Monday 11 May

We make an early start for the airport, and are rewarded by a long wait for our flight. It is delayed, but curiously the scheduled time does not correspond with that shown on the ticket anyway. There is even confusion over the correct number for the flight.

The passage over the Andes is spectacular, and the approach to Cusco airport is low along a valley with mountains rising on either side of the aircraft. At the last moment, the plane wheels around before plunging for the runway. I reassure myself with the thought that the pilot has probably done this before.


Cusco

Cusco is much more relaxed than Lima and, on first impressions at least, cleaner. The altitude (3200 m) does not at first seem to be a problem for us—nothing more than a little light-headedness. We plan to start the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as soon as possible but spend some considerable time comparing and contrasting tour agencies, examining them for the nuances that will separate the excellent from the merely satisfactory. Helen’s husband has recommended an agency called “United Mice”, though judging from the tee-shirt he was wearing at the time, his advice is probably not entirely impartial. In the end, we settle for a company called SAS, which offers the trek for $76, including at our request, the express (or “tourist”) train back to Cusco, rather than the slower and less comfortable local train.

After packing for the trek, which is to begin the very next day, my rucksack seems no smaller than when it had been filled with my entire kit.