Back on the Road in Peru
There is always a silver lining, or two. One of them from the recent health crisis was that we all had to stop, take a deep breath and reassert how much travel means to us all. Let's face it, life is not tolerable without it. I had been in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, but the pandemic had slammed on the breaks for my Peru trip that was first planned for April of 2020. So it is with great joy that I write this update from the San Cristobal patio, situated on a natural mountain balcony that overlooks the central plaza of Cusco in Peru. Beyond the red tile roofs spread out before me, I can report that everything is back to near normal here.
Yes, masks remain (though spotty now), but the hotels seem to have weathered the storm very well. It was not as easy for our guides, most having to do odd jobs to make ends meet, like Rubén who drove a Cusco municipal bus from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, on narrow colonial streets that not even Job would have patience for.
With joy, I greeted our guides upon arrival in Cusco. On each day activity, I go out with a different guide that takes care of our travelers here in Peru. Each one is a real treat. First up was Rubén for a hike from Chinchero down into the Sacred Valley on an old Inca path. Before setting off we stopped at a street vendor's table who sold Andean instruments and sat with a big llama skin drum between his legs. Without even imagining Rubén was a musician, I asked him if ever tried the Andean panpipe, a seriously hard instrument to play (I cannot even make noise with it). He picked one up off a street seller's table and proceeded to jam on the pan flute for 3 minutes doing a complete song with the music seller keeping time on the llama-skin drum. I was amazed. The song was as spontaneous as it was beautiful. That's Peru, it never ceases to surprise. A famous destination with a world-famous site in Machu Picchu, but so much more.
I have traveled from Lima's gourmet fusion restaurants overlooking the Pacific, to deep into Peru's Amazonia rain forest, mountain biked the Sacred Valley, trekked soaring mountains, tried potato farming, white-water rafted Peru's deepest canyon and tested new regions and routes. I have visited all of our key hotels, slept in most of them, and still have kayaking, camping, and the Oriente Express train to Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, and Arequipa to come.
Drinking a hot chocolate now, as I sit here above Cusco on a sunny patio, I can see right into the central plaza of this classic city, the Rome of the Andes. In fact, I could literally zip-line from this patio onto the roof of the Cathedral if there was one. That would be a spectacular ride, but a bit too steep, creating an arrival speed that would only serve to assure martyrdom upon arrival.