Cusco, Peru, has an elevation of of 3,339 metres (11,152 feet). The highest I’d ever been at that point. The bus from Lima to Cusco takes 22 hours, and as soon as we got near the mountain city, I started feeling the effects of altitude sickness. Headache, breathing troubles, light-headedness. Not too strong, but just the start of an illness. A bus attendant came around offering drinks. Coca tea was one option. The miracle cure for altitude sickness. I drank some and my symptoms vanished. My hostel offered free coca tea, and every day I drank one or two cups, it kept all illness away. Even though cocaine is made from coca, the tea doesn’t get you high. It’s closer to a cup of coffee, good for some energy, but it’s not going to keep you awake all night.
So high up, Cusco was hot in the day as the sun beat down on the mountain, but the sunless nights were cold. I found a great warming meal though. Anticuchos de Corazon. Meat on a skewer. Cow hearts. Delicious, with the spices they add, it tasted like a juicy and tender steak. In fact, it was better than many steaks I’ve ever had. It still amazes me how many tourists were put off eating it. Heart is delicious and nutritious.