It was a golden evening and Barrio San Blas was charming.
We were well fed on the local version of Ají de Gallina
and a favorite local pilsener followed by Pisco Sours.
It was sunset when we arrived, but we lingered long,
sobremesa, talking and sipping our drinks.
What’s the rush?
We needed to walk, and it was dark as we left the café.
It was pleasant for the hour. At this elevation, Cusco
can be cool in the evening. The stars were out.
There were others strolling along the calles leading
out from the plaza. Couples out enjoying the night
or heading back to hotels.
We strolled downhill, heading to the Plaza de Armas.
It’s not a long walk and the ancient cobblestones and
polished Inca stone walls glinted in the reflected light
showing us the way. There were a few young people
laughing and hurrying toward the backpackers’ hostel.
Maybe late arrivals.
We heard music as we passed the Irish pub,
so out of place in the Incas’ capital city. We passed
the old archbishop’s place piled high atop its Inca
palace foundations. The ancient city and its footings
survived earthquakes but barely survived the Spanish.
We are wrapped in history.
We wandered out into the Plaza de Armas,
flooded with light and flanked by the massive Cathedral,
Jesuit churches and Spanish colonnades. The lighted
fountain in the plaza dominates the scene, topped by a
larger-than-life gold fiberglass Inca Emperor.
He points toward the mountain heights.
It was at the fountain, today or yesterday - I forget now,
that we watched a wedding party come out of the
Cathedral to pose for photos in front of the Emperor.
The bride and groom, tied together with the traditional
lariat, seemed shy with all the attention. Children played
while the tourists snapped pictures.
But the night scene is etched in my memory. Cusco,
already at great height, is surrounded by even higher hills,
dark and almost invisible at night. The slopes are punctuated
by a thousand points of light marking the homes of people with
little more than a million-dollar view. The lights merge
with the sparkling stars…unforgettable.