Cusco, Peru

Leaving Puerto Maldonado

It was a rainy morning as we waited for our LAN Peru flight to Cusco in Puerto Maldonado airport, raising my fear that the flight might be cancelled as they usually happen here at the slightest sign of weather disturbance. With me on the flight were Australians Robert, Linda, and John with Tita, the Peruvian tour leader for GAP Adventures. I only have my daypack as a carry-on and a whole lot of jungle experience to remember from the last 3 days I spent in Posada Amazonas.

Thankfully, the gray skies opened up and we were allowed to board the Airbus 319 plane. From the lowland jungle to the high Andes, it took only 30 minutes of flight time and I was back in Cusco again. The Australians and Tita stayed in the plane as it moved on to Lima, their final destination. As arranged, I was met at the airport and brought back to Hostal Amaru.

Calle Resbalosa

I got my laundered clothes and my duffel bag back from storage. Hunger pangs caught up with me as I made plans for the rest of the day. I decided to grab some pasta at Chez Maggy, a recommended pizza restaurant down the so-called Gringo alley of Procuradores. As I was near Calle Resbalosa, that steep pedestrian-only street leading up to San Cristobal church, I decided to hit it after my late lunch. Up there on the church courtyard, I got a marvellous view of Cusco and Plaza de Armas. Just as I was about to leave, local folks came out from the church and started a procession downhill as they followed an image of a crucified Jesus carried aloft by a devotee.

Back at Plaza de Armas, I had two things on my agenda that needs to be done: 1. visit the Centro Artesanal to buy some gifts and souvenirs 2. buy my bus ticket for the trip to Puno tomorrow. While waiting for a taxi, a tourist police noticed and decided to help me get a car. Cusco has plenty of taxis but in this touristy city, reports of some visitors having been ripped off or worse, robbed while aboard taxis, has made it important to remain vigilant and be wary of unscrupulous drivers. The tourist police reassured me the one she'll flag down is secure and honest. OK, I took her word for it. I got into the taxi and paid the equivalent of $1 at my destination.

Centro Artesanal is huge, full of stalls selling the gamut of Peruvian souvenir products. They have everything that can be worn made from Alpaca, a domesticated animal unique to South America's highlands resembling like a sheep. There were also wood carvings, silver jewelry, figurines of Andean gods, stuffed llamas, you name it. I know I'm done with headaches as I'm pretty much acclimatized by now but somehow, I felt my head throbbed with pain looking at this cornucopia of goods. I hastily got what I wanted, including a carved face of Inca Pachacutec (the Inca ruler who ordered Machu Picchu's construction) while making sure I still have time to run to the bus ticket office before it closes for the day.

View of Cusco from San Cristobal church

Inka Express, the bus company that will take me tomorrow to Puno, was just a few minutes walk from Centro Artesanal. I paid my ticket and was told to be back at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow for the 7:15 departure. Back at Hostal Amaru, the task of putting everything into my backpack and duffel bag lay before me in a rumble of chaos. I sorted out everything, making sure I have not mixed my soiled clothes from the Amazon with the ones already laundered. It's tough to travel even when you thought you travelled light. With souvenirs bulging in my backpack, would Inca Pachacutec mind getting the place of honor in my daypack?

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