A very rude 3:15 am wake-up call prepares us for a 3:45 pick-up for our flight to Lima. Nick actually had a decent sleep but Jake is like a cranky teenager. There are other passengers in our minivan today (same tour company) who have just returned from Peru and are raving about their experience. This lightens our spirits considerably as we get more excited for this final leg of our journey! We leave Quito about 45 minutes delayed due to foggy weather (not uncommon for Quito) and therefore arrive late into Lima and end up running for our connecting flight to Cusco (had to claim baggage, pass customs, recheck bags etc!) As we approach Cusco from the air, you get a sense of the altitude change as the ground extends up to meet the plane instead of the other way around!! Cusco is at 11,000 feet and nestled between the Andes peaks. We are greeted at the airport to a swarm of tour operators, vendors and big bowls of coca leaves for altitude sikness. I have been very worried about how we would react to the altitude as I've heard from some people that it can hit as soon as the plane doors open. Luckily, we are feeling fine apart from being a little breathless. We are met at the airport by our new guide Azul who is friendly and enthusiastic. He is born and raised in the area and I find my initial fears regarding Peru put to rest (Note: while in Costa Rica, we received a travel notice warning of non-essential travel to Peru issued by the US embassy. The warning was since dropped and therefore we decided to proceed with our plans). Ayul takes us to our hotel and then takes us for an orientation walk around the city centre. Like all colonial (Spanish) towns that we have visited, the city centre is built around a large public park/plaza with a large cathedral at one end and a mix of restaurants, cafes and shops surrounding the perimeter. The plaza is charming and the overall setting is further enhanced by the mountain vistas in every direction. Ayul tells us that it is best to have a light dinner to minimize the affects of the high altitude so we have an early dinner and head back to our hotel to catch up on some sleep!
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