Immediately after Tony and I sat down in our airplane seats, he asked, “So how long is this flight?”
“I have no idea,” I said with a chuckle. “Somewhere between five and eight hours.” Six and half later, we touched town in Lima, Peru. It was 12:30 am and we had a 5:30 am flight to Cusco, so we had decided before we left that we would just sleep in the airport that night. There was a lounge – Sumaq Lounge – that we had planned to get into and use for the night. However, once we were shuffled through customs and immigration, there was no way back and we couldn’t re-enter security for a few more hours.
I had read that there was a pharmacy outside of security, so we made a quick stop to pick up some altitude medication. My sister, Julie, is a nurse practitioner and had advised us on what we needed. They didn’t have the specific drug though and we took the advice of the pharmacist working on what we could take instead. It’s been a few days and we’ve been to about 13,000 feet, with no signs of altitude sickness, so either the placebo effect is stronger than ever or the pharmacist gave us some good meds.
Exhausted from a full day of work and travelling, we waited patiently until we were able to clear security for our domestic flight to Cusco. We found a very small lounge that cost $25 to enter. A few minutes of debating and we decided that it seemed like a good place to sleep. In other words, the floor was cleaner in the lounge than the rest of the airport. We paid our way in, had a Pisco Sour (the very famous Peruvian drink), and I found two bean bag chairs in the child’s play section. I had ‘borrowed’ the blanket and pillow from the airplane, knowing that I would need them in the airport. I settled in on the bean bags, set my alarm, and made myself comfortable for the next few hours. When I woke, the lounge was packed with travellers and it was time for us to go.
The flight to Cusco was uneventful. We were meeting Julie, who had been hiking in Peru for the previous two weeks. We found our hostel where she was staying and checked in before heading out to grab breakfast. It was about 7 am, and we couldn’t get into our hostel until 1 pm. At this point in time, Tony and I were like walking zombies, but as it always does, adrenaline takes over and we spent the morning catching up and exploring the city center. It is a beautiful city full of hills and cafes and culture.
We entered a market to look at the souvenirs. It was a long hallway in a dark and cold church-like building. We didn’t think much of it and the people seemed friendly. Towards the end of the corridor there were three steps. Just as I was getting ready to ask Tony to pull me up, I looked to the top and saw a casket. An open casket with a man staring into it. It was surrounded by flowers, and as I started reading the messages on the flowers, it occurred to me that here in the market, at the end of the shopping, was someone’s wake. It was completely unattended and one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever run into. We left shortly after this, realizing we probably stumbled into the wrong market.
As the morning drifted away, so did our energy. It was close to 1 pm and we knew we could get into our hostel. Tony and I had never stayed in a hostel, but my sister had been travelling for weeks and raved about how cheap and convenient they were. I loved the idea of paying only $10 or $15 a night to sleep. So, I decided early on that I was going to give this budget travel concept a try. I budgeted about $200 for lodging for the week we would be in Peru. We haven’t finished the trip yet, but I think we’re going to stay close to budget!
The room we were in had eight beds – fours sets of bunk beds. I grabbed my eye mask and ear plugs and passed out for hours. Julie woke Tony and I around dinner time and we headed out to find some grub. We had seen a woman with alpacas (very common in Peru) earlier that day and Tony discovered that they used alpacas for their fur (it’s very cold in the Andes mountains and alpaca fur is incredibly warm) and for their meat. He was on a mission to try some alpaca meat. We found a restaurant nearby and all his food dreams were answered. He says alpaca tastes like beef but saltier (for any of you that are curious).
We had an early morning the next day, so we went back to the hostel and had a drink (the hostel had a bar and each guest was allotted one free drink). Tony also ordered some tequenos – another common Peruvian food. They are wontons filled with cheese and dipped in guacamole.
I was a little worried about how the night would go in the hostel with eight people coming in and out. But I slept amazing. It felt like 4-H camp, all these strangers crammed in one room with the same mission – to see the world. People came and went the whole night, but everyone was incredibly respectful and tried their best to keep quiet. My alarm went off at 6:00 am. I walked to the other side of the room, nudged Tony, and told him it was time to go. He reached to the top bunk and woke Julie. We grabbed our pre-packed bags out of our lockers and headed to the community bathroom. I found a bench where I set my bag down. Just as I was ripping my leggings of and pulling my jeans on, I realized there was a man facing a urinal right next to me.
I brushed my teeth and threw some water on my face. Our train to Aguas Calientes, the last town before Maccu Picchu, would be leaving soon.