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Old 06-24-2011, 03:00 PM   #4
poolman OP
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Joined: Feb 2010
Location: Darnestown, MD
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Arriving in Cusco, Peru

Why Peru? The Sacred Valley, once the domain of the Inca Empire, would provide the opportunity to experience tremendous variations in terrain, culture, and climate. We would be traveling through tiny jungle villages at 2,000 ft. elevation and traversing 15,000 ft. Andean mountain passes. Riding at the end of the rainy season would ensure challenging water crossings, lush greenery, and (hopefully) minimal dust. Plus, we would have a chance to explore Machu Picchu.

So where in the world are we going? Peru:

The Sacred Valley:

Note: I was using a new waterproof (jungleproof) camera on this trip, and for some reason most of the pictures taken during the first part of the journey have a strong blue/green hue. Fortunately, the issue resolved itself. To complicate matters, Culin's camera was lost toward the end of the trip. He did get some great Flip videos, and hopefully he will post some to this thread .

Our flight itinerary brought us from Washington, DC to El Salvador to Lima, then on to Cusco the following day.

The gear drew a few suspicious glances on the plane.

Surprisingly, I was the only passenger using Giant Loop motorcycle luggage as checked baggage.

Jorge Chavez Airport in Lima

We had to catch an early flight to Cusco, so we stayed at the Ramada Hotel adjacent to the Lima airport and connected to it by a skywalk. It was overpriced, but clean and extremely convenient.

Due to some lung damage, my doctor had prescribed the medication Diamox to help with altitude acclimatization. It changes one's blood chemistry, affecting the processing of carbon dioxide. An unfortunate side effect is the inability to taste carbonation. As a result, beer tasted completely flat. I was unable to enjoy Culin's toast to our arrival in South America, which of course led Culin to elaborate on the fine qualities of the Peruvian beer he was enjoying. Next time I think I will take my risks with the altitude.

It was here that the first beer issue of the trip occurred. It was to become a theme.

Flying to Cusco the next morning he had our first view of Andean switchbacks.

Arriving in Cusco is an interesting experience; at an elevation of 10,860 feet above sea level the airport is one of the three highest in the world, sharing this distinction with Banga, Tibet and La Paz, Bolivia. We planned to spend two days in Cusco acclimating to the altitude before beginning our motorcycle journey, which of course would entail ascending to much higher elevations. Coming from sea level (the Washington, DC area), proper acclimatization can mean the difference between completing the trip and suffering life-threatening HAPE/HACE.

We were advised to rest upon our arrival to Cusco, but there was too much to see.

Our hotel in Cusco

The air is quite thin, and we are told the mate de coca is the best antidote.

Culin reminds me that turning 40 is far better than turning 50.

Looking down the street toward the Plaza de Arms, just a few blocks away.

An elaborate niche in the lobby of our hotel.

Fifteen minutes after checking in we decide to explore downtown Cusco:

We happened to arrive on market day:

I cannot attest to the freshness of the Llama snouts, but they are readily available.

The local dogs are having a chill day.

Children from nearby villages bring baby llama, alpaca, and sheep to the main plaza in the hope that tourists will tip a sole ($.32 USD) or two for the photo opportunity.

We enjoyed an outdoor dinner of Lomo Saltado, local pizza, and potatoes before calling it an early night. The food was great, but again I couldn't taste the beer.

More to follow…
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