Day 1 — Cusco Here We Come

Friday — April 3

The Airbus 319 that is taking us to Cusco is only half-full. Once the doors were closed, I moved to Row 23, leaving our assigned seats in Row 19 to Mui. We’re back to the reality of coach travel; no more spacious seats for us until we are aboard the flight that will be returning us to the US in 14 days’ time. In the meantime, being able to spread out helps and I can comfortably work on this blog entry.

We could have used a few more hours of shut eye when the wake up call came at 5:30a, but like the good travelers that we are, we got up and started preparing for the day ahead. By 6:30a, we were in the lobby, partaking of the breakfast included in the price of our room. The buffet was fairly lackluster, but we weren’t very hungry anyway. After exchanging the free pisco sour coupons we’d been given at check-in for a couple of bottles of water, we made our way back across the connecting bridge to the airport terminal.

With our online check-in boarding passes in hand, we made our way to the bag drop off counter. The LAN agent didn’t blink an eye at the weight of our bags — two days earlier, and we might have had to pay a charge, but as of April 1, domestic passengers are authorized two pieces each for a total of 50 lbs (23 kg). That task taken care of, we moved onto the next one. In Perú, departure taxes are not included in the airfare, so we headed off to pay the aeropuerto tarifa (airport fee). Mui whipped out the first of four envelopes I had prepared for these fees before leaving home and soon we were on our way with a couple of centavos for the difference between the actual fee and the $12 payment we made. Once we were through security, we had a very short wait at the gate. Before we knew it, we were onboard LP 73, winging our way towards Cusco.

A quarter of the 50-minute flight is already over. That we have snacks to munch on is a reminder that we’re not flying a US carrier. The take-off from Lima did not afford any scenic views — the city was blanketed by smog. That’s OK; we made up for the lackluster departure scenery as soon as we left the city behind. I was surprised by the rolling, verdant mountains and valleys dotted with the red roofs of settlements, rivers snaking throughout. I guess I was expecting a more alpine-like scenery.

I didn’t have to wait long for my scenery expectations to be met. In fact, I can barely take the time to type as my eyes are constantly being drawn to the Andean landscape that is spread out against brilliant blue skies dotted with puffy, white clouds. The mountains are downright spectacular — jagged peaks crowned with snow; glaciers flowing down from mountain tops; emerald green lakes glinting in the sun. There is quite a bit of terminal moraine as well — evidence that many of the glaciers are in retreat. One mountain is particularly impressive. I can’t help but wonder if it might be Salcantay, the 38th highest peak in the Andes and the 12th highest in Perú. From the looks of it, it certainly fits the bill. Maybe Vidal can help me identify it.

Spectacular Andean scenery en route to Cusco.

The Andean peaks disappeared as suddenly as they appeared. The snow-capped mountains have been replaced with verdant valleys and a patchwork of farmland. There are a great many switchback roads running up to the highlands. I just might need my Dramamine as we drive around these roads! I’ve been so looking forward to this trip. The scenery I’ve enjoyed in the last 30 minutes has just whetted my appetite for exploring Perú.

We’re on final approach into Cusco. Houses and all kinds of other structures are clustered everywhere. From the air, this town looks to be much bigger than I expected. In a little bit, I’ll be finding out if that’s the case from the ground as well … more later.

On final approach to landing in Cusco.

Next Up: Day 1 — Laundry Time!?!

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely gorgeous shot on top! I also flew to Cuzco from Lima, but there were too many clouds.