The country of Peru is llama central. It’s also an unbelievable destination for a twelve-year-old tourist – one that changed my definition of “vacation.” Women dressed in colorful woven garments roam the streets with llamas and alpacas on leashes. After several days, it seemed as natural as neighbors back home walking their dogs. I was never able to get over the food; it was a shock to dine on alpaca pizza and have guinea pig as a special dish. Luckily, I could finish my meal with a nice bottle of Inca Cola.
We spent the majority of the trip in a unique mountain city called Cusco. The hotel in Cusco was a dainty little place. Our room had three twin beds crammed in. Each morning, we woke to a pair of stinky feet at the head of our bed. Our hotel offered us coca-leaf tea, made from the same plant used in the production of cocaine. The tea is supposed to help in acclimating to the high elevation.
I thought that New York City had the worst traffic on Earth until I visited Cusco. There were taxis everywhere, and local drivers ignored red lights. We would be completely stuck in traffic, yet oncoming cars seemed to believe they could magically drive through the middle of our taxi.
We took a bus to a marketplace filled with assorted foods and handmade goods. We wove in and out of streets, gazing at the beautifully handcrafted rugs and ponchos. I wished I could buy everything. We also had a tour of an authentic village where women demonstrated the tedious process of making different products. Their only income was from the goods they sold. They showed us how to make lip stain using the red blood of a squished bug. I was speechless as they smeared it on their lips. After the tour, I bought a soft pair of handmade mittens.
In addition to all the other magnificent sights, getting off the airplane in Cusco was wonderful. In movies and on TV, I had watched celebrities walking down the steps of their private jets, waving at the cameras. In a city like Cusco, the airport is not large enough to have terminals, so I had the opportunity to walk down the “steps of fame” – except there was a lot of shoving, and there weren’t any cameras taking my picture. A girl can dream, though, right?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.