Sunday, 24 August 2014

Cusco and the Sacred Valley

There was a free breakfast buffet at our hotel in a tiny dining alcove just off the front reception area so we had a quick breakfast and then headed out for our first full day in Cusco.  Every book, article and webpage that I had read said that the must-see site in Cusco was Qorikancha, so we went there first.  Tickets were only 10 Soles ($4 Canadian) and we hired a guide from the group of locals who were gathered outside the front door. 

Q'orikancha was a beautiful Inca temple with consisting of four small sanctuaries and a larger temple set around a courtyard.  Everything in the temple was covered with sheets of gold or silver and encrusted with precious jewels.  The Spaniards tore down much of the temple and built a church on the site in the seventeenth century and they carted off all of gold, silver and gems.  The locals note that Spanish portion of the building has been damaged by earthquakes but the Inca portion of the building, made of tightly interlocking blocks, stand firm.   Having the local guide was a great addition, as there were very few signs and no real pamphlet to use as a guide book.  He showed us how the Inca sections were built and explained how it was used as a celestial observatory.  We took lots of photos of the interior as well as the beautiful gardens, which are visible from the street. 

The Spanish Church built upon the Inca Foundation

The courtyard - two views

beautiful painted wooden ceiling in the courtyard
Inca StoryBoard
When you looked through the window in one small room, you could see through the a row of windows in all the other small rooms so that you were looking from one end of the building to the other. Amazing!

Looking through the windows

Inca building blocks

By the time we were done our tour, it was time for lunch.  We chose a restaurant from our guide book but as we followed the directions, we realized that the restaurant was at the top of this flight of stairs:

Time for plan B!  We found another restaurant, Los Perros, and settled in for a relaxing lunch.  The food was good, the service was good, and the restaurant was nice and clean.  Not a rave review, but it was OK.

After lunch we were wandering downtown and we signed up for a package tour of some of the sites in the Sacred Valley.   The tour would take place over two days.  We would go this afternoon to Sacsaywaman, Q'enqo and Tambomachay and then tomorrow we would tour Pisac, Ollantaytambo and other sites.

Sacsaywaman is located high above Cusco and is mostly a series of huge stone walls that zigzag across the plain.  Once again we heard the familiar refrain about 'when the Spanish came...' as to why so much of it was destroyed.  Our tour guide was very informative and we spent about half an hour hiking around the site and taking photos.  The Lonely Planet guide had directions on how to hike up to Sacsaywaman but I'm so glad we took a bus.  It's about 2 km straight uphill from Cusco and would have taken quite a long time.  Perhaps if I was twenty years younger and was in Cusco for a very long time I might hike to Sacsaywaman, but it doesn't seem like a good use of time and energy when tours are so inexpensive.

While we were there I noticed a Japanese tourist who was carrying what looked like a big can of hairspray with a fancy plastic lid on it.  Every once and awhile she would hold the lid over her mouth and take a hit from the can.  It was canned oxygen!  I have asthma and altitude is always a trigger for me.  I've had a few bad trips when I've brought the wrong puffer and struggled to catch my breath. My allergist had prescribed special puffers for me leading up to this trip, but the altitude was still causing some shortness of breath.  I was intrigued but too shy to ask her where she got it.

Cusco from Sacsaywaman; Plaza de Armas in the foreground

After Sacsaywaman it was on to Tambomachay, also known as 'the bath of the Incas.'  These ruins consist of three tired platforms and water springs feed the platforms and create a waterfall/shower.  The best thing at Tambomachay was that there was a group of women and children in traditional clothing with llamas and you could give them a donation and get your photo taken with them and the llamas.  I was so excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

We travelled on to Q'enqo which is a great stone, formerly carved in the shape of a puma but destroyed by the Spanish who wanted to force the Incas to convert to Christianity.  Like many of the Inca sites we visited, it depends on which guidebook or which reference you read as different scholars have different ideas about exactly how this site was used.  It was interesting to see the amazing rock work sculpted so many years ago.  There are platforms and niches on the outside and then a huge chamber with a raised platform inside that was most likely used in some sort of ceremonial ritual. 
Puma statue (destroyed by Spaniards)

We rode the bus back to town and since we were at the Plaza de Armas we decided to have dinner and then head back to the hotel.  We found a restaurant upstairs (and if John or I remember the name of it, I'll add it here later.  I wasn't intending to blog this trip so I didn't keep accurate notes.)  We ordered a pisco sour and some appetizers - alpaca kabob and some other things - and then went to the washroom to freshen up.  I had been holding a llama, after all.  In the ladies room, there was a bucket of water with a spigot in it next to the sink.  Apparently the sink wasn't working.  When John returned from the men's room, he informed me that the sink wasn't working and there wasn't even a bucket of water. He hadn't been able to wash his hands.  Luckily I had some hand sanitizer in my purse so he just used that instead.  But if there was no way to wash your hands in the men's room, what about the staff?  How clean could the kitchen be?  We decided to just have our drinks and then head out and get dinner somewhere else.  When the food came, we changed our minds.  It was so delicious; we ate it and ordered more!
Then it was time to call it a night! 
Cusco at Twilight from Sacsaywaman


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for posting on my blog!