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Report 2008: Peru - Land of the Incas

By Paula G. Cullison from Arizona, Summer 2011

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Page 4 of 9: Cusco

photo by Paula G. Cullison

Mother and Child - Cusco

At the airport in Cusco, I was met by Fernando, a representative from the Terra Andina Hotel where I stayed for four nights before Machu Picchu and one night upon my return. I selected this hotel because several years ago I met the hotel director who was attending a travel conference here in Phoenix. I kept her business card ... just in case. The hotel had a lovely enclosed courtyard where breakfast and other meals were served. The staff was very attentive. They asked Fernando to wait in line for me to get the entrance passes for Machu Picchu. What a nice surprise! Mate Coca tea was always available in the Lobby. I drank plenty of tea and also took my altitude pills (diomox), since we were now at an elevation of 10,800 feet. No sense taking a chance!

During my stay in Cusco, I visited the local market and took in the sights. The trolley ride from the Plaza de Armas passed the ruins of Sacsayhuaman to Q’enko where the white statue of Christ oversees the city. This city highpoint gave us a great view of the city below. Housed in the former Admirals Palace, the Museo Inka is filled with objects and information. It was most interesting, for me especially since I met and spoke with the granddaughter of a contemporary weaver whose work was on display. In the courtyard, I saw two Inca women (in their traditional dress) weaving textiles. In Cusco, one has a better chance of seeing people (especially women) wearing their traditional clothing, especially at the local markets.

The Plaza de Armas park in front of the Cathedral had plenty of benches for relaxing and people watching. And that I did! It was certainly the place to meet and greet. I also discovered that the jewelry shops around the perimeter had ATM machines which were never out of currency and the fee was nominal. To be on the safe side, I always use my ATM card when the bank is open (and never on Sunday), just in case the card gets stuck in the machine.

At the hotel, I met people from all over the world coming and going to Machu Picchu. I also met Robert and Daniel, two American businessmen, who were building a hotel (Condor Inca Hotel) across the street. Just to give you an idea of how hospitable and accommodating the Peruvians are, the Terra Andina had given them access to the Internet (which was free to all guests). Robert married a Peruvian woman and left New Jersey to settle in Cusco.

During my stay in Cusco, I needed to do the laundry. Dotted around the city are entrepreneurs with one washer and one dryer who only do laundry. The modest fee is calculated by the kilo. Near the hotel there was such a business. On my way there, I asked a local if they did a good job. With assurance, I walked in. Much to my amazement, a young girl about 9 or 10 years of age took my order. When I asked if her parent was in the back, she said that she was alone. When I returned five hours later to pick up my laundry, her mother was there. I asked why her daughter was not in school. Her reply was that she needed her ‘oldest’ daughter to work, as she also had a five year old and a three month old; both of whom were then at the hovel of a store. I mentioned to her that education was so very important if she wanted her children to do well. I paid and thanked her.

I later learned that although Peru has a stated literacy rate of 70%, it only means that the population reads at the fourth grade level.

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