Last 4 days in Cusco

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
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Trip End Apr 03, 2011


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Sunday, January 23, 2011

20.1.10 - Rally
As Maartin was doing Machu Picchu today, I took another walk round town, mainly focusing on searching for the second Stieg Larsson book and buying tat. For lunch I met with Jennifer and Janita, and then watched the end of a rally stage come into the Plaza de Armas.
The rally was held to celebrate the opening of the Inter-Oceanic road from Brazil to Peru joining the Pacific and Atlantic ocean at the ports of llo, Peru and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stretching a total of 3400miles the road goes directly through parts of the Amazon jungle. The crowd wasn't massive by any means, however a fair few people had come to watch and cheer their favourite / local drivers as they raced into the square.

21.1.10 - Coricancha / Cathedral of Santo Domingo 
After sorting bus tickets for Arequipa (my next stop), Maartin and I visited the Coriacancha temple / Cathedral of Santo Domingo.
The Coriacancha temple was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti - the Sun God. It was said that in Inca times the walls and floors were covered in sheets of gold. There was also rumoured to be a gold point in the Sun room where,at a certain point in the day, the sun reflected making it look like the sun was shining in the room. During the Spanish invasion, the Inca leader Atahualpa was kidnapped for ransom, with the Quechuan (Inca) people paying the Spanish ransom from the gold in the temple. After the gold was paid the Spanish betrayed the Inca people and killed Atahualpa.
When the Spanish defeated the Incas in 1533, they tore down most of the Inca buildings, using the stones to build their cathedrals and homes. Some buildings kept the foundations as Inca, with the Spanish build sitting on top. Coricancha was no exception to this, with the Spanish building it's main cathedral (Santo Domingo) on top of Inca foundations. In 1950, an earthquake in Peru damaged many Spanish built buildings (including Santa Domingo), whilst the Inca foundations still stood strong.  Reconstruction was then done to restore the building to the style of both buildings was then carried out.
When I looked inside the temple, there were examples of the Inca stonework, and also artwork representing Inca views e.g. two paintings, one representing the use of the cosmos to design the Inca empire, with the other showing that the Incas focused on the darkness between the stars as opposed to the stars themselves – believing that beings were blocking the light. The Incas arranged their empire to demonstrate their cosmology. The capital, Cusco was at the centre of the empire and connected to it by means of ceques (conceptually straight lines radiating out from the centre). These ceques connected the centre of the empire to the four suyus (regions defined by their direction from Cusco). 
Later we went to greet the restaurants, bars and clubs taking in the Peruvian foods and drinks. Celebrations for the previous days rally day gathered a far bigger crown in the square with fireworks being set off brightening the moodily dark blue Cusco night sky.  I think we got in at about 4/5am

22.1.10 - Sacsayhuaman
I woke to a late start at about 11:30 and headed to McDonalds for Breakfast, after which we took a visit to Sacsayhuaman (pronounced very similarly to Sexy Woman – we were told we would not find these at the site and we would have to return to Cusco for this).
Sacsayhuaman was the main fortress of Cusco, also holding ritual / spiritual complexes and a reservoir to provide water to Cusco and other nearby sites. Situated at the top of the hill looking down on the rest of Cusco it was said that the shape of the site was of a puma's head, with the rest of Cusco shaped in it's body.
Entering the site, we were greeted by an official guide that had a part to play in the current excavation of the site and also worked at Machu Picchu. He explained that you could walk round the site and see it's beauty however he could explain great details of the site and it's history - to which we gratefully accepted.
Arriving at the site, we were met with Inca beauty yet again. The land was lush green with huge stones making up the fortress walls. We were taken to one part of the wall where we were shown an image of a Lama in the rockshapes – whether this was intentional or not isn't known. The stones, which could span approx 12 ft square were carved and then pulled to the site. Even though the Inca's had discovered the wheel – it was apparently only used in toys, with hills being counterproductive to make any practical use. Instead the use of up to hundreds of men with very strong rope was used to cart the blocks to their final resting place. Mortar was not used by the Incas in their masonry, instead they crafted irregular shaped rocks to fit perfectly onto one another. It was this engineering, along with the walls being slightly inclined that allowed the Incas walls to survive seismic activity.
Going inside the fortress walls, we were directed to the highest point of the ruins, which was a point that only royalty could enter. Moving on we entered a main courtyard area, here the foundations of 3 towers surrounded the main area. The main area was said to be that of a rectangular religious design, possibly being a Sun room with the towers said to be for storage of food, weapons and tools. It was here that we were explained that the general Cahuide, seeing the Spanish forces closing in on him jumped to his death so that he would not be captured or die at enemy hands.
The Inca people where said to believe in opposites and their connections – Man and Woman, Sun and Moon, the upper (Hanan Paca) and lower (Ukhu Paca) realms of the cosmos. With regards to the cosmos it was believed that Hanan Paca consisted above their perspective e.g. sun, stars, lightning, whilst Ukhu Paca consisted of mother earth and the dead of the Incas and those they conquered.The living was said to live in Kay Paca (between these two realms). The snake (Ukhu), puma (Kay) and condor (Hanan) represent these layers. I explain this as the 3 steps that were used for religious ceremonies the Inca Chakana symbol represent these 3 realms – with priests being the only people allowed to climb / cross these cosmos.
Leaving the fortress, we crossed an open area and climbed stairs to the second part of the area, here we were saw half constructed rocks, stairways and religious 3 steps. It's presumed that these constructions were being made when the Spanish came and slaughtered the workers.  A small way further on there was the foundations of what is believed to be the moon temple, this was a circular shape with ridges for royalty. Next was a reservoir which was believed to serve Cusco and nearby towns, we then left the area by going underground through a tunnel network and back to Cusco where another well deserved massage was had for 20 soles.

23.1.10 – Pisaq
On the last day in Cusco, I visited Pisaq - a small nearby town. After walking into town to get supplies of fizzy drink and sweets it was a short taxi ride to the bus station and then an hour ride on the local bus. 
The local buses seem to have no law on crowding or seatbelts as they frequently stop on route to places and pick people up, leaving the bus often full to the brim.
There was a market in Pisaq on the Sunday where I took a walk around and didn't buy anything as money was short on my travelcard. The Prices here were cheaper than Cusco, with a great range of travelling souvenirs to buy. Taking a taxi to the top of one of the mountains where an Inca watchtower once was. We decided that there was no need for a guide on this journey and the day would be spent taking in the scenery rather than the history of the area. The rest of the trip was spent walking down the mountain past various monuments, through caves and stairways with sudden drops off the mountain. 
On the way down we saw a person Peruvian playing some form of flute in a field. It was fortunate for him that he was Peruvian as we stated that if he was a hippie we would have shot him from our sniper viewpoint on the cliffs.
Returning down to Pisaq we got the bus back, but this time had to stand. I remember when looking at the overcrowded bus through the door a young Peruvian girl with traditional dress thought that I was struggling to get on the bus and gave me her hand. It was very sweet and seemed to show a light into the honest and helpful mindset of the traditional Peruvian – or maybe that's just kids?
Getting back we had dinner and got ready for the bus to Arequipa
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