SOUTH AMERICA ADVENTURE: 4 MONTHS - 11 COUNTRIES (Letters 13-17)
Dec. 29, 1998 Peru to Bolivia
Hello to everyone and a Happy New Year. My last week has been so eventful it will be hard to describe everything in a letter, but I'll try. arrived in Cusco to a beautiful city that is rich in Inca and Spanish culture. The city is 3326 meters above sea level. The city of Cusco has four large Cathedrals in the main plaza and is surrounded by buildings that have a base of Inca masonry. Coricancha is the colonial church of Santa Domingo and its base is of Inca stone. At one time it was the richest temple of the Inca empire and its walls were covered in 700 sheets of gold each weighing 4.4 pounds. Whole blocks of large asymmetrical stones were perfectly fit together to make 6 to 8 foot walls that have withstood many of the earthquakes to this area.
A problem that occurs in Cusco is Acute Mountain Sickness. I didn't have any problems with altitude sickness, but met other travelers who had problems with breathlessness, dry, irritative cough, severe headache, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting which can progress to more severe symptoms. The treatment is to drink fluids, rest often, eat light carbohydrates, and drink mate de coca. This is a tea made of 3 or 4 coca leaves in boiling water and sweetened with sugar. This is a medicinal use of coca leaves and legal in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Although I must admit that we would become breathless with minimal exercise.
I traveled by local train to Aguas Calientes. From Aguas Calientes I took a bus that travels 22 switchbacks up to Machu Picchu. This is the grandest Inca ruins. This site is surrounded by high mountains in a beautiful rain forest setting. Every direction has spiked mountain peaks and deep canyon valleys with waterfalls spattered intermittently. The clouds would start at mid- mountain and you could watch updrafts move around the peaks making it very magical and spiritual. You could almost sense the history of the Inca empire as you walked through th