These are just three of the many new things that I have discovered
during my first week in Peru. Ceviche is a delicious national food
composed of a type of fish served mixed in with vegetables and plenty
of lime juice to create an overwhelming flavor. The coca plant, which
may carry a bad connotation in the US given that it can be turned into
cocaine (which we have been told is an arduous and expensive process
out of the capabilities of most Peruvians), is an everyday normality
for most Cusqueñians. While the taste is undoubtedly an acquired one,
mate de coca (coca tea) is served with every meal at my homestay and
is an effective remedy for altitude sickness, which has struck all of
us in one form or another. Cusco is a fascinating, colorful, and
diverse city with a rich cultural history and breathtaking sights. On
Wednesday, a few of us hiked up to the top of a hill where one can see
panoramic views of the area for miles. The faded brown of the many
roofs that are clustered together in a dense urban blob fade into the
mountains that dent the horizon.

Speaking of Wednesday, there was a national "paro", or strike, as Sara
mentioned before. Although the strike had significant meaning to many
Peruvians I'm sure, I found a lot of humor in the whole ordeal.
First, some of the streets were blocked off by signs put up by the
"policia de transito" sponsored by Cusqueño, the local beer of choice.
Think Budweiser and the NYPD as business partners... Second, it
seemed to be a holiday rather than a protest, even for the police who
were laughing over the tabloids in their riot gear. Perhaps it had to
do with the apparent fact that it was the fifth such strike in two
months. Finally, as I was pursuing some kind of action on the
streets, I heard a bullhorn from a few blocks away. Yes! I found an
enthusiastic protest, right? Wrong. As I approached, I learned the
bullhorn actually belonged to a chocolate vendor, whose incessant
cries of "Chocolate! Rico chocolate! Dos soles!" was an ingenious
business plan instead. I'm sure thousands of people heard the vendor
on this day, as opposed to being drowned out on a normal day with the
loud and busy streets of Cusco.

We now begin the real adventure part of the trip, starting with a
seven hour bike ride tomorrow (thankfully, mostly downhill) on the
road to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. Although Cusco is a
marvelous city, we are excited to depart and trek through the Sacred
Valley of the Incas! Buenas noches!


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Author Brendan Cooper Posted

Program Peru Departure 2008