In The Footsteps of the Ancients
Trip Start Sep 20, 2011
19Trip End Jan 15, 2012
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Where I stayed
Cusco, Hotel Marani
Ollantaytambo, Ollantaytambo Lodge.
Aquas Calientas, Machu Picchu Lodge
This one may take a little time to read, as there is so much to cover.
I will start with Cusco.....Latin America’s Archaeological Capital and Cultural Heritage of the World....the capital of the mighty Inca Empire, an Empire that spread through almost all of the Western Coast of South America.
Cusco, literally means “navel” in the Quechua language, this still applys today as this place is the center of Andean culture and gateway to the mighty Andes Mountains. It’s history and it’s presence gives this city it’s special beauty and charm....full of life, colour, typical images, bars, restaurants and cobbled stoned streets full of shops and friendly people
The city, set in a valley with all roads seemingly heading down to...... you guessed it.... The Plaza Des Armas or Inca name Huacaypata.
Another wonderful Cathedral, the Cathedral of Santo Domingo (1550) built on the foundation of the palace of the Inca Wirachocha, as well as another church La Compania (1571) government buildings of old are tourist shops and restaurants ...... the beautiful trees that I remembered from my last visit have been cut down. This vandalism happened under the orders of the then Mayor who had them removed because,after a festival, people were urinating at the tree’s bases.........problem solved, but what a solution.
Our hostel, Hostal Marani, is a couple of blocks up from the square on Carman Alto . Every time we go somewhere we have to climb San Blas Street, up and down...... this must be the steepest street in all of Cusco. Fortunately for us the best restaurant in town, Heidi’s, is half way up. Then of course, if you want a delightful lemon and mint juice with your pancake, the pancake covered in cream and fresh fruit, you could stop at the bottom at “Jacks”.......... so you see my friends, every dark cloud has a silver lining.
Wonderful Cusco, the Capitol of the Incas...here where the conquering Spaniards built their Churches and Cathedrals on the foundations of Inca Temples
I think that Rome and the Spanish Royalty were very clever and pragmatic, in that they let the locals keep a few of their own gods and just incorporated them into the Catholic Religion.
As well as the main Square and the Cusco Cathedral there is a wonderful market. Here you can get some truly delightful fresh fruit and vegetable juices.... along with anything that suits your fancy.
Pam couldn’t come at a meal there however......the meat market was right beside the food hall. One particular stall had raw meat hanging over the counter almost touching the floor....no refrigeration or covers over the meat. Every piece of the animal is on sale here, as well as cheeses, many types of corn from yellow through to black in colour, all types of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The museums of Cusco are included on your Cusco tour ticket....you need this ticket to visit the main Inca sites. You can visit, Santa Catalina Convent, Casa Inca Garcilazo de la Vega, Museo Arqueologico Koricancha,Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, Monumento Pachacutec. Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko, Tambomachay, Chinchero, Uros,Pikillacta plus more....easier to write than say!!!!!!!!!!
We enjoy the museums as well as the folk music and dance show that is also on the Cusco ticket.
I make Pam walk from our hostel to Saqsayhuaman (3701 m) which is only a little over 1.5 km but almost straight up hill....... I’m not sure that she appreciated the climb, considering a taxi or bus cost peanuts. Half way up I hear an expletive, I think addressed to me.
Saqsayhuaman (pronounced Sexywoman for us Gringo’s) .....are the remains of a colossal structure. It is here that you can see large blocks of polished granite that are among the largest used in any prehispanic America building and that fit perfectly together ...........Saqsayhuaman was built over 77 years (1431-1508) under the rule of two Inca Kings - Tupac Yupanki and Wayna Qhapaq. The Spaniards later used the site for a quarry, taking stones for a Cathedral and their houses
Another Inca ruin we visit is in Pisaq ( built in 1440 and sacked by the Spaniard, Francisco Pizarro, in the early 1530‘s. Today the village, rebuilt by Viceroy Toledo in 1570‘s, is in the Sacred Valley. The town is a picturesque village where an interesting market is held on Sunday’s. As our visit is not on Sunday we see only a small variation. The Varayocs or Mayors of the various communities attend the fair and barter goods. They are also to be seen at Mass which is sung in Quechua, the local language.
Near the market is an interesting archaeological site called Inca Pisaq with Inca terraces and storehouses...... once again perfect stonemasonry used on the buildings. This was a large city made up of many districts and including the Temple of the Sun, baths, altars, water fountains,and an “intihuatana”, an outcrop carved into a “hitching post for the Sun”. The angles of it’s base appear to define the seasons changes. The narrow rows of terraces below the citadel are thought to represent the wings of a partridge and it is from this bird that the ruins get their name, Pisaq.
As we head towards Machu Picchu we first stay a night at Ollytaytambo.
Ollytaytambo (2800m), also in the Sacred Valley, is a beautiful old Inca town around 75km from Cusco and was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuteq. ........it was built along the Patakancha River. Temple Hill “Araqhama”, on the hill “Cerro Bandolista”, is an example of magnificent terraces of “Pumatallis” with Inca seed storehouses and a spiritual site at the top of a strenuous climb.....well worth the effort.
The size and smoothness of the stones at the top at the Wall of the Six Monoliths are amazing considering that the quarry was down the hill, across the river and in another valley......how did they transfer the polished stone from the quarry to the top of the site??????
Inca buildings are still used today.... squares and streets follow a purely pre-Columbian layout and style with waterways running down the centre of the streets. Buildings comprise two “kancha” high walled compounds with four one roomed buildings around a central courtyard.
We have dinner in a cafe called “Hearts Cafe”. The profits are used to help the native people of the high Andes with clothing hygiene and schooling
Getting closer to Machu Picchu, we now change to train travel..... Vista Dome...a very pleasant way to travel with large glass windows and great opportunities to take pictures.
Our Hostel, Hostal Machu Picchu is right on the railway track seperating the old village from the newer part.
We arrive late afternoon at Aquas Calientas (Hot Water)....there are thermal springs here, great for those who walk the Inca Track and need to ease their tired muscles. All we have to do is walk around this most tourist of places. The changes since my first visit some 15 years ago are amazing.... there is no town planning here, only us tourists to cater for.
Breakfast at 4.30 and then a bus to the entrance of the site. Buses run every ten minutes or so but it is good to get the first bus our guide tells us......beats the day trippers.....and as it is Sunday the locals get in for nothing, meaning a possible crowd.
Most archaeologist believe that Machu Picchu was built as a royal estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuteq (1438-1472).
We are greeted at the top with mist covering the site.....so a wee wait and Machu Picchu “ Old Mountain” is slowly revealed. It is one of the iconic views of the world.... the ruins with Haunu Picchu at one end and the store house at the other being one of the best viewing points. “Putucusi”, Quechua for Happy Mountain is to the right..... the Gates of the Sun are above and to the left of our spot. I remember waiting early morning at the Gates of the Sun last time. “You have not lived until you have seen the sun shine over Machu Picchu”......I don’t know who said that but it sounds good when you are here.
Our guide walks us through the site, explaining how different buildings were used. We are moving higher up the side of the site where the important people lived - priests and the like. As we head to the Temple of the Sun, we are shown a large stone.....now if you place your hands close to the stone you feel an energy or heat.....Pam gives out a audible moan....she can feel the energy. A guy behind her has a funny look on his face
The Inca had an affinity with astrological matters.....the stars, the sun, the moon. They understood the importance of these in their agriculture.
Continuing, we pass a stone that exactly mirrors the shape of the mountains behind. We are now in the Artisan’s (poorer) area... you can tell the difference as the stones now need mortar to hold them in place, unlike the upper area where the stones are polished and fit with razor-sharp precision.
There is a grassed space between the upper and lower areas with Llama grazing. ......we pass through the Temple of the Moon. There is so much to this place that we need to sit in the sun for a while and collect our thoughts..... I go for a stroll to the Inca Bridge....fascinating. It is a space in the mountain track, spanned by logs, which could be quickly removed....must have served as a deterrent to intruders.
I discuss with our guide how things have changed since my last visit ....not the ruins but the number of people on the site. They are now restricting the numbers to 2500 per day, while a year ago the number was 4000. He reminisced how he could camp on the terraces to watch the night skies. My recall was not even going through an entrance gate.
History tells us that Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham, an American archaeologist, in 1911 with a little help from an indigenous boy....
Our visit to Mach Picchu finishes with a fabulous buffet lunch at Machu Picchu Lodge...did we pig out, well I did...I visited the dessert table more than once. Satisfied, we head back down to the train.
The train trip back was a hoot. After some refreshments, the train staff entertained us with a fashion show, but first, one of them dressed as a mythical bird and hooted and hollered up and down the aisle. The crew then modelled Alpaca made garments to much applause... a simply exceptional way to end our visit to one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Next day it is back down San Blas, past the Inca wall with the twelve edged stone and other darker stones depicting the jaguar and the serpent....into the square where another festival march is taking place....once again all colour, movement and exertion by the marchers
A leisurely stroll, all you can do at this altitude, down Avendia El Sol we arrive at the Monument to Pachakuteq. This monument was built in 1991, and is 22m high with a 34m bronze effigy of the Inca King Pachakuteq.
Super views of Cusco from the top.
Lunch is a great sandwich made with real bread ('real' meaning the same as we get back home) in a nice little place on Plaza Kusipata called Panam. ......with real coffee as well.
All is good after an awesome visit. We are ready for the night bus to Arequipa....