Gateway to the sacred valley

Trip Start Jun 19, 2010
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Trip End Aug 29, 2010


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Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We arrived in style to Cusco on a plush, double decker, fully serviced (17 hr) bus.  Immediately we found our hostel and slept through the afternoon till the next morning. The following day (and those to follow) we awoke to clear skies and crisp air.

Cusco is the most visited city in Peru and accordingly caters to tourists on every level. We savored one aspect of this fact, delicious, full plates of American breakfast (french toast, pancakes and lattes). 

Cusco is considered to have been the capital of the Inca Empire and even in spite of the Spanish invasion, foundations and walls from the Inca´s rein remain. The mortar less construction of the Incan stone temples and forts is mind-blowing. A 10-ton stone, perfectly chiseled to nest in between six other stones would be 20´ up on the wall. Incan engineers = aliens? The stonework so precise that any ´nubbin´ protruding from one stone would be accounted for by a divot in its neighbor. To top it off, the Incan Empire was technically only in power for 95 years.

After the fall of the Incan Empire, the Spanish rulers destroyed much of their temples and built their colonial, pathetic in comparison, dwellings in their spot. However, in 1950 a major earthquake, centered near Cusco was thought to have leveled the city.  In actuality the shakes teased off all the colonial buildings exposing the un-moved Incan foundations, many of which had not yet been discovered in the modern era. 

On the steps of Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco, designed in the shape of a Latin cross, lay the Cusco Cathedral. We decided to take the headset guided tour that led us throughout the compound. The alters, paintings and architecture of the interior was unexpectedly wonderful. Our favorite spectacle was the Spanish interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci´s ´Last Supper´.  As normal Jesus and his buddies are sitting around the dining table, but instead of a loaf of bread as the centerpiece, there was a platter of guinea pig ´cuy´. The cuy was laying skinned on his back with all fours facing stiffly upward.

On our third day, after seeing museums, seeking out street food and acclimating to the elevation, we met up with Laila and her mom Alaina who had just arrived from Brazil!!  We reconnected and rested over a delicious lunch of brick-oven baked trout, aji chicken and freshly-squeezed fruit juices.  After lunch we headed over to the church Santo Domingo, a colonial building built upon exposed foundations of the Incan´s Sun Temple.  One corner of Santo Domingo lays on top of a perfectly smooth, beautifully curved Incan wall (see pictures).  The exhibits inside were an eclectic mix.  Upon entering, one walked though the remaining rooms of the Incan Sun Temple then proceeded onward to an exhibit of religious oil paintings and finally commenced upstairs with a contemporary art show. One of the more interesting rooms illustrated the Inca´s constellations, where rather then connecting the stars to outline shapes they marveled at the dark areas, within the adjacent stars, and saw alpacas, pumas and condors in the negative space.

The next day, as Laila and her mom acclimated themselves, we decided to journey above the city to the ruins of the walled complex Sacsayhuaman pronounced ´sexy woman´. The complex presents itself in a sequence of zig-zags, a construction considered perfect for a fortress. In addition to being ideal for combat, the zig-zagged layout of Sacsayhuaman is thought to be the head of a puma, where other temples and dwellings in Cusco account for the body and tail. There are limestone rocks in Sacsayhuaman that exceed 200 tons and in many places, the rock is so tightly interlocked that a single piece of paper could not be squeezed in between adjacent stones.

Further up from Cusco, beyond Sacsayhuaman, lay three other Incan ruins.  While not as expansive, these were all built with similarly stunning stonework. One of the more impressive, Tambo Machay, is considered to have been built for ceremonial bathing and has beautifully excavated water features that are still fully functioning.

Another highlight of Cusco... hot tub and sauna at Laila´s hotel!!

-R
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Comments

Jeanne McGinnis on

The market looks fabulous! It all looks fabulous!
See you soon,
Mom

Martha Banyas on

Hey!! This really makes me want to go there too! What incredible stone work, what gorgeous food, architecture, clothes, hats, dogs! Amazing. Thanks for sharing with us arm-chair travelers!! Continue to have fun and keep the posts coming!

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