When I arrived in Lima, Peru I had an agenda: find Christy. The plan was to meet during layovers in Lima then fly to Cusco. As luck would have it, Christy decided to stop and get coffee at the precise place I decided to turn a corner in the airport. She was sipping a latte (or some such contraption), reading her Kindle, when I spotted her. Woot! Vacation had begun. We talked and plotted, then boarded a plane for one last flight.
One might think two normally clean girls would want to shower and remove the grime of 24 hours of travel once arriving at their intended destination. But. We’re special. We arrived in Cusco, headed to the hostel and dropped our bags (Hostal Mallqui: super cute, nice staff, highly recommended). We knew if we took the time to settle in, we would likely get tired and not want to leave. So. Donning the clothes we had been wearing since leaving our homes the previous day, we wandered into the city. (But, hey, the dirty clothes part — that’s just between you and I. Okay?)
As soon as I walked into the city, my little heart was smitten. I took pictures of wooden doors and old stone streets and archways and big blue skies. My camera kept clicking. There was character around every corner.
After a while of walking we realized we were famished and found a restaurant called Good Chicken. We sat down and stared at the menu. It was in Spanish. Have I mentioned my Spanish is, well, appalling? It is. We proceeded to take out the travel Spanish book I ordered on Amazon prior to the trip and began to translate. After watching us for a good ten minutes, the waitress took pity and handed us English menus. Note to self: always request the English menu.
We ate. We talked. We laughed. And then we headed out for more wandering. Thousands of people gathered at Plaza de Armas — men in red cloaks, suits, hats. People carried musical instruments. Priests gathered. Unaware of the festivities, we surmised this likely wasn’t your average Monday afternoon. We later learned we had entered Cusco during their yearly festival, Senor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes), celebrated the Monday before Easter each year in commemoration of the devastating earthquake of 1650.
We soon looked up to see the sky going dark. The blazing sun of the afternoon was being replaced by heavy clouds. We took notice, yet kept going. Christy’s from Seattle. I think we can handle a little rain. We wandered through a craft market, window shopping. Thunder rumbled. Emerging from the market, the deluge began. Rain fell from the sky in sheets. We watched from an overhang as people ran from the streets, seeking cover. We repeated our mantra, we’re not afraid of a little rain, and walked to the street. Okay. Maybe the rain is a bit much. We sought a new overhang. Caught up in the flow of people seeking refuge, we found ourselves entering a cathedral. The crowd shoved and pushed and we nearly thought we’d be trampled. To be trampled in a church — something about that seems terribly wrong. Anyhow, priests ushered us inside. We scrambled through the crowd and found a seat amongst the thousands of others. But our attention spans are short. After a few minutes, we decided to try our luck. Surely the rain had subsided a bit. Or it would soon. Against the warnings of a nearby priest, we pulled up our hoods and found ourselves, yet again, in the open, in the rain.
My feet wore flip-flop sandals, the sole worn to a smooth surface. Every few feet, I slipped on the stone walkway. I walked slowly and deliberately, which unfortunately added to the amount of water my clothes took in. Water rushed down the streets, turning Cusco into a river of sorts. We wandered the streets, soggy photocopied map in hand, searching for the hostel. Some time later, we arrived and rang the buzzer for the staff to open the glass doors in front. They rushed to the doors, looked at the two travelers dressed in water and cotton, laughed, and led us inside.
We promptly walked to our room, took the longest, hottest showers the hostel would afford and ordered a heater.
Welcome to Cusco.