No more ruins

Trip Start Aug 28, 2008
1
8
10
Trip End Sep 06, 2008


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Where I stayed

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Slept in a tad today and went to the dining room to have some breakfast.  Pretty much the same breakfast buffet as the other 2 hotels.  Which was certainly fine with me.  It's breakfast #5 in Peru and I still cant get enough elderberry jam.  We followed breakfast with a trip downstairs to talk to Rafael.  The safe in our room was locked, and we were looking for recommendations on what to do for the day.  Apparently we haven't seen enough ruins yet, so he tells us that we can get a car and a guide and check out the ruins near Cusco.  There are 4 of them and it will only take 2.5 hours.  So we agreed and went back into our room until 10 when Richard came to pick us up.

We purchased the tourist ticket on the first day we were in Peru.  It is good for 10 days and includes the entrance fees to 16 sites around the sacred valley (Cusco Cathedral, Museo de Arte Religioso, Iglesia San Blas, Museo Histórico Regional, Museo de Arte y Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Museo Palacio Municipal, Museo de Sitio Qoricancha, Sacsayhuamán, Q'enqo, Puca Pucara, Tambo Machay, Pikillacta, Tipón, Pisac ruins, Ollantaytambo ruins, Chinchero ruins).  If you were scoring at home, we had already been to 4 of these, and were about to head to Sacsayhuamán, Q'enqo, Puca Pucara, and Tambo Machay.  Next to Sacsayhuamán is a smaller statue (the "little brother" if you will) that is a replica of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.  This is where we picked up our tour guide, just the cutest little Peruvian named Jenny (ok, I don't really remember her name, but Jennifer Lopez was the first Latina that came to mind).  Jenny grew up in Cusco and lived there her whole life.  And boy was she knowledgeable.

First stop was Sacsayhuamán.  This was the most impressive ruin we saw this day.  The rocks that were used at Sacsayhuamán were much bigger than at any other ruins.  Some of the rocks weighed over 120 tons.  And these rocks were just what has been excavated so far.  Typically the biggest rocks were on the bottom of the building, Sacsayhuamán was still mostly underground yet to be excavated, so who knows what was underneath.  Also, in Sacsayhuamán, a lot of the stones were configured in a way that resembles animals.  The 3 sacred animals to the incans were the snake (underground), puma (ground level), and condor (heavens).  These three levels were represented in numerous ways through the incan cross and in the buildings.  Other animal shapes that can be seen in the walls were llamas and guinea pigs.  

Next stop was Q'enqo, which was across the street from Sacsayhuamán.  Q'enqo was a temple and amphitheater.  Some think it was the death house of Pachakuti (one of the Inca Kings).  Then we drove a bit down the road to Puca Pucara.  This was the smallest ruins we have seen, but had great views of the surrounding mountains and was right across the street from our final ruins of the trip...Tambo Machay.  Tambo Machay was an incan bath.  The water was said to reverse the signs of aging.  Jenny made a funny joke (after rubbing some water on her face) that she was really 50 years old.  Oh that Jenny.  

The tour was finally over and Jenny asked us if we would like to check out an alpaca shop.  This was our third one, but "we" (as in Amy) is a sucker for shopping.  Jenny explained that sweaters are much cheaper here since her friend didn't have to pay for rent and we had to be careful buying sweaters in the market because often times they were made of "maybe alpaca" which is to confuse the gringos into thinking it is baby alpaca.  So we stopped by her friends shop.  I don't think Jenny should have used the term friend, I think the correct term is employer or coworker.  If you have ever been to the south of France, this store reminded me of Fragonard.  You think you are getting the real deal, but it turns out this is a tourist trap.  The prices were reasonable though.  We walked in and the ladies working there told us the difference between baby alpaca (the softest fur up until the first cut), alpaca (all subsequent cuts), and maybe alpaca (fake alpaca).  After the explanation, she kindly guides us to the left part of the store with piles and piles of sweaters (all baby alpaca).  Very nice stuff, so I pick one up and ask how much it is.  She tells me 100 dollars.  I ask for clarification, not sure if she meant dollars and soles.  She repeated 100 DOLLARS, so I dropped the sweater like it was hot.  I continued to look around and noticed piles of the exact same sweaters on the other side of the store.  So I asked a different worker for the price.  Thirty dollars she tells me.  Turns out I was on the alpaca side now.  Granted $30 isn't cheap for a sweater, but for alpaca that is a good price.  And I could barely tell a difference between alpaca and baby alpaca.  I grabbed Amy, threw everything out of her hands that she was looking at, and escorted her to the other side of the store.  Few sweaters later we were finally ready to leave.  One thing to note: most Peruvians are quite small (the incans were around 4 feet tall), so the selection for XL (which in this country, I am considered) is pretty small.  Hope alpaca sweaters stretch out.

We are finally done with the driver and tour guide.  Richard dropped us off at the Plaza de Armas and agreed to take our sweaters back to Torre Dorrado for us.  Jenny hopped out of the car with us and recommended Jack's Cafe.  It was customary to buy the tour guide lunch, but Jenny needed to get back.  Jack's Cafe was about as Americanized a restaurant as we went to in Peru.  I don't think they owned menus in Spanish.  Anyway I ordered a steak sandwich and Amy got a salami sandwich.  Once again Amy's sandwich came, and she had 1.5 sandwiches.  Is this a Peruvian thing, or were they mocking me because my sandwich only came whole.  Regardless the food was great and a good pit stop before we continued.

After lunch we walked around the Plaza de Armas.  We stopped by the great Cusco Cathedral, then went on to the Incan Museum.  We finally got to see all of the artifacts that were once housed in the ruins.  Unfortunately Hiram Bingham, the Yale professor who "founded" Machu Picchu, stole most of the artifacts and brought them back to Yale.  So the museum mostly consisted of Pre-Inca and Post-Inca artifacts.  Fairly interesting regardless.  Also in the museum was a giant replica of MP, so Amy and I showed off our knowledge pointing out all the locations we went to.  Perhaps I will go to the hobby store and create a replica of my own.  

Tired of history, we walked down Ave El Sol.  You could actually see less and less gringos as we got further away from Plaza de Armas.  It was quite comical.  Rafael told us we were perfectly safe to walk around, as long as we didn't leave the main avenue.  We passed by another cathedral, a huge mural of the history of Cusco, and the main theater.  We finally got to the great Cusco Artisan Market.  This is where we were able to load up on gifts and other cheap items.  I purchased a maybe alpaca sweater for $10 and numerous t shirts (which some of you may or may not receive) for $3 each.  Most tourists are walking around with inca kola t shirts, so I bought a few.  I didnt find out till later, but the size thing got me again with the t shirts.  I guess I should have bought more XXL and XL instead of XL and L.  

We called up Rafael, and 5 minutes later a driver was there to take us back to the hotel.  After a long day we just wanted to relax.  We went into the common area where Amy completed a few crossword puzzles, while I watched a second epi of Lost.  This time it was Kate's flashback from the first season.  We then got ready for dinner and went back to the Plaza de Armas.  Rafael recommended the Inka Grill which is supposed to be one of the really nice restaurants in Cusco, right on the west side of the square.  Amy got the ravioli, and I orderd the lamito saltado.  Sorry David, but this saltado is the best in Peru, even better than your restaurant in Ollantaytambo.  I was quite worried about the price, since I only had 100 soles left in my pocket, but luckily for me, dinner for 2 at one of the nicest restaurants in Cusco only costs 90 soles ($30).  Who said the American dollar was weak?  We walked around the square some more, then called Rafael to pick us up and to end the night.
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