All the planning and preparations are over and on Saturday 1st August I get on a plane from London Heathrow airport to the first stop on my adventure in Lima, Peru. I arrive quite late so after a quick shower I get some much needed rest. In the morning my driver takes me to the airport so that I can board yet another flight, this time to Cuzco.
The world famous Andean city Cuzco attracts thousands of travellers ever year and is famous for the ´lost´city of the Incas, Machu Picchu. Cuzco was once the foremost City of the Inca Empire (that only actually lasted about 100 years before the Spaniards turned up) and is full of history and archaeological sights. Walking around the City is a delight; cobble-stoned streets and plazas, women dressed in traditional Peruvian colourful clothes carrying their babies on their backs, and dark eyed descendants of the Incas and Spanish conquistadors roaming the streets. There is a pleasant hustle and bustle in the city, funny little taxis beeping thier horns and lots of tourists about but not too crowded or too noisy-well at least not for me, a big city lover.
My first few days felt tough, getting over the jet lag whilst dealing with the extremely high altitude (over 11,300 ft above sea level). I´ve heard many travellers stories of being sick for the first few days and ending up in hospital but no note of this in my Lonely Planet. Well I´m crossing my fingers for now, so far so good! I was met at the airport by Manuel and Maria-Pia, my father and sister at my homestay. I´m staying in a lovely apartment in Santa Monica with a family of five; mum, dad, their two daughters Maria-Pia and Maria-Paz, and Manuel their son. Both parents work in a local hospital as a doctor and nurse, Maria-Pia and Manuel are both on vacation and are students. Little Maria-Paz spends the day giggling and making everyone laugh. Oh and not forgetting home helper Glendy who prepares my meals and laughs at my attempts at speaking Spanish every day.
The Manrique family are great, middle class, happy and very loving. They welcome me into their home and have been feeding me gorgeous food, lots of vegetable soups and too much cheese! Here lunch is the main meal of the day as eating too much in the evening messes with your sleep patterns.
On day one Martha my mom takes me to Spanish school in a taxi. It´s only five minues away and I´ve spent five afternoons taking Spanish lessons with Jose my teacher and 4 fellow students. Talk about information overload we´ve covered a lot so I will have to keep practicing! I´ve managed to pop to the Inca Museum (some prosperous Inca men were known for having 200 wives!) the market, and have been drinking lots of Mata de Coca, (coca tea) this helps with the altitude. I´ve got to improve my vocab sharpish as I´m soon going to get sick of ordering pollo at restaurants otherwise!
Lots of sight-seeing to do this weekend, then on Monday I start doing some voluntantary work at a local school with 3-5 year olds. I am quite excited and nervous about this, it will be their first day of term and the teacher assigned to me speaks no English. To top off the week next Saturday I embark on a four day trek to Machu Picchu-wish me luck!
Hasta luego amigos!