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Sunday 25th April - Dallas to Lima
By Claire
Thursday, 29th April 2004 17:12

We checked out of the hotel at 12, took a taxi to the airport and hung around until we were allowed to board at about 4. Dallas airport is big and boring, we had a sandwich and just sat and read for a bit. The flight was 7 hours long, the film was one we'd seen, so I read for a bit and dozed. We arrived in Lima at midnight.

The biggest reason for coming to Peru was to walk up the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu, and we didn't know how long we'd have to wait for a tour to take us there, and what sort of organising it would take. It was also recommended that we spend a coupleof days acclimitising to the altitude, so we decided to go straight to Cuzco, the town where all the tours were organised. We'd get a flight in the morning, so that way we could work out how much time we'd need where.

Customs and immigration took very little time, and we emerged into the arrivals hall to be greeted by hundreds and hundreds of people waving placards with names on them. It's one of my ambitions to be met at an airport by someone withmy name on a sign! But we hadn't booked anything, and we were looking for an airport hotel. We ignored all the shouting people and tried to battle our way through the crowd. Then a lady grabbed us, realising that we didn't really know what was going on, and tried to book us into a hotel. The little tourist office at the arrivals gate was only big enough for a couple of people, and there were five in there already and someone's luggage trolley, which meant I had to relay everything the lady said to Mikey, outside with out luggage. The next flight to Cuzco was at 6am, and it was now about 12.30, so we decided to wait in the airport rather than get a taxi to a hotel for a couple of hours and then come back. The lady led us to another lady who took us to the tiny office of an airline called Tanns Peru, which was the other side of the airport.

Lima smelled of fish. It was quite nasty. I don't know if that's normal, or just the airport, but it was very fishy. We paid for our flights, about $60 each, and then went to wait in the airport again. It seemed like a good idea, but there were no chairs anywhere and the air conditioning was being taken out, so it was warm and fishy and not very comfortable. We found an internet cafe and mailed a few people, then sat around on our bags for a bit. There were a whole bunch of backpackers sleeping on the floor, something I'm hoping that I won't resort to! At 4am we could check in for our flight, and by 5 we were waiting in another departure lounge.We boarded the plane at 5.30, and landed in Cuzco at 7am. Once again the tour guides were out in force, and we were accosted by a very determined lady. We needed a hostel quite soon, and she offered to show us a couple so we accepted. We liked the first one she showed us, so we agreed to let her send someone round to talk to us about tours later, and checked in. The owner of the hotel was really nice, she made us some coca tea and let us sleep.

Cuzco is about 3700m above sea level and it takes a while to get used to the altitude. Coca leaves, the plant from which cocaine can be made, is used in tea (leaves in hot water, tastes like straw) and is considered an effective remedy toaltitude sickness and stomache problems and colds and virtually everything. We hardly drank anything, but, when someone knocked on the door at 1.30 and woke us up, we felt a lot better.

He was a guy from the tourist office who wanted to organise our stay in Peru. And, after an hour and a half, he had. I know that it would have been cheaper to go round the five thousand tour operators in town and compare prices, and to hire camping gear from someone and book other things in other places, but it was a lot easier this way. We will be climbing up to Machu Picchu on Friday, all our camping gear and food will be provided and carried by porters, we have tours of the Sacred Valley and the city organised, flights to Nazca to see the lines, hotels booked everywhere and a day or so in Lima when we've finished. Having paid for it all, we went for a walk around the town.

Cuzco was the largest city of the Quecha (Inca, although 'Inca' meant 'Quechan King') empire, and apparently the town is laid out in the shape of a puma, but we haven't seen that yet. Our hotel is on the main square, which had catherdrals on several sides and is very pretty. Every shop seems to be an internet cafe or a tour operator, with a few market places thrown in for good measure. If you stand still for more than a couple of minutes someone will come up to you and try to sell you something, and they all speak English which makes it harder to ignore. We had a bit of lunch in a cafe, bought a few souveneirs and wandered some more. We walked very slowly because even stepping up a curb seemed to makeus out of breath, which was strange but funny. It got dark at about 6, and every time a taxi saw us it stopped to offer us a lift. It was very hard work refusing everything all the time! We eventually got back to the hotel, Mikey found HBO on the telly and was happy for a couple of hours and I fell asleep!

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