Traveling to Cusco – a firsthand report

Shannon Hughes of Helena, MT, just moved to Cusco Peru, where she will live for the next 6 months or so. She is currently working for one of our travel suppliers, Peru Sur Nativa. She has also offered to share her reports on our blog. Here is her first post about her travels to Cusco:

so here i am.  in cusco.  one leg of the epic solo travel completed, and now the real epic begins.  i am in love with my bike and can´t imagine screaming down the downhill singletrack in this area on a bike i dont trust.  that being said, lugging a giant bike box in addition to a large backpack and a mid size day pack, on and off a train, up and down the stairs of a hostel (several) times, in to a taxi at 4am and then through several stages of airport security may have been the biggest pain in the arse ever…ever.  something to keep in mind for fellow travelers considering bringing similar gear: delta charged me $200 for an oversized luggage fee.  i will definitely be riding that beast as often as i´m able.

i slept most of the flight from pdx to atlanta, and some of the leg from atlanta to lima, and spent from 12am to 5am awake in the lima airport afraid that i would sleep through the boarding call for my flight.

if you never spend any time exploring peru, i would have to say the flight from lima to cusco would make it all worth it alone.  the morning in lima was typical from what i understand.  the air has a similar claustrophobic feel to seattle in the winter plus an added layer of unregulated diesel exhaust grime.  yum yum.

the airplane began climbing out of the clouds around 515am, as the sun was beginning to rise over the inverted cloud_haze layer that covers the city.  at first it looks like a pearlish glow over a lower sea of clouds until small ripples of mountain ridges appear here and there.  soon the ripples extend into what look like islands with inlets for the cloud tides to rush in and out.  as the sunrise becomes more vidvid the ridge lines become sharper and snowcovered in the middle of what otherwise resembles a moonscape _ sharp serrated ridges pocked by craters on brown earth.  as you approach cusco things become more surreal altogether.  the mountain ridges are razor sharp and drop thousands of meters to the patchwork green and terra cotta valleys below.  the snow capped andes are so tall and steep that your stomach drops even looking at them from a plane. mountains of different shapes and sizes are all you can see as far as the horizon extends the descent into the cusco valley is quick and gives a last minute bird´s eye view of the lush hillsides that have been terraced for farming for centuries sloping down into an ancient city that is now host to 350,000 people living in terra cotta tiled buildings on cobble stoned streets.  i will most likely never attempt driving here.  it´s kind of like people just close their eyes, grit their teeth, and use the horn a lot to let other people know they will in fact be taking that lane…now.
so, again, here i am.  safe and sound.  waiting for the guide i´ll be working for to arrive and get this ball rolling.