was nice, just one block from the main square, the rooms were very nice, clean and comfortable, not bad for $64.00 a night. A little noisy from street traffic and being a Friday night, an our encounter with the street thief we saw very little sleep that night.

Talking it over in the morning at breakfast, we realized we had let our guard down, Lima was a major Latin America city, as with any major city there is going to be crime, I think our first mistake was getting into such a small car where we were restricted in movement, second I was talking with the driver , not paying attention to the surrounding area I had let him go down a smaller side street, third, my wife should not have had the bag sitting on her lap, even though there was nothing of value, it should not have been in plain sight from the street. I had thought maybe her passport was in that bag, now knowing there really was nothing of value, we should not have fought off the intruder, we should have let him taken the bag since the possibility of him having a gun and us fighting him off could have ended the situation differently.

Myself being robed over the last 20 some years in place like Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and New York, I should have not let my guard down, I should have been a little more aware of our environment and the surrounding area as we were traveling out of our comfort zone.

On the ride back to the airport, we arranged for a van taxi which only added $10.00 dollars to the fare, yet gave us a much more comfortable ride, we were not restricted in our movement and sitting higher, it was not possible for people to look right in and see what we had. The ride back to the airport went uneventful.

Next , Lima to Cusco.



In Search of Ancient Gods

Eleven days off, the questions start, where should we go?, what should our next adventure be? My last foray to Stonehenge getting me excited about ancient and mystical ruins, a trip to Costa Rica last month getting my fill of warm weather and beaches, I thought about a trip down south, way down south. A great little adventure that I have thought about for years and was just sitting in the back of my mind was a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru.

So , with the stars starting to align, my 1 week vacation at the end of March, with 4 days off at the beginning of April gave me 11 days to make this trip. My wife and son having spring break at the same time this year as my days off gave them the opportunity to make this trip with me, I guess you could call it a family trip, yet we had to sacrifice our daughter. Yeah sacrifice, that’s a good word that  goes  with searching for ancient Gods, a 21 year old, a junior at Florida State University in Tallahassee and only 2 weeks left before final exams, it was not possible for her to join us. You know, responsibilities, sacrafices.

As with most of my trips or adventures, I really did not start looking at heading to Machu Picchu until 1 week ago, I mean if I only needed a week and a half to plan my bike trip across America, why would we need more time to plan a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru.

Watching the loads out of Miami to Lima I knew it was going to be tight going standby, Peru seems to be a very popular destination for travelers and tourist alike.

Well when I mention that the stars started to align, I was not thinking that there was going to be a major fire at the Miami Airport fuel farm. Luckily nobody was hurt, yet the fire totally threw American Airlines Miami flight operations into a tailspin. Losing the capability of pumping fuel from the ground, American had to resort to fueling planes from trucks, this in turn cut American flight schedule by 60% do to the length of time it would require to fuel the planes.

Many flights canceled, meant many passengers did not make it into Miami, a bum rap for passengers, a bonanza for flying standby, all of a sudden our trip that was going to be full now had almost 60 empty seats. Having to drive from Orlando to Miami was the only draw back, since the days flights had been canceled.

Knowing that we were getting on the flight, next up was a quick check on the internet for a hotel room in Lima, plan was one night in Lima and then onward to Cuzco. Finding a couple of hotels on the internet, out with the computer, start up Skype and 5 minutes later had a room waiting for us in Lima. Told it was a mid range hotel, $54.00 we will have to see, hey it’s an adventure.

So with the stars falling farther in line, we head south to South America and Peru. Miami to Lima , 5 ½ hour flight gave us time to think about the next day, the next part of the adventure of searching for ancient gods.

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