Cusco (sometimes spelt Cuzco) stands at an altitude of 3,400 metres. This is likely to provide problems for many people; you won’t know if you’re one of them until you get there.
The locals swear by coca tea, a drink prepared from leaves of the coca plant (yes this is the same plant that yields cocaine but no it won’t have the same effect and make you talk boll***s to everyone in sight).
I’m not sure if the tea works because it’s hard to say how badly I would have been effected if I hadn’t have taken it. When I expressed an opinion that maybe the coca tea wasn’t working for me there was a gasp of disbelief. Probably I wasn’t drinking it right, they said: ‘you have to get the tea on your tongue’ (is there a way to drink tea without getting it on your tongue then?).
I spent the week a little tired, getting out of breath easily and having to sit down and rest a lot.
Even my computer was not immune to the effects of the altitude. Computers are only guaranteed up to an altitude of around 3,000 metres (the actual figure varies brand to brand but it is around the 3,000 mark). I tried to limit my computer use to around an hour a day, (powering it down after use rather than simply putting it to sleep as I normally do) and I used my tablet more for simple stuff like checking emails. Although she appeared to suffer no ill effects, at least this knowledge made me aware of the need to back everything up more frequently.
Cusco is the most popular tourist destination in Peru, mainly because of its proximity to Machu Picchu. However there are lots of great places to visit closer to the city too, something that left me a little overwhelmed when it came to planning my stay. I am tired of spending entire evenings online, dealing with slow internet speeds whilst trying to research what I want to do next.
In the end I admitted defeat and handed my entire stay over to Emma, who organised my time for me whilst I was there (obviously in return for a huge payment from me, which will probably keep her mortgage going for the rest of the year). She did well though; I extended my stay to seven nights in order to accommodate all her suggestions. It put me well over budget however.
But I think it was money well spent; the guides made a lot of difference to my understanding of the area and I was able to fit a lot more stuff into my time this way.
Cusco gets very cold at night, something that is hard to understand when the days are so warm and sunny. If you want a hotel with heating you have to be willing to pay a lot more for it. I wasn’t. Every evening when I snuggled under the bed covers wrapped in my one sweatshirt, I cursed myself for not paying the extra money. Then when the sun came out again all this was forgotten and I slathered on the sun block.
Whilst we’re talking about the negatives, the constant stream of people selling stuff is irritating; some of them are very persistent, and at the beginning of the week when I was constantly sitting down to catch my breath I was a sitting target for them. Some of the stuff is nice and there are good prices to be had if you like to haggle a bit, but I don’t shop. I have enough to carry already.