The flight from Lima to Cusco is only one hour however it is certainly a flight worth taking. You fly from sea level (a grey dull foggy sea level of Lima in winter) traveling southwest along the western edges of the Andes. A window seat with an unobscured view is a must as then the journey becomes the story. There is something about looking down on lands that have been thrust upwards and folded much like one crumples a piece of paper. And that is all you can see. Some are dusted with snow but it the dance of the clouds and the light of the land that make it really interesting.
From the air to was impossible not to make comparisons with the Southern Alps of New Zealand or my favourite mountain range, the Himalaya. The comparisons with the Himalaya did not stop there as the approach to Cusco is so much like that to Kathmandu. You know you are going to land somewhere as the plane is certainly descending but you have to wonder where the hell you are going to land as you are surrounded by steep ridges. Then seemingly out of nowhere the edges of a city appear and you are on the ground. The other similarity with Kathmandu was bricks. From the air you see a town of brick. The major difference is on the right hand side of the approach to landing in Kathmandu, dirty smoke billows out from the multitude of brick kilns that are slowly converting the fertile soil of the Kathmandu Valley into blocks of fired earth further polluting the air already heavy with particulates.
It was quite a weird feeling getting off the plane. It only takes some minutes before I began to get a slight feeling of the air being somewhat lighter than I am used to breathing. No salt, no humidity and less oxygen. My heart started beating a little faster and just a subtle feeling of dizziness. The first time this happened to me was when I landed in Lhasa (3600m) which is just a wee bit higher than Cusco (3400m). It was a bit disconcerting the first time it happened but at least this time I knew what was happening. When walking you get a little more short of breath than you would expect. Slow down Jane, you don’t have to be the first out of the airport as per usual.
Val was waiting for me at the airport with a taxi to take us back to our Airbnb apartment for the month. A drive down a very narrow cobbled street to our front door. “You have arrived at your destination.”