Thursday, July 17, 2008


Puerto Maldonado to Cusco is only a 30 minute flight, but drops you into an entirely different world; a semi-desert about 12000ft above sea level. The first thing that hits you is a certain shortness of breath while schlepping through the terminal. The second is the kangaroos: Cusco has a reputation as the pickpocket capital of Peru, and some guides have been suggesting that tourists wear their backpacks in front to discourage slashers.

We didn’t really have a problem, except for an almost comical incident where a 10 year old boy tried to grab a camera. When the owner didn’t relinquish it, he dropped on the floor and hand an angry crying fit.

This is not to say that it might not be a problem; the rich touristy parts and the slum-like areas where the refugees from the 1990s civil war reside are only a few blocks apart.

And the gulf between rich and poor is huge. We managed to get a professor from the university as tour guide—he does the work because he makes more in a half-day of guiding than in a month on his normal salary ($200/month). So yeah, we tended not to o out alone at night.

I somehow imagined Cusco a bit more grand and Incan, but since the Spanish build all their buildings on Inca foundations, so except for the huge mortar less walls, many things are somewhat hidden.

The hotel for example went from 8 feet of Inca walls on the ground floor to Spanish colonial on the higher walls.

Another thing that cut the Incan flair, but at the same time probably decreased the crime rate, is that the Peruvian government banned street vendors from the main square a few years ago. Now all of the crafts vendors are down in a huge warehouse a half hour walk away. We went down there on the second day and stocked up on amazingly cheap hats, belts, scarves, and pendants. Some obviously went a bit over the edge.

Tip for the future: buy clothing items here, but artisan stuff in Pisac. The quality and choice is much better.

Still somewhat unable to get Quechan food: Peruvians seem to live of pasta, fries, grilled chicken and … . On the whole trip, we ate maybe three of the 4000 different kinds of potatoes and quinoa.

No comments: