Cusco / Qosqo

Coming from Puerto Maldonado where tourism seemed a minority industry, it was quickly apparent upon arrival into Cusco (or Qosqo to the Incas) that this was a major destination on the international traveller circuit. Not that the city traffic authorities have made any concessions to international sensibilities as oversized 4x4s and even medium sized buses charged down narrow cobbled streets with pavements barely two foot widths wide!

Apart from the crazy traffic, the other reason that it is hard to get around Cusco is the lack of oxygen in the air. At 3300m, the air pressure here is less than what you experience in an aeroplane cabin (2500m approximately). Arriving mid-afternoon from near sea level our tour leader immediately sent us all to bed to help our bodies acclimatise, and after an exciting few days in the rainforest we found that an afternoon nap came quite easily.

Capital of the Inca Empire, (which they called Tawantinsuyu, meaning “Four Provinces” in the Quechua language), the Spanish converted the Incan temples and palaces to churches, although the colonial stone work is no where near as fine, or earthquake resistant. The pretty main square is dominated by the Cathedral, which appears to have been decorated in European style, but upon closer inspection you see many references and symbols associated with the Incan beliefs. However while interesting the admission fee was somewhat expensive, which made it feel like poor value compared to Qorichancha, a Dominican Priory where recent earthquakes have destroyed some of the colonial buildings revealing a large Incan temple complex which now co-exists as a museum alongside the Priory.

While in Cusco we also tried the lucuma fruit. With a texture a bit like potato in its raw form, it is not sweet enough to drink as juice on its own but with a little honey and milk mixed in it becomes a divine and highly addictive drink!