I had expected some of the other MMI folks to be at the Lima airport, but we were on our own. As we checked our bags, we were told that our plane had been delayed and we would be leaving several hours hence. This would have been fine if we hadn't noticed that there were constant flights to Cuzco, some leaving within minutes of each other. We waited from 11 in the morning until well into the afternoon. The sun was going down as we landed. We were more than ready to settle into the next hotel even though our taxi driver told us it was one of the worst ones in town!
The soil in this part of Peru is as red as the soil of Prince Edward Island. Here, cinderblock walls butt up to adobe. Tiny rectangular houses tumble up and over the hillsides. Some are finished, some partly done. A visual jumble of rebar, corrugated iron, cinder block, glass and stone seems to have formed on its own, creating the outskirt communities, and we wondered how real estate could be bought and sold with any kind of regulation!
The Inka's Yllari Hotel is a modest 6 story building about 10 minutes by cab from the city center. Small auto repair shops on each side still bustled with activity in the dull blue glow of naked light bulbs. Some of the MMI volunteers were in the lobby and welcomed us warmly as we checked in. Our room was clean, nicely appointed and comfortable, despite the cab driver's comments - and the best accommodation I've had so far with MMI!
The narrow lobby lead to heavy glass doors, out and onto a small patio. We were directed from there past a tiny kitchen down into the basement where tables and chairs had been arranged. A buffet dinner of chicken and rice, bananas and local breads was a treat after airport fare. We introduced ourselves to the group of doctors, nurses, ministers, translators and others- some of whom I recognized from my last Mission in Peru. We were all glad to be settled and ready to work.
Introductions and "pep talk" over, we decided there was time to go into the city to look around. The bus we'd hired was waiting. We piled on and rode into Cuzco, chatting and getting our bearings despite dusty windows and the failing light outside.
The characteristic jumble of unfinished homes and modern buildings abruptly ends where original Inca walls still stand, forming the outer walls of the city. A mix of Spanish architecture and ancient, original stone foundations make the city center an historian's dream. "The Plaza des Armas" is characteristic of all South American towns. Taken from the Spanish style, a large rectangular boulevard, often with fountains and a gazebo, is the centerpiece around which government buildings, churches, shops and military headquarters stand. In Cuzco, these ornate and stately buildings, witness to hundreds of years of conflict and change, now house fine restaurants and tourist shops. We jumped out at the main entrance to the church, promising to be back at the bus in an hour. You can't see this place in an hour! Narrow streets lead to beautiful courtyards, ancient stone corridors take you up flights of hand hewn stairs into tiny neighborhoods where Inca walls amaze even the locals with their shape, size and engineering artistry. It was soon too dark to see. We let fatigue take over, joined our new friends on the church steps and waited for the bus "home". Interesting how "home" can be anywhere if you're happy!