Cusco stands at almost 3,400 meters above sea level and is very dry and cold. At the time of our trip, an airport was being built to facilitate the comings and goings of more tourists, which is bad news in my book. What used to be only territory for those willing to take a long bus ride from Lima or another city, is now wide open for every kind of tourist that can afford it. And, let’s face it, not every tourist is a good one.

Plaza de Armas in Cusco

It was already quite touristy back then, the new airport in Cusco would, I imagine, render the once serene city streets and tranquil mountain hikes afoot with perhaps the obnoxious, entitled western tourist, the litterbug, and the large asian tour group that stops at every statue, trash bin and butterfly to snap a selfie or 10, or the mad-at-the-world type of person that explodes at every disappointment and shortcoming. It seems that the allure of financial progress has again won this battle and the local and national governments would rather earn more dinero (money) from tourism than keep whatever serenity and environmental stability is left from being drowned out by the bustle of business.

Flowers in the Plaza de Armas

Cusco was incomparably beautiful; being the major trading hub in the Andes during the Spanish occupation, the cobblestone roads, plazas and churches immediately took me back to centuries past when quadruped-driven carts were the kings of the roads. The most appealing attribute for Peru, personally, was the warmth of the Peruanos. They were generous with their smiles and laughs, annunciated their words clearly (as opposed to other Spanish-speaking countries; at times in other places, it was challenging even to just distinguish when one word ended and another began) and mostly emitted a deep sense of well-being that permeated through their sun-kissed skin. To me, Cusco was the embodiment of Peru’s jovial and easy-going nature.

A covered pathway into a local’s house

Continue reading in part 2 of the series.

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