We landed in Cusco two days ago and it feels that we have already packed a short lifetime into 48 hours. One can’t help but marvel at the Incan majesty of Cusco. The cobble-stone streets line the wonders of this ancient place. In this high altitude city, you will find a melting pot of cultures represented in the textiles, summer festivals, and archeological ruins.
We have been introduced to our mountain guide Rony Camasa who we believe has been directed to test the limits of our physical abilities as we prepare and acclimate for our high altitude climbs in the Andes. We climbed the Chinchero Ruins located high up on the windswept plains of the Sacred Valley at 12,500 feet. Chinchero is said to be the birthplace of the rainbow. The view at the top overlooks the snow-capped Andean peaks on the Western horizon. We also trekked the Pisac ruins which are situated at the eastern end of the Sacred Valley. The Pisac ruins are considered to be one of the finest remaining Inca archeologic sites in Peru. This hilltop citadel lies on a triangular plateau with plunging gorges on either side. We are not sure if we are more terrified by the site lines of the gorges or the accelerated beat of our hearts and the sound of our heaving lungs that are not adequately equipped for this altitude as we ascend into the ruins. For some of us, the self-doubt about our physical ability to tackle the next few days begins to creep in again.
After lacing up our hiking boots and doing the hard work we were rewarded with food. We ate at Chicha, owned by world-renowned Chef “Gaston.” One knows a chef is famous when they are recognized by just their first name. Some of us tested our personal grit by stretching our cultural bandwidth by ordering the local specialties like alpaca steaks, and cuy, more commonly known as guinea pig, but candidly most of us stuck with more traditional items like roasted chicken. Over meals, there is talk of the physical challenges on the ruins and Kim reminds us that she has taken over 500 people on the Inca Trail and that everyone who started the trek, finished the trek on their own two feet.
Tomorrow we will rise early and be transported deeper into the Andes to the trailhead of the famed Inca Trail.