“You Have To Climb The Mountain When You’re Tired”

My first day in Cusco felt like the longest day of my life but also one of the most exhilarating. After 22 hours of travel I arrived at the Cusco airport and was greeted by my new roommate Paola. Paola is from Bolivia and has been living in Cusco for the past few months to work as a facilitator for Visionaria.  We took a taxi to San Blas, sobre Lucrepata - up to our apartment on the top of a very steep hill overlooking Cusco. Salva, Paolas roommate who was supposed to leave for Bolivia today got the date of his flight wrong so he was stuck in Cusco for another day and I was fortunate enough to meet him. Paola describes Salva as a citizen of the world. He was born in Italy, speaks 7 languages and has been traveling around the world working for a rural tourism project called Qoricocha. Against all advice I’ve been given I decided to go for a walk with Paola and Salva down to Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Pedro, the main centers in Cusco. Walking around was difficult because of the altitude but I couldn't help myself. There is a beautiful cathedral and basilica in the center of Plaza de Armas and on the way they pointed out the huge stones of the Incan empire which still support many of the buildings here. The stones are a greenish grey color and have rounded fronts and straight cut edges. Cusco es muy hermosa. People come here from all around the world not only to experience Cusco itself, but to see the natural beauty that surrounds the sacred Valley, mainly Macchu Picchu and the Rainbow Mountain. An Italian woman named Giuseppina who is also volunteering here in Cusco told me about her experiences on the climb: “You feel like you’re going to die, she said. But the people are so crazy, 20 of them at the top screaming at you ‘you can do it, you can do it’ and you do do it, and you feel on top of the world, united with all humanity, it is beyond religion”. Thanks to that description it will be the first thing I do once I’m acclimated which they say realistically takes about a full week. After a very delicious mushroom ceviche lunch, I took a long nap and got up for my first night out in Cusco. I still felt very tired and light-headed with a terrible headache but Giuseppina encouraged me to put mind over matter and soak up every moment of my time here in this magical place, including and especially the first day, "You have to climb the mountain when you're tired" she said. Downtown is very much a city and the nightlife is crazy. We went to an Italian bar and listened to a very talented group of musicians. We met an eclectic group of people from all around the world and quickly made friends with everyone. Out of all of the impressions I had in my first 24 hour experience in Cusco, the most prominent is the impression left by the people I met, people from all around the world, in all walks of life, completely welcoming and warm, embracing life in their own way. Many people come here to volunteer for a sustainability project or to work with children or poor families. Everyone seems to be on a similar moral spectrum and its a really great feeling to be surrounded by their energy. I already feel inspired. I must have been on some kind of adrenalin kick because we went to a club called Club Chango and danced until 5 am. The altitude sickness seemed to disappear while I was dancing.