It was raining heavily on our first night in Cusco.
Rainy evening in Cusco
Yet, we left the comfort of our room to find something for dinner and hit the town.
The city of Cusco -or Qosqo, as it's called in quechua language - is located in southeastern Peru, in the altitude of about 3 400 meters above the sea level. Unless you are a professional athlete who frequently trains in the altitude or a local with native American origins, you will most probably feel the effects of the height in your lungs when climbing up some of the numerous stairs of this city.
Despite all the obstacles that Mother Nature, Pachamama, was placing on our way ( = the rain, the altitude and the general laziness of human being) we were well motivated to go and explore the city.
Streets had gone all quiet when it was raining. It had been 12 years since my first and last visit to Cusco, so I was curious to see how different it would look like now.
More shops, more restaurants, more tourists. More of everything, in fact, including that now there was a double-decker red buses for sight-seeing, like in any tourist destination in the world.
But the city still had its charm. Cusco has been the capital of the Inca empire, it has hosted the Spanish conquistadors and today it has a very international vibe.
The Andean Trilogy: Puma, Snake and Condor
After enough of walking in the rain it was time to get something for dinner. But where to get something quick, cheap and cheerful, when most of the restaurants were already closing their doors?
From my first trip to Cusco I remember that the solution most often was small hamburger stands that were to be found in basically every street corner.
Chicken shawarma on Drug Street, Cusco
So what would be a typical cusceño snack today?
Today, almost every street corner in Cusco seemed to host a shawarma/falafel restaurant. Yet another example of the Andean synchretism and capacity to adapt to foreign influences!
Cusco Cathedral, built by Spaniards on the foundations of an Inca temple
Tel Aviv? Nope, Cusco!
We ended up eating in a small place on the Drug Street.
Why it's called Drug Street? I don't know. I can only guess.
Last week I was in the city of Cusco, the capital of the ancient Inca empire.
As the city is located in high altitude -about 3400 meters above sea level - nights can be quite chilly. Despite my Finnish origins, I am not well made to resist cold, and some extra wollen accessories were needed to keep my fragile body parts warm in the fresh mountain air.
After couple of days in Cusco my plan was to go to a four days yoga retreat in the Sacred Valley of Incas, Urubamba, near Cusco.
Some rather cold nights freezing in my Converse sneakers made me feel that some warm footwear could come in handy in the Valley -or perhaps it was just an excuse to buy new shoes, who knows? Anyways, my eyes had spotted some nice looking boots in serrano (= from the Sierra, mountain region) style and I was ready to get myself a pair of those.
The type of boots I mean (see picture at the left) were sold in many places in town, but as we were strolling and trolling on those old, cobblestone streets I found a small shop promising a pair of boots on measure.
I chose the colors, the materials, all the details and Mr. Second Generation Shoemaker measured my feet for a perfect fit. I paid more than half of the price in advance, and we agreed that I would pop in next day to pick them up.
Right on time before heading to the Valley. Perfecto!
...or that's what I thought!
Next day, I'm ready to pick up my boots as agreed. all excited to try them on.
But when we arrive in his workshop, Mr. Shoemaster is still working on the first boot and very, very drunk. In addition, he refuses to speak to us or give any explanation. He just stubbornly stares at his sewing machine. Ok...well...see you next week then? No choice, I guess.
I was quite upset as I needed the boots for the Valley. It's still hot in Lima, so I won't be wearing them there. I start to regret that I gave him the money in advance and I wonder if I will have enough time to pick them up after my yoga retreat.
But, this story has a happy end.
Coming back from Urubamba and before heading to the airport and back to Lima we pass by in the shoe shop.
There he is, sober this time and my boots are ready. When we ask about his behavior Mr. Shoemaker denies everything (typical!), but he gives me extra good service, packing carefully my old shoes as I decide to enjoy my new boots for the last couple of hours I have left in the mountains.
And the boots are perfect: they fit perfectly (well...they were made on measure, after all!) and they are so warm that I think I will be able to wear them in Finland, too.
After all, my hand drunk made boots were worth waiting.
Posing with my drunk made boots on the streets of Cusco