Mainly a day of transition to Cusco today so simple stuff really. Included in our group were a young couple, Hayden and Melissa from Moranbah (Queensland - Australia), who had just started their travelling adventures with this trip, an adventure due to pass through America and to end up in England for several months. They had come up with a novel way to ensure everyone knew them early on, firstly Hayden left his wallet at the hotel so our bus had to swing back to pick it up. Not satisfied that the group had paid enough attention the same trick was played out on the plane, leading to Carl to affectionately name him 'dick of the day'. The flight into Cusco was made quite exciting not only by the leaving wallet game but also by virtue of the fact that Cuso while still at a high altitude actually sits in a huge bowl. Our plane just cleared the ridge before turning sharply towards the runway.
Once landed the altitude was instantly noticeable rendering us breathless whenever we tried to do anything fast. Today Cusco is home to 0.5 million people and in the past it was the Inca capital established around 1100 AD. Today there is a heavy influence from the colonial times but still a lot of the street retain remains of Inca stonework. When we arrived it was very bright and sunny so we went for a (slow) stroll to the main square which was beautiful. Lining the square are cafes with balconies and the impressive cathedral, in the middle were fountains. Obviously the tourist trade is bringing in much of the wealth into the town and there was no end to the offers of massages and menus as we strolled around, no doubt looking every bit the new comers to town. Some of the group sloped off to try the local McDonald's but Eleanor and I couldn't quite bring ourselves to head in so ducked next door to the Bhagdad cafe and got a table on the balcony to watch the world drift around the square.
After a brief snooze back at the hotel we went out to eat with our group. One member, Rafael from Brazil who never did quite persuade us that it is a safe place to visit, got a birthday cake for the previous day and the obligatory song. We generously helped him out with eating it which was not the hardship it might sound as it was very good! Carlos and Ebony were another lively Australian couple from Melbourne who were combining visiting Carlos's family in Peru with walking the Inca trail. Diving straight into the spirit of tasting all of life's delights Carlos went straight for the guinea pig. The owner came out with a fried head so he could pose for photos, all quite normal until Carlos kissed it (!) although I'm sure he wasn't the first to pucker up for the show head. With food and drink consumed we headed back to bed surprisingly tired - yet another 'hoilday' spent chasing sleep!