(editor’s note: this entry is one of several composed during a recent trip to Peru.)
Jan. 11, 2008
After spending the first four hours of our Peru trek snoozing on the Lima airport floor, we flew to a high-perched clutch of South American culture.
Cuzco, a town in the southeast of Peru. Elevation: 11,000 feet. Very high. Makes Denver seem like the lowlands.
Nestled in the Andes, Cuzco is a city hewn from the hills. There are abundant spans of green—fed by the ample mists and light rains. That said, a lot of the city reminded me of Iraqi towns. The roads were a mixture of old and new, in various stages of disrepair. Dirt, broken curbs and stones collected in sports along the roads like twigs and leaves along a stream. Surprisingly, the roads themselves were pretty smooth and free of trash.
The buildings were a hodge podge of styles and quality—again like Iraq. Some had crappy walls, good windows, maybe a driveway. The mud and grime went up to every door frame.
Our taxi dropped us at the bottom of an impossibly steep cobblestone street. The hostel was up that way, the driver said. Understandably, the taxi would not be attempting the ascent. Common enough, though, a car would barrel down the slope to the intersection at the hill’s base—faith in brakes, I imagine.
The hostel was great. Stepping through the the small, in-cut wooden door of a much larger gate, we entered a lush, green courtyard that was framed by a two-story array of rooms. The far side of the courtyard led to a mirrored copy of this first half.
The whole complex was like a block-letter figure eight, with the center span’s second floor holding two common-area rooms—one bar and one dining room/lounge, the lounge windows providing quite a view of the entire city, as the hostel was so far high on a hill.
The staff was a mixture of locals, some permanent administrative types and several long-term guests, who worked a number of shifts in exchange for free lodging and a meal a day.
Our room was on the first floor of the center span. The bar was directly overhead—a fact that we didn’t mind at first, as things weren’t generally too loud. However, we’d regret out closeness to the party action in nights to come.