We traveled from Manaus, Brazil, to Cusco, Peru, via flights through São Paulo and Lima. Arriving in Lima near midnight, we joined the crowds sleeping in the airport. Our two children were wonderful about this part of our adventure!
We left 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures in Manaus. As we descended over the Andes into Cusco, the pilot announced that the current temperature was zero degrees Celsius, which is 32 Fahrenheit. What a change!
Today, the city of Cusco, with its 450,000 residents is best known to outsiders as the gateway to Machu Licchu and the Sacred Valley. Two million tourists come to the city each year, and like most of them, we will head to Machu Picchu after spending two days in Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude.
The city’s elevation is 3399 meters (more than 11,000 feet), and some visitors have symptoms of altitude sickness. Visitors are encouraged to drink lots of fluid and take it easy for a day or two. Many visitors also drink mate de coca (coca tea), which is an herbal infusion of leaves from the coca plant – yes, the coca plant from which alkaloids are extracted to make cocaine.
Our hostel keeps hot water and dried coca leaves out for guests at all times. We have consumed our share of mate de coca as an extra step to stave off altitude sickness.
Our hostel is on the Plaza de Armas, and it looks onto the Spanish-style plaza that is filled with school children in uniforms, locals selling their wares, dogs playing, visitors enjoying the scene, and traffic police helping cars and pedestrians live in harmony.
The scene is pretty, the sunshine bright, the temperature cool, and our family happy. This is a great place to be as we prepare to visit Machu Picchu later this week.