The plan: 8:30 train to Ollantaytambo where we’d get picked up, taken to pick up our luggage, then driven back to Cusco where we’d have lunch and an afternoon tour of Sacsayhuamán.
Woke up early, went for a pre-dawn walk around Cusco. The city was active already, partly with brisk-looking women and men purposefully walking toward their day, partly with somewhat less fresh-seeming men (yes, all men) stumbling out of doorways or staggering down the tilty cobbled streets, sometimes holding on to walls for support. In retrospect I’m surprised by how little thought I gave that, by how depressing I find it now but how unremarkable it seemed then. Is it my puertorican upbringing? It’s been decades since I’ve lived in PR or experienced that kind of alcoholism; shouldn’t I have reacted with more shock or at least surprise? I didn’t. I mostly felt the cool air, watched the lightening sky, smiled at the the industrious passersby (none smiled back), and avoided the slippery wet patches on the sidewalk and roads — half of Cusco hoses down their housefront in the early morning, making it keenly important to keep one eye on the ground. There’s probably some sage life advice to be found there.
The first emotion I felt in Cusco was momentary panic: looking out the airplane window on landing, holy shit, we’re going way too fast! Followed immediately by: oh, never mind, it’s just density altitude. Cusco is at 11,000 feet; thinner air means wings need higher speed for the same lift. The adrenaline took a few more seconds to dissipate, and I took advantage of the delay to enjoy my first and so far only landing above 10,000 feet. (spoiler alert: we landed safely).