01.07.2009 - 01.07.2009 73 °F
Finally, we arrived in Cuzco. The heart of the Inca Empire and the “umbilical cord of the world.” After the trauma of our bus ride we found some breakfast, and then we happily began to settle in at our hostel. Sara and Regina took a siesta while I went exploring. The streets are almost entirely cobblestone with the center of town being mostly colonial age buildings with balconies. I found my way to the main plaza. Its main plaza is beautiful. One side was almost entirely filled by the Cathedral which had been rebuilt several times due to earthquakes. There was also a McDonalds with Wi-Fi along with several other colonial buildings populating the plaza. I wandered to a few other minor plazas and had a cup of café con leche, before deciding to check on Sara.
My return turned out to be a little more circuitous than planned since I had done quite a bit of twisting and turning in my exploration. When I returned the ladies asked me if I thought the room smelled funny. My sense of smell not being the greatest, I didn’t notice much…yet. We ate dinner in one of the minor plazas near an wood-fired oven, which Sara loved because she was still freezing from the night before. When we arrived back at the hotel the room definitely smelled BAD! The doors being closed for several hours had concentrated the musty smell beyond the point of minor annoyance.
The next day we did the city tour visiting five surrounding Inca sites.
Quiracancha…the temple of the Sun being one of the most impressive. It is right in the middle of the city and the Spanish conquerors demolished much of it to build a monastery, but they surprising left some of it intact.
Saqsawaman comprises another large ruin complex just on the hills outside the city. Two large hills were almost entirely covered by original and reconstructed walls. Sara and I climbed almost to the top of one before we went on to meet up with our tour. We also visited a hill/cave complex and saw an altar where human and llama sacrifices occurred. This was by far the creepiest moment of the trip to date. Our tour guide very consistently told us of the perfection in all ways of the Inca proudly told us that they only did human sacrifices every fifteen years or so! YIKES.
On our last day in Cuzco we went to Machu Pichu. What can you say? Every amazing thing you hear about it is true. You descend into a rain-forest type environment from the high desert of Cuzco.
All the while the train follows the valley of a sizeable river with rapids and small falls. Finally, we climbed to the summit of the ruins via mini bus.
Mist and vegetation covered mountain spires surround the citadel (or monastery depending on who you talk to). The only drawback was the speed of the tour and the size of the crowds thronging the ruins. The terraced mountain provided space to grow crops and defend the city. Farmer’s dwellings huddled near the agricultural sector. Higher up a sentinel station stood watch over the entrance to the city and its approaches. The temple of the sun and main temple dominate the heights and off in the distance on one of the closest peaks an astronomical observatory beckoned. At the end of the tour, we stopped and sat amidst the ruins for some time, trying to soak up the grandeur and get beyond the observational factoid voice of our tour guide.
It was during this time of quiet reflection that we were almost trampled by llamas that graze the grass of Machu Picchu.
The amount of uncertainty and contradiction that still surrounds the ruins is almost as astounding as its beauty.
We shared a nice pizza and beer with a fellow traveler, Alexis (from Disrael, Quebec) at a friendly spot called the Quipu before heading back to the train station.
As we rode the train back down toward Cuzco in the darkness, we tried to save some strength since we would be back on a bus to Puno at about 7AM.