The elevation of Cusco is 3,399 metres above sea level.
The elevation of New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki /Mount Cook is 3,724metres. The only concern we had was whether we would succumb to the effects of altitude sickness which entails headaches and vomiting for which you can get at both altitudes.
By the time we scaled up the five flights of stairs to reach the airbnb accommodation, our elevation in Cusco was higher again and we were certainly breathless!
We got our airbnb host Naya out of bed. So too her Australian friend Bronty. That was after we buzzed every apartment because we couldn’t remember the apartment number so decided to use initiative and buzz them all hoping one would answer with a warm welcome “Hola” and click open the apartment entrance door.
Naya served us up a cup of Coca tea. Hot water infused with raw dried leaves from the coca plant. The herbal tea is native to South America and when consumed, it helps with altitude. Yay, our first try at a drug because if you tried to bring the tea back into New Zealand, you receive the rubber glove treatment from NZ’s border security.
We think it was working as our breathing returned to normal inhales and exhales. Either that or we were high and not from the altitude neither!
We met a brother and sister from Brazil who were airbnbing it at Naya’s as well. And Bronty was from Australia so it was a multi-national cross pollination of elevator pitch conversation. More sips of the coca tea and we had the world pecking order sorted out!
There was no hallucinating when I went to take a shower to realise I didn’t pack any extra pairs of underpants. I only had the ones on I was wearing. And they were two and a bit days worth of wear. Which was a second concern. Going ‘comando’ (not wearing any) at this altitude would have shriveled anatomy already wrinkling. Fortunately, Claire loaned me a pair. The things we do to make the best of a situation, moving right along.
We retired for some shut eye. Six hours later, still no effects of elevation and perhaps still the effects of the herbs. We needed to stretch the legs and so Naya gave us directions to a shopping centre and so, off we trod.
Dwellings were a combination of urban cosmopolitan and shanty. There isn’t a maintenance plan to upgrade uneven surfaces – whether footpath or roads. Dog shit lies where if fell from a dog’s arse and sometimes a pack approached so pretending to throw a stone deterred getting rabies. Traffic was manic and the smell of dumped litter from a condensed population was evident. The citizens of Peru are short and we think we saw our taxi driver from the airport over 100 times since exiting our abode.
The last paragraph was by no means a criticism. It was what we experienced in the twenty minutes it took us to reach the Mall. More importantly, with open mindedness, there is beauty in the genuine rawness of another countries heart. It helped us to bend our belief system away from the one we left behind a couple of days ago.
Except we found in the Mall itself, a so westernized world with all the brands and label shops. It seemed out of place yet, we had to maneuver so as not to have a head on with hordes of people shopping, it was crazy. I too found the stand in a shop to purchase half a dozen pairs of undies. A label I’d not heard of before.
The dark purple coloured corn in the fruit bins of the supermarket had us wondering. Soon, we were to be told it’s purpose.
But first, there was getting back out of the Mall and into the real world.
Did I mention that the toilet paper used to wipe one’s bum is placed into a bin beside the toilet itself. Only the poo’s and wee’s get flushed. With practice, the habit with come.
We certainly didn’t want responsibility for backing up that system!