You have just arrived in Cusco, Peru at 10,800 feet, which is probably two miles above wherever you’ve come from. You head straight to the Plaza de Armas, the center of Cusco, which is the center of the Incan Empire, because you don’t want to walk anymore. You’re huffing and puffing up the stairs to a restaurant with a balcony on the plaza and every three or four steps you stop to regain your breath. From your seat on the balcony overlooking the plaza, your waitress brings you your mate de coca, your coca leaf tea. It tastes a little like Japanese green tea with a hint of menthol and it goes down easy, its warmth counteracting the chill in the air. After a few minutes you realize that your heavy breathing has abated and that dull pain in the back of your head is now gone. It’s not an alcoholic buzz, but you definitely feel better, sharper, more yourself. Two women in indigenous dress pull llamas in front of La Catedral down below you. As you look at life go by from above the plaza, you think about how this ritual has been done for centuries here in the center of the Andes. You take another sip and give in to the acclimatization process. There is no better way to spend your first few hours in Cusco.