Sublime (Spanish pronunciation is soo-blee-meh): A well-known brand of chocolate in Peru. Chocolate can help fight the effects of altitude sickness as it is a stimulant.
An early-morning wake-up is an understatement – we were up at 2:30 a.m. in order to catch our early flight out of Lima to Cusco. By 8:30 a.m., we were at retreat house in Cusco and sipping on Coca tea (coca has been used since ancient times to stimulate the body and alleviate altitude sickness).
Cusco is different than Lima in many ways. There are large churches, many of which were built by the Spanish some on top of Inca spiritual sites. In contrast to the shantytowns and desserts around Lima, Cusco is surrounded by mud brick houses and mountains that make up the Andies. Tourism is a large part of the local economy and there are countless markets.
Cusco sits at 3350 meters above sea level and some outsiders feel the effects of the altitude as soon as they step off the plane. The higher altitude means there is less oxygen in the air. This made walking up small inclines or a few flights of stairs more challenging for us. When people from Cusco visit lower altitudes, they can experience challenges as well.
In the afternoon, we traveled to an open expanse of land outside of the city and took a horseback tour. The landscape was breathtaking – mountains, snow-capped peaks in the distance, trees and streams. The sun was a welcome change from the overcast skies of the last week and half. When one of our group members began to feel lightheaded, a guide ran up the hill and came back a few minutes later with a handful of a mint-like plant called muña, a natural remedy for altitude sickness. Its benefits can be felt by breathing in the smell of the plant or by making it into a tea.
That evening, we enjoyed live Peruvian music and a delicious dinner (anything from pizza to alpaca) at a great restaurant called Chez Maggy near Plaza de Armas, the town centre.