Cusco, Peru is a constant buzz of activity. The sensory experience of walking down Cusco´s narrow streets explain it best…
Cusco is high: 3,400m. / 11,200ft.
Inevitably you will drag yourself up and down its cobbled streets, huffing and puffing uncontrollably, several times each day.
Imagine you are walking up. up, up, up.
The streets are mostly narrow, cobbled with huge stones, walls made of plaster and stone, large tiles depict each Quechua street name:
Choquechaca, Pumacurca, Tambopata, Tullumayo, Hatunrumyoc, SuytuQhatu, Atoqsaycuchi, Concebidayoc, Teqsecocha.
Taxis whip around tight corners, rattle and bump and squeal and beep.
Pedestrians walk along tiny raised sidewalks, huff, puff, clomp, chatter.
The air is filled with exhaust and pastries, dampness and cold.
Gangs of gnarly, dreadlocked street dogs howl and bark and dig through bags of rubbish, chomping away at anything they can find.
The sound of Cusco is hawking. Hawking and honking and church bells and school girls laughing.
“Massages, señorita, massage. pedicure, manicure, waxing”
“Pinturas, pictures. free to look, only one sol”
“Hello, hello, sunglasses”
“Tour Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, good price”
“100% baby alpaca, come on miss, good price for you”
“¿De que pais? Where are you from? Cal-i-for-nia?”
“Restaurant, good price, menù s/15, pizza, Mexican, traditional food”
“Massages lady? good price”
(to the men) “Massages Mr., extra services”
“que buscando? bananas, mangoes, naranjas, manzanas, maricuya?”
“Take my picture miss, 1 sol”
Eventually you just say no.
Often you just say nothing, learn to block it all out.
When it rains, or the sun begins to set, or well after dark it is often quiet, if only for a few moments.
In the markets it smells of sweetly of fruit, intensely of meats. Every color of the rainbow and beyond is present (and just about every product one can imagine).
(Mostly) live frogs next to bowls of blood-red cranberries.
San Pedro cactus and Ayuhuasca root and sweet-smelling Palo Santo wood.
Hundreds of bottles of remedies for every ailment.
Pollo, carne, cuy, pescado, tocino, saltado – and every last toe and head.
Mushrooms and cheese rounds and 50 types of nuts.
Raisins, corn, granola, bread, spicy peppers galore.
Wheat, pasta, oats, quinoa, amaranth, rice, and beans.
Onions, tomatoes, carrots, cilantro, mint, basil, lemongrass,
Maricuya, platanos, mangoes, manzanas, naranjas, uvas, higos, paltas, and squash 3 times the size of your head.
Coca leaves and prickly pear cactus.
Cusco is a whirlwind, an attack on the senses, a chilly, rainy, cloudy, chit-chatting city. It´s also wonderfully romantic, charming and filled with cultural riches. You may leave with a few stuffed llamas, rainbow patchwork pants, fluorescent leg warmers, finger puppets, alpaca sweaters and 100 or so other things you never intended to buy, but the truth is, it was worth every second of the olfactory, auditory and monetary onslaught.