A Reunion in Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru is a special place for many people.

For the ancient Incas the place is especially so dating back to the 12th century. It’d be then, according to legend, that the first Inca, Manco Copac, at the behest of the sun god Inti, is said to have been instructed to set out and find the ‘Navel of the Earth’ (or the qosq’o in local Quechuan language).

As to what constitutes the geographic characteristics of a belly button, the jury is still out. The fact is Sr. Copa apparently found what he was looking for here at the middle of what would become known as the Inca Sacred Valley. A valley that would become a hive of architectural activity for the ancient Inca Empire.

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Plaza de Armas

It’s here you’ll find the towns and remnants of ruins with names such as Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Urubamba (to name but a few). Places where in the early 16th century, the Spaniards, led by Francisco Pizzaro, would bring  smallpox and a ruthless quest for riches that would lead to bloodshed, a retreating into the mountains of the native population and the eventual downfall of the once mighty Inca Empire.

One of the citadel-like outposts the Incas may have retreated to would be stumbled upon in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. It’d be then, thinking he’d finally located the ancient Inca’s last stronghold of Vilcabamba, Bingham had, in fact, located the lost city of Machu Picchu.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, during peak season, Machu Picchu draws upwards of 2,500 visitors per day. In the meantime there is Cusco.

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Walking Tours galore

Cusco and the rest of the patiently waiting hordes; hordes coming directly from the coastal megatropolis of Lima and, as such, lumbering along the city center’s many cobblestoned streets under the effects of Cusco’s thinned out air of 3,300 meters.

With a vast majority decked out in new hiking footwear and apparel, the Plaza de Armas is South America’s adventure travel Ground Zero. It’s is there anyone with the complexion lighter than that of a well-worn saddle is bombarded with offers for bus sightseeing tours, paragliding, mountaineering, horseback riding, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and a plethora of trekking opportunities.

The tourism boom is alive and well in Cusco and to banish any vestiges of doubt on the matter, there are more menus in US dollars, 6 dollar pisco sours, 4 and 5 dollar beers than you can shake a trekking pole at.

And for once in my life, I can honestly say, I couldn’t have cared less.

Because along with and eventual trip to Machu Picchu for the Bua clan in the cards, Cusco was to be something more. A rendezvous of sort. And a long overdue one at that.

A reunion that was borne out of a chance meeting a whopping 24 years earlier between a long haired Yank and a red haired Norweigan on a three week long backpacker bus in New Zealand. A twenty four year-long ‘penpalship’ started amidst a virtual international pub crawl and a couple scraps of paper on which would be actual handwritten snail mail addresses. Addresses and the good intentioned, often easily neglected promise to ‘stay in touch’.

But lo and behold, somehow we would. The first five years with actual stamped Christmas cards.  Cards that were soon to be revealing the faces of Tove’s family and her two young boys. Boys that, as snail mail gave way to email, I’d come to watch grow into young men year by year care of clockwork like family Christmas email letters.

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Making New Friends in Cusco

I, of course, had no such photos with which to reciprocate. In response I had only my gratitude for always being included in their Norwegian holiday cheer. That and, my well-intentioned promise to one day cross paths with Tove. A promise that, year by passing year, began to ring more and more hallow.

Never more so than barely three months after our first setting foot in South America when—irony of all ironies—Tove and her family would embark on a month long motorhome tour of Australia. Literally right past our front door.

After our more than seven years on the coast, it seemed a cruel twist of fate to say the least.

So when word came that Tove planned to be in Peru in late October, a slight application of the brakes seemed the least we could do. As such, a longer stay in the Cusco area than originally intended would be required. A stay compliments of a serendipitous last minute Workaway stint at a fledgling BnB thirty minutes on the outskirts of the city’s colonial center.

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Mission Accomplished

A stay that, only seemed fitting, while making one long overdue reunion possible, was simultaneously laying the groundwork for possible future others.

And, as such, it’d finally come to pass. The moment when a bald and grey bearded Yank and a grey haired Norwegian

lass, would bridge the gap of half a lifetime there in the shadow of Cusco’s Cathedral.

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Guinea Pig (cuy) for dinner

It’d be a gap that the me of 24 years earlier could’ve never dreamed would involve a precocious three and a half year old in tow.  But as we slowly navigated our way through the San Pedro Market–with daddy’s friend allowing Kaia to pick out locally made favorite finger puppets and, in doing so, assuming the role of doting Auntie Tove–such thoughts seemed as foreign as the gutted and skinned guinea pig (cuy) in the unrefrigerated meat section.

In the end life moves fast and things happen and that said, I’m happy to report I’m old and mature enough now to know that anything is possible.

Especially, when those things go down in the heart of the ‘Navel of the Earth’.

 

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