With my connecting flight less than five hours away, I cleared immigration and proceeded to the LAN check-in area. Adjacent to the ticket counters were about a dozen self-check-in machines. I quickly checked myself in, selected a seat (only middle seats available), and printed my boarding pass.
I had considered staying the night at the airport Ramada across the street, but I am glad I elected not to—especially with the delay in Bogota. I walked upstairs, paid the departure tax (about 10 USD for domestic flights), and went through the security check. Like in Bogota and Mexico City, my shoes stayed on which made the process much quicker.
Moments later I selected a quiet row of chairs to camp out on for a few hours, set three alarms on my mobile phone, and promptly fell asleep. I was awakened at 0400 and saw the gate area I was snoozing at had filled with people. I gathered my belongings and trekked over to my Cusco gate, only a few hundred paces away. Although the gate area was crowded, I stretched out over three seats and fell asleep for another hour and a half.
I never heard my alarm go off, but at 0520 I awoke and noticed that most people had lined up to board. LAN Peru boards from back to front. I was in row 12 so I did not rush to get in line. After the line diminished a bit, I got in line and was warmly greeted by a LAN gate agent as she scanned my boarding pass.
Lima (LIM) – Cusco (CUZ)
LAN Peru 123
Seat 12B, Economy Class
1 hr, 20 min
I settled into my middle seat (ugh) on board and found legroom was tight, but no worse than most carriers’ Economy seat pitch. The flight was only scheduled to be about an hour so I did not even bother to pull out my book—I was still yawning and hoped to get a bit more sleep.
Once airborne, a beverage service followed by a small snack was served. The snack included a package of salty pita crackers and a piece of sweet breakfast bread. Not bad at all.
We landed early in Cusco and I smiled, knowing that I finally made it to my first destination. Aggressive travel agents were busy soliciting me and other passengers to step into their shops in the baggage area, but I proceeded directly out where I was greeted by a dozen taxi drivers wanting to take my bags—and my money. I walked off the airport premises and hailed a taxi across the street. We agreed on a price—$2—to drive my to my hostel a few miles away.
After about a 10-minute drive, the driver pulled up in front of the Southern Comfort Hostel and I hopped out. It was only 0800, but I had alerted the hostel when I made my reservation that I would be arriving early. After the hostess made a copy of my passport, I was ushered into my room—a 10-bed dormitory (but hey, it was less than $6/night) and given a choice of upper or lower. As I usually do at hostels, I chose upper. I had set aside the first half of the day for catching up on sleep so after unpacking a few things, I curled up under the covers and took a nice six-hour nap. This was my vacation after all…
I awoke at 1400, picked up a map from the front desk, and began exploring Cusco. The pictures below illustrate much of what I saw, but I must admit I fell prey to a tricky art salesman near Cusco’s central plaza (Plaza De Armas). As is usually the case, salesmen first accost you by wanting to know where you are from and how long you are staying. Then the products pop out. Milton was selling “his” artwork for a “very good price” because “business has not been so good.”
I listened to his sales pitch for a bit and said thanks but no thanks, but he continued to follow me and almost beg me for business (as did a young shoe shiner and a lady selling finger puppets). Knowing that I needed a couple of gifts to take home, I decided I might as well get them from Milton. I selected two pieces of artwork and asked him for a price. He responded by asking how much I wanted to pay. I responded back instructing him to make me an offer. He responded by asking me how much I wanted to pay. I chuckled and said, “Milton. How much for these two.” He said $150 (not 150 soles [3 soles = 1 USD]).
I laughed and stared to walk away. Milton pleaded with me, “You tell me the price. If it is too low, I will tell you. Come on. How much you want to pay?” I said I would give him $20 for both pieces. I sensed a gleam in his eyes (I guess I bid too much), but he responded that he could not accept such a low price, and provided a counter-offer of $35. We went back and forth for about ten minutes and finally settled on $25. Did I pay too much? Probably, but that’s part of the travel experience.
After my self-guided photo tour, I stopped at a little pizza parlor and had a delicious pizza for about $1.25. The pizza, topped with ham, cheese, and oregano had a six-inch diameter and was served with a syrupy fruit juice. I was still hungry so I ordered lasagna—at a whopping cost of $4—and waited about a half hour as it was cooked in the wood-burning oven just a few feet away from my table. It was delicious as well and I left the restaurant with a satisfied stomach.
I returned to the hostel, which was rather quiet. There was a “British” pub on the premises and a few Brits were watching a pirated copy of Inglorious Basterds with Russian subtitles in the bar. There was also a computer there so I was able to check my e-mails and get caught up on the latest news. Off to the left was a pool table, just beckoning me over. I enjoy a game of pool and spent the next hour refreshing my skills with anyone who wanted to play.
My train to Machu Picchu would depart at 0730 the next morning so I retired about 2300. I thought I would not be tired after the long nap, but I quickly fell asleep.