October 2, 2018, my niece Kaylan and I boarded an Air Canada flight to Lima, Peru via Montreal. Ahead of us, visits to Machu Picchu, Peru, the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
From Lima we flew to Cusco in southern Peru, the oldest city in the western hemisphere, cradle of the ancient Inca civilization, at about 11,000 feet, surrounded by six mountains in the Andes. We spent 2 nights there acclimating to the altitude and enjoying the colours, the cuisine, architecture and the many shops and peddlers selling alpaca clothing, jewelry, art. It was not uncommon to see indigenous women and girls dressed in traditional costumes, holding baby alpacas or lambs for tourists to pet or get photos taken. We tried the local specialities like roast guinea pig and Andean quinoa soups, and of course their famous pisco drinks.
We returned to Cusco (back the way we came, by train and car), then flights back to Lima, then to Santiago, Chile, to Calama, and finally a long drive to San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis in the desert, for the next 4 days.