Over the past few years of travelling, Gina and I have slowly realized that what suits us best is living on the periphery of medium-sized towns. We fell in love with San Sebastian, we might have moved to Salzburg had it not been for the impossibility of the language and now we are developing a small but consequential crush on Cuzco, the 11,000 foot-high town you come to in order to get your body acclimated to the altitude before trekking up to Macchu Picchu.

It’s an odd place in that it has become, over the years, a town almost exclusively dedicated to catering to tourists like us, providing Alpaca scarves and selfie sticks and indigenous peoples in traditional garb at every corner asking for a few Soles to take pictures with their baby Llama, or goat. Strangely though, charm persists around the cobblestone streets as you walk and get lost, discovering far from the central Plaza De Armas, some bits and pieces of Peruvian culture that has weathered the onslaught of backpacked morons like us. One event we ran into was a beautiful wedding, with a traditional dancing celebration taking place in the streets outside the church, proudly displaying the joy they find in their culture and history…

We are here for a while, delightfully joined by my brother Sebastien, mostly because our blood needs to get used to the lack of oxygen at this altitude, a must for the exertion to come, especially as it pertains to my particular body, composed in large part of cheese, pasta and wine due to the last couple of years spent in Bologna. So far, every step seems to me like three, every turn around an innocent corner requires the power of an olympic pirouette and every incline the mental strength demanded by the Alpe D’Huez stage of the Tour de France, leaving me breathless for no apparent reason, until I remember my biology that is, poorly suited to these parts.

Nevertheless, we are tremendously enjoying this place, especially, once again, thank s to the particularly nice loft at Wara Wara, our AirBnb for this week. Walking in this wonderful home away from home, hosted by the incredibly helpful Miguel and Vivianna, you are thrown into the expansive view of Plaza De Armas, the center of town below; And then you notice the vintage record player/speakers combo in front, like open arms to us urban exiles in search of familiar objects.

We instantly felt good here, each picking our rooms according to size, the kids bedding together with their uncle and us in the matrimonial, all of us keeping each other warm in a country that, much like Colombia, incomprehensibly prefers to tough out the nightly cold rather than succumb to the apparent weakness of adopting heating technology.

Speaking of night-time, that was a bit of a surprise… Since we’ve been here, there hasn’t passed an hour during which there wasn’t a celebration in the grand plaza. Whether a concert, wedding or protest, the town is boiling with energy on a daily basis. This especially starts when we old people attempt to simmer back down from constant discovery walking the streets of San Blas, the artist’s neighborhood, having 3-hour lunches at Pachapapa or the incredible Map Café in the Inca Museum…

When attempting to mount sacsayhuaman for a good time during an entire day, you come back exhausted but the mood upon your return is always the same, just getting started. Then, amazingly, when the music fades at around 2am, the town’s bells just get going, ALL of the churches begin to ring, one after the other, and FOR HOURS! Gina and I, at this point having waited so long to sleep can’t stop laughing because, unbelievably, it seems they are trying to keep the tourists, only here to rest before their upcoming gargantuan efforts, on our toes! Perhaps not a bad way to keep us away now that I think about it… It’s now 5am, the bells assuage and shots start ringing… I am not kidding you. Every morning, what sounds like fireworks resound through the historic center of Inca civilization, making us wonder what the hell is happening and if we shouldn’t, at this point, duck for cover and pack. We are later told that, again, it is the churches who have taken to shooting BB guns in the air and indeed works of fire as a way of waking up the town’s inhabitants in a festive way, one that gets everybody out of bed in a celebratory mood. Really? I mean, REALLY? Yes, really, it’s just Peruvians having fun… Truth is, you get used to it, and it’s not a little amazing that the people of this town are so intent of making every single part of their day a party.

As we walked through the lovely town, we reached the San Pedro Market, where you eventually end up when you need to cook, one immense temple of food that would be promptly closed by the CDC but an absolute must-see and shopping experience if you’re not that paranoid…

What a lovely few days we have spent here, getting our blood oxygenated, but the time is almost here… Tomorrow morning, as soon as the shots start ringing again, Sebastien, Zoel and I will be leaving by bus to Lares, the site of the beginning of our walk up to The ‘Chu. I guarantee I will not be sleeping, and not from the usual craziness outside but the one percolating inside…

1 Comment Leave a reply

  1. Daisy
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    One of my favorite entries in the series!


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