Thursday, March 20, 2014

Peru - Cuzco

Tuesday morning, the 11th, we were up early and heading to the airport once again. Los Tambos provided us each with a bag breakfast since we had to leave before their free breakfast started. It was always a fun surprise on the trip to see what may be deemed as breakfast for the road by the hotels :-). I think this one had a bag of potato chips, a box of juice, a chocolate candy and an apple.
We got on our plane and took a quick ride to Cuzco. As we were flying in we finally saw the mountains that I had assumed all of Peru to be. Our Cuzco hotel (another gem found from trip advisor) was there to pick us up, Hotel Torre Dorada. Martin, the manager, was at the hotel to greet us with coca tea to help us acclimate to the high altitude (something you could feel the instant we arrived). I was beginning to feel a bit worried about Machu Picchu if the altitude was already affecting us so much and we weren't even hiking around yet! Then we learned that Cuzco is actually higher than Machu Picchu. I didn't believe it until one of us looked it up on our phones and sure enough Cuzco is 11,200 feet and Macchu Picchu is only 8,000! So weird, but also a relief. Martin filled us in on everything about Cuzco and arranged a tour for us of the city. He also told us we could leave our bigger bags at the hotel when we went to Machu Picchu for 2 days and they would keep them locked up. Martin was probably my favorite person on the trip...super knowledgeable and trustworthy. The hotel was a little ways outside the center of Cuzco, but they provided free transportation there and back so it wasn't a big deal. We dropped off our things in our room and then we were off to explore our latest city.
it was always so nice to spot our names when arriving somewhere :-)
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from the flight in
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spotting an LDS chapel on our way into town
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Cuzco was another amazing city. It had much of the cool architecture and old churches Arequipa did but with the added bonus of being surrounded by mountains on every side. Plus, many of the buildings were built using ancient Inca foundations that they just  built on top of which is pretty cool!
We walked around the plaza a bit and looked for somewhere to eat lunch. We once again found a place with a cool balcony overlooking the square. Mike decided to try the alpaca this time and I had a bite. It was actually pretty good...tasted like a decent steak. It is all about the alpacas in Peru! They use their wool to make clothes, hats, etc and eat them too. They are cuter to look at than llamas as well, in my opinion, so its a win all the way around :-). I got this traditional Peruvian dish, Lomo saltado, a few times on the trip and it was always pretty good (they don't eat beans in Peru which was so weird, and disappointing, to me). This is kind of like Peruvian version of stir fry. Another popular thing we saw everywhere was chifa, which is Peru's version of fried rice. They were into their Asian influenced food...and papas fritas, which I appreciated since fries are one of my favorites foods :-).
While we were waiting for our food a very persistent artist came up and tried to get us to buy a picture. I am such a sucker for this kind of stuff. The pictures were good, we are in a place I probably won't ever visit again and I'm sure he needs the money. So, of course I bought one and was feeling very pleased with my purchase until we saw some very similar paintings in another little shop. Although I'm a little bummed that he probably didn't really paint the picture I bought, I still like it :-).
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our view from the balcony
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We had kind of talked to a random guy trying to sell tours on the street before we ate who told us to call him Tom Cruise.  Then while we were eating we noticed the tour buses pretty much just doing laps around the square so Mike went to call Martin and have him arrange our tour instead. When we left the restaurant Tom Cruise was waiting for us and demanding "commission" although we aren't sure for what since he didn't do anything for us. He followed us around for quite awhile and was really annoying but after ignoring him for awhile he finally gave up and left. It added a little excitement to the afternoon!
We had some time to kill before the tour started so we walked around the city, looked for a hat for me to wear on Machu Picchu (Martin told us some recent tourists came back FRIED and I realized that I wanted a hat, not just sunscreen), peeked into some churches and then got dessert when it suddenly started to rain.
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totally thought this guy was a real statue the first time we walked by him!
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And then it was time for our big tour. Our guide's name was Alex and I thought he did an awesome job! I wish I would have taken notes though because now looking back at the pictures I don't remember everything he said of course and I really did find it all fascinating. I do remember that the local people prefer the city being spelled CuZco not CuSco.
The city was a capital during the Inca Empire and was found by the Spanish in the 1530s. The Spanish destroyed most of the Inca buildings and temples but did leave the foundations, which were very strong, for their buildings. It was interesting to see throughout the city the Inca brick walls leading up to more modern looking buildings. You can also see water drainage ways in a lot of the pictures as well.
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this area of Inca ruins was blocked off and protected
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made me think of Addie :-)
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The Convento de Santo Domingo Del Cusco/The Qorikancha
(Convent of Santo Domingo/Qurikancha, "golden palace")
from online: The Qurikancha ("golden place") was the most important sanctuary dedicated to the Sun God at the time of the Inca Empire. According to ancient chronicles written by Garcilaso de la Vega, Qurikancha was said to have featured a large solid golden disc that was studded with precious stones and represented the Inca Sun God - Inti. Spanish chroniclers describe the Sacred Garden in front of the temple as a garden of golden plants with leaves of beaten gold, stems of silver, solid gold corn-cobs and 20 life-size llamas and their herders all in solid gold. The temple was destroyed by its Spanish invaders who, as they plundered, were determined to rid the city of its wealth, idolaters and shrines. Nowadays, only a curved outer wall and partial ruins of the inner temple remain at the site. With this structure as a foundation, colonists built the Convent of Santo Domingo in the Renaissance style. The building, with one baroque tower, exceeds the height of many other buildings in this city.
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took this one of the ceiling right when we walked in before being told I wasn't allowed to :-)
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everything is so amazingly precise and symmetrical with the Inca architecture and we saw many more of these closed windows at Machu Picchu
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one teeny little rock to fill in the wall and make it perfect
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what the Incan courtyard would have looked like...and then what the Spanish created that still remains
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this was a cool painting and talked about the what they saw in the stars...
a puma in the dark parts of the Milky Way.
There were three animals that were important to the Inca. The Puma, the Snake and the Condor was the third. They represented the underworld, world of men and upper world.
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random rocks from the Inca structures that were found in the field around the church are now left where they are
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Some cool carvings in some of the stones...they would carve some of them like puzzle pieces to fit together and strengthen the foundations. There was a big earthquake in 1950 that destroyed a lot of the city, but those Inca walls remained strong.
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Then we got in a van and went to explore more Inca ruins outside the city of Cuzco.
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First stop, Q'enqo.
from online: Q’enqo (meaning labyrinth or zigzag) is a huge limestone outcrop, carved with symbolic figures and zigzagging channels where either ‘chicha’ (local maize beer) or sacrificial llama blood coursed during ceremonies. The highlight of Q’enqo is the caves and tunnels, which are located inside - and beneath - the stone. One of the caves has an altar cut into the stone, and there are also several large niches inside the caves. Mummies of lesser royalty were once kept here along with gold and precious objects, and it is said that is was some kind of sacred Incan site to do with death and funeral rituals.
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Next was the largest site, Saqsayhuaman.
from online: Sacsayhuamán is one of the most amazing Incan constructions for tourists. Its Quechua name means "satisfied falcon", it was the falcon that guarded the capital of the empire, since it was possible to overlook Cusco from the hill in where it was erected. If, as it is known, Cusco was designed with the shape of a lying puma, Sacsayhuamán would be its head. Its construction took over seven decades and required the work of 20,000 men approximately, both for the foundations and hewn stone works, the transportation of materials, carving and stones setting. Some of its external walls exceed the 9 meters of height and 350 tons of weight. A spectacular fortress built with huge carved rocks jointed with absolute accuracy, this astounding sample of the Incan military architecture is, undoubtedly, the greatest architectonic work of the Tahuantinsuyo. But, in addition, it proves the undeniable firmness of the great administrative capacity of the empire and its powerful logistic system capable of mobilizing and organizing such a work.
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weirdos trying to get power from the rocks :-)
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It is just amazing that they moved these huge rocks, made them fit perfectly together and even rounded out all the corners! I'm glad I wasn't an Inca :-)! It was tiring enough just walking around to look at them at that altitude.
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Next up was Pukapukara.
from online: This fort is made of large walls, terraces, and staircases and was part of defense of Cusco in particular and the Inca Empire in general. The name probably comes from the red color of the rocks at dusk. There is a small amount of argument over what Puka Pukara's real function was when the Incan empire was still thriving. It was at least partially a military base and, since it was on such a major road and overlooking so many important spots, it was a very good place to spot people causing trouble. Officials could have used it as a checkpoint on the road, stopping those who looked suspicious from travelling any further into the empire where they could potentially wreak havoc. It could have served as a stop for military groups travelling nearby, too. Another theory is that it was a place of rest for hunters and weary travelers, as well as Incan nobles, due to all of its luxurious baths, canals, plazas, fountains, and separate rooms.
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it started raining right as we arrived so we explored it quickly
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We opted to skip the last ruin stop of Tambomachay where our guide told us there was a fountain. It was pouring rain at this point and it was a 10 minute walk to where the ruins were.
Our last stop on the tour was in an alpaca shop where they had us feel the difference between the various types of llamas and see how they dye the wool into different colors. Then we could shopped for extremely overpriced baby alpaca wool products :-).
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We ended the night back in Cuzco where we ate dinner and waited for our hotel to come and pick us up. I got some chicken soup type thing and Mike got spaghetti...and we got papas fritas too. The restaurant was our pick up point for the hotel and had this cool ceiling.
We had to turn in early for the night because we were getting picked up for our Machu Picchu adventure at 4:30am!!!
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