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More TravelPeru posts.

This link has comprehensive information about the best time to visit Peru. In my opinion, if you are not doing the Inca trail, for that matter any major hiking/mountain climbing, the time of the year does not matter. Just take in to account that it rains in the highlands(Cusco, Machu Pichu, Sacred Valley) and add an extra day when you do the itinerary.

Day1: SFO – Lima.
LAN flies non stop from select US cities. They give good deals to major South American destinations.

Giving your credit card information and clicking  on the ‘BOOK THIS FLIGHT’ is not the same as booking the flight. First your credit card company goes on alert, few hours later LAN comes back and asks you to confirm first name+last name+passport#+frequent flier number/passenger/ 4-6 hours. Few hours later, they ask you to send fax/jpeg of your passport picture page and credit card. After this they ask you to submit a written request for your reservation, which essentially consists of all the data you have given online, on phone, over email, again on phone over the past  36 hours. They are extremely polite and ask you very nicely, but it takes time for the wheels to move.

LAN’s in flight entertainment system is very good. Food not so much.

Day2: Lima to Cusco. Sacsayhuaman ruins, Tambomachay ruins and shopping in Cusco’s artisan district.

The well kept secret is Peru’s airport fees/tax. Every time you fly out of an airport in Peru, be it domestic or international, you are expected to pay airport tax/fee. They use it for maintaining the airport. You can pay it in dollars or soles. Just be sure to check twice or thrice if the amount quoted is in dollars or soles because of the language barrier.

We flew Peruvian airlines from Lima to Cusco. In general early morning flights are to Cusco are good in terms of departing in time, flying conditions etc.

99% of the time, the hotels you have booked with provide airport to hotel transfer. Just state the number of people and bags and they will bring suitable vehicles. Also check twice where they will be picking you up from. If they say OUTSIDE the airport, a person will be OUTSIDE holding a board with your name. Porters who meet you inside the airport calling your name and the hotel you have booked with are just people who have made their rounds outside and memorized names from the boards and have no connection what so ever with the hotel. Creative huh?!! :)

Cusco is at an altitude of 3400m, which means that there is a good chance that the altitude will affect you. If so, do not fear the Sarochi pills are there. Stop by any pharmacy and pick up five for five soles and pop one every 12 hours. Plenty of water, hot tea and low physical activity helps in the first couple of days. If you have been in high altitude before and if you think you can handle it…well you cannot. It is what your body is used to in the present and not how and what you did in teh past.

Cusco has exactly one family from UP, India. They run an Indian restaurant very close to the city center.

In the middle of the city of Cusco is the statue of emperor Pachacuti, which to me is such a tamil name!

Factoring in altitude, jet lag, kids etc, we spent 4 hours site seeing around Cusco. We rented a taxi and visited the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachay and finished off our day in Cusco’s local market. If we had a day to spare, I would have loved to visit Qoricancha, one of the museums housing pre columbian artifacts and spent some in the Plaza de Armas. San Blas also came in highly recommended, but we didn’t do because we ran out of time.

Sacsayhuman ruins is another 300m climb from Cusco. So if it is your first day allow yourself 60 – 90 min to go around the ruins. If you push yourself you will feel the lack of oxygen.  From the top of Sacsayhuman you can see the whole city of Cusco.

They say that the fortress is built in the shape of a puma. The construction is awesome, I mean huge stones just fitted without any kind of mortar, earth quake durable construction with wide door ways and the walls naturally built at a 15 degree inclination…. all this by a civilization which had no written script! How they would have planned for these buildings is a constant source of wonder to me!

The above picture shows the biggest stone in Sacsayhuaman, it weighs about 300 tonnes and is more than 8 meters tall.

The Incans believed in the puma (the present), the condor(the higher life) and the snake (the underworld). So they incorporated these shapes in to their structures. According to R, the snake in the picture below is more like seeing their child’s ultrasound pictures. Once the doctor says that it is a head, you try and see a head. But that is purely the husband’s POV :)

Tambomachay ruins is a fancy bath house. It is built in three levels, powered by underground spring water. The spring water is still flowing. Again how the Incas found consistent source of underground water and used it to their advantage is another thing I wonder about. It is said that Tambomachay was used by royalty, for ritual bathing.

If you love haggling, you will never leave the Cusco local market. We went crazy, buying just for the sake of buying. I just loved the colors. I kind of pushed every one in our group and squeezed in the Cusco local market again on day four :)

More soon…..

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