Orientation in Cusco

Written by Berkley Downey, 2016 Peru: Mind and Body

Here are a few things you learn your first few days in Cusco:

  1. Walking uphill is terrible, especially at 3500m above sea level.

  2. Peruvian food is delicious (potatoes and rice? Okay!), and Peruvian liquor is even better (I’m not sure if they sell Pisco in North America but I intend to find out).

  3. The temperature drop at nighttime is no joke. You will need the Alpaca wool sweater, mittens, and toque that Gordon and Meg suggested you buy.


The orientation week in Cusco is the perfect introduction to the next six weeks in Peru. The most important reason is because breathing at 3500m is very different than breathing at 1000m (or sea level, for some people).

Additionally, you get a week to explore this beautiful city, investigate the market, allow the local food to pique your interest, and attempt to remember your high school Spanish – and then probably fail and be grateful that you have Spanish lessons every afternoon.

Finally, you get to realize, really let it sink in, that you are in Peru with a bunch of weirdos who are just as excited, nervous, and unsure about the next six weeks as you are. Luckily, these weirdos have the same love for sing-a-longs as you do, but perhaps not the same love for Broadway musicals (but just you wait).

That last part is aided by a five-day course led by the Art of Living Foundation. I think we all went into this course hoping to learn a bit about ourselves, take home some meditation techniques, and experience something completely new.


What I don’t think we expected is how much we would learn about the thirteen people that we just met, or how their stories and experiences would change and alter our perspectives. I don’t think we expected to be pushed outside our comfort zones so quick out of the gate.

I do think we are all incredibly grateful for the experience, as it set the stage for what we can now expect to get out of the rest of the program.

The second part, exploring the city, is made easy by how incredibly simple it is to fall in love with Cusco. The locals in the market are more than willing to help you with your Spanish.

There is never a shortage of breathtaking views, as 90% of the time you are situated on the side of a mountain. And, most importantly, there are llamas everywhere – you literally cannot go wrong.

Within a few days, you feel like you have the city down pat, you’ve found your tribe (#tribelit #fuego), and you know where to find the good chocolate and the correct ratio of hot water to coca leaves. And just like that, you’re on to the next adventure.