That equation probably looks as confusing as some of us feel from jetlag and altitude sickness. Have you ever felt like altitude entered your soul like lead? Maybe it’s just me!
We drink a lot of water and Mate Coca. The Coca leaves (the tea helps relieve altitude sickness) float in the tea cup and we have some time to reflect. Cusco is shockingly comfortable to me. I’m not sure why. It is a city built into the hills. There are lots of brick buildings and this reminds me of my house, but not of a city. So what exactly is it? We certainly do not have the traditional Incan rock walls lining streets back home, which are wicked cool by the way.
But for now, the equation consists of the numbers of our flights and after much travel, Spanish chatting, throwing up, and temporarily misplaced luggage we finally reach our equal sign: we are in Peru.
My first impressions of this trip were really formed while sitting in the airport in San Salvador, feeling the sun on my face for the first time in months and trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was in a different country. I’ve been on so many planes in my life, but there was something mesmerizing about flying into another country for the first time. Everything was so surreally picturesque through the tiny airplane window. The clouds were perfectly fluffy on top, flat on the bottom, levitating over the landscape like a Dali painting. I couldn’t help feeling like an alien.
The feeling intensified upon entering Lima – I saw familiar things, but they were just different enough to disorient and overwhelm me. It was only once we had arrived in Cusco that I felt my sense of adventure begin to awaken, and I felt less like an alien wandering the winding cobblestone streets.
The excitement for what was to come overshadowed the grueling experience of a long day of traveling. It first began to feel like reality as we flew from Lima to Cusco, over the majestic and diverse Andes mountains. The landscape was unlike anything that could be seen in the States. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Andes mountains among the steep cliffs, exposed rock and scattered vegetation, the city looked just how I wanted it to.
It was a pleasant mix of more old than new; Spanish colonial architecture on top of massive stone Inca ruins. Among the crumbling infrastructure and poor neighborhoods, the narrow cobblestone alleyways and unexpected wide expanses of mountain landscapes above the shallow city skyline were awe-worthy and inviting. Everywhere we looked, there was an image worth capturing. I felt that I was in the perfect place as the sun soothed my exhausted body and the cool breeze made me feel more awake than I have felt in ages, even after only an hour of sleep the night before.