I've been back from my adventure to Peru for about a week and a half. I've been back for almost as long as I was there for but it felt like I had been there for way longer than two weeks and no it didn't have to do with it taking me three days to get back... more on that later.
What can I say about Cusco? The first thing that comes to mind I have already mentioned in a previous post but it is the first thing that let's you know you are in Cusco. As soon as you get off the plane you must learn to breath with your entire diaphragm. The air is thin and dry and us, Americans or just people from lower elevations have wimpy diaphragms. We are spoiled and don't even have to think about breathing deeply all the time. Singers might be an exception but they have to build up that strength. I would think Peruvians already have that in place. :) I don't know if people ever fully get used to it but it would definitely take much longer than two weeks...
Another part of Cusco that I'm noticing a pattern in pretty much every country I've been to, the traffic is crazy. They seem to have a few more traffic laws that are actually followed than in say, Cairo but not much. It's really entertaining to drive or walk around cities like Cusco and just watch the traffic flow. Buses are nuts! The driver drives and the caller tells him when to stop. The caller jumps out of the bus to let passengers off and on and take their money. Often times the bus has already started to drive away by the time the caller jumps back on. They shout out a long stream of all the major stops they will be making as they drive by or make a stop at a bus stop. I never could understand anything they said as they talked so fast! I finally on the last two days before I left was able to recognize landmarks around my stop and learned how to ask them to stop at Sol De Oro. Baha Sol De Oro I would say! They whip around traffic circles and stop and start so quickly it's enough to make me want to throw up! And of course amidst it all, there is no need to yield to pedestrians so, if you're walking watch out! I almost got hit twice in one day, and then that evening I promised myself I was going to pay more attention while going to cross the street (what can I say, I'm a country girl). I was walking with Chris and Brook and talking and carrying two bags in my hands and I literally fell off the curb and into the road. Thankfully there was no one coming and Brook quickly snatched me up. So much for paying more attention! Thank you God for protecting me and thank you Brook for taking care of the newbie... ;)
And then there's the markets. One of my favorite places to be no matter where I am. Most of the time, they smell rancid of rotting vegetables in street or raw meat and fish. Yes, it is as gross a smell as it sounds. But they are so full of life! There are so many things to look at and different kinds of people milling about making their purchases. The market I went to most often was a couple of blocks from the school. Emily and I went a few times. I love trying new fruits that we don't have and I never cease to be amazed at how much better watermelon is anywhere but in America. (Mom, even you might like it...) The first fruit I tried in Peru was the granadilla (see photo from previous post). The Rabers call them the booger fruit cause the insides literally look like someone hocked a lugy into the shell like yellow fruit. Passion fruit actually looks more disgusting inside than a granadilla but they taste very similar. If you can close your eyes slurp it in ignoring the texture, the flavor is a burst of acidic sweet and sour. The seeds add a bit of a crunch, kind of like a pomegranate seed. So delicious! And then their little red fruits that look like cherries but taste a bit like a plum Also really yummy! Football sized avocados galore, fruit I had never seen before and don't know what it's called and more kinds of potatoes and bananas than I would know what to do with. There are so many places selling the same things, how do you pick which one to buy from... I wasn't there long enough to figure that out but I'd imagine people have their vendor of choice. Kind of like regulars in restaurants here.
There's the mountains. Everywhere you look there's a mountain rising up in the background. A few of them have crosses built on the top. Others are speckled with trees but must most are just dried grass from lack of rain and being so close to the sun. The one mountain, Piqol, within this last year caught fire. I don't exactly know how if it was natural or arson or people burning as part of tradition but there is a large section of the mountain that is growing back a beautiful lush green while the rest of the mountain that didn't burn, is it's normal dried green color. At the top of Piqol, the elevation is just shy of 15,000 ft high! I didn't attempt it this time but I did hike/walk to a point where the Cristo Blanco is which felt much more manageable for my short time there. It was a beautiful walk up! There is one snow capped mountain that can be seen from Cusco on clear days. I saw a glimpse of it the day I arrived and I saw it again the last Sunday I was there from where I was outside the city. But was more spectacular than the mountains surrounding Cusco, were the mountains I got to see briefly on my way into the valley. The best way to get to Cusco is to fly unless you want to take 24 hour + bus ride from Lima on a sleeper bus. I had never heard of such a thing but they have full out double decker buses with beds for trips to and from Lima. Flying over this section of Peru was absolutely breathtaking. I'd only seen pictures of mountains like these. Rough green highlands stretched for miles and miles and miles. And miles! There was not a lot of cloud of cover so we could fly lower and at times level with cloud cover that was on either side of our plane. And then, rising majestically above the clouds, would be the rugged peak of a snow cap jutting through the clouds. It is strange to look at the window of an airplane and have the top of a mountain be level with your window, or even higher than your window instead of clear blue sky above and clouds below you. Unfortunately I did not have my camera so you'll just have to Google image search snow caps in Peru...( I promise they will not do it justice). When I saw mountains that big and beautiful, it gave me a whole new perspective on just how big and beautiful and mighty our God is. He created those mountains which means He is a whole lot bigger and so creative! It gives a whole new meaning to the verse from the New Testament that says, if you have faith as big as a mustard seed you can move mountains. How little faith we must all have cause I don't know of any believer of Jesus who has ever moved a mountain. But you catch my drift; God is capable of sooo much more than we give Him credit for or have faith in.