Scampering around the Sacred valley looking a combination of hot and sweaty or windswept and interesting!
We arrived in Cusco at 5am on the 7th of September just as the sun was about to break the horizon. Cusco was believed to be the centre of the universe to the Incan people. It sits at 3200 meters above sea level and was built in the shape of a Puma, one of their sacred animals. Cusco’s flag is the seven colours of the rainbow and it’s proudly displayed everywhere… which can get a little confusing as it kind of looks like they’ve set up for a ‘pride’ festival!
We were unable to check into our rooms so made use of the coca tea on tap and free wifi to plan our next few days and tried to get our head around the Cusco Tourist Ticket.
When the city began to come alive we headed out to join a free walking tour, but having time to kill beforehand, we clocked a chocolatier advertising hot chocolate…. well, it’d be rude not to wouldn’t it? We wandered around the shop hoovering up the free tasters while the lady ladled pure melted chocolate mixed with hot milk into cups, the smell was heavenly! I tried the Mayan hot chocolate which had a pinch of chilli and some honey, it was glorious!
By the time we’d polished off our hot choccies, it was time for the tour. Our guide, Elvis took us around San Pedro market providing us with nuggets of wisdom for buying produce (which we put to good use later), and then walked us around various sites of interest. After the tour, we tried to do a bit of housekeeping, paid the balance for our Machu Picchu Trek, bought the Cusco tourist ticket and booked onto the Cusco City and the Sacred Valley tours to make use of said ticket. Purses feeling considerably lighter we decided to head back to the hostel to avoid spending even more money! On the way back we inadvertently became part of a festival; there were streams of people dressed in brightly coloured clothes, tall headdresses, and bell embellished boots. We later found out this was apparently something to do with Catholicism (though I think some of the outfits would have made the Pope’s eyebrows raise ) and that’s all we got out of anyone. Seemed to us like an excuse for a party, some dancing and maybe, as it’s Peru a cheeky little sacrifice or two.
The next day we’d booked ourselves onto the afternoon Cusco City Tour, ironically named as all the sites bar one are outside the city… But in the meantime, we had some time to kill. We went to one of the museums free with the Cusco ticket, learnt about a dude called De La Vega (made us think of Zorro) who was half native half Spaniard. He was responsible for putting the stories of the native people passed down by his ancestors into writing. It is these stories which form the basis of a lot of what we know about the native South American people (so let’s hope he was telling the truth!). We then decided to treat ourselves with a fresh juice, god is the juice heavenly here!!! Strawberry juice is a must, it takes all self-control not to wolf it down in 5 seconds, a direct quote from Sasha: “It’s better than sex” (sorry Mike) and I’m inclined to agree!! What I don’t understand, is the Peruvians hideously sweet tooth, it’s like one extreme to the other, fresh juice and fruit on every corner, but yet sickly jellies, sugared water, piles of creme caramel and stuffed churros just next door ( I hope they all have good dentists). For me, they can keep their sweets but I’ll take their juice every time!
The Cusco City tour took us first to Qoricancha. This is a place which proved the braun of Incan architecture. It was originally an Incan temple for the worship of the sun god, which the Spanish then attempted to knock down in place of their own religious landmark. However, much to their frustration I imagine, the structure was so strong that parts of it could not be knocked down and have since survived several earthquakes (due to, we found out, the unique slightly off- vertical angle they built their walls at ).
Next, we headed out to Sacsayhuaman pronounced sac-say-wo-man ( think sexy woman and you’re not far wrong!) which means satisfied falcon. It’s a huge site which forms the head of the Puma which makes up Cusco. The walls are even made into points to represent the Pumas teeth!
After that, we went to Q’enqo which had a cool mummification cave, and then to Pucapucara with its spectacular views. We learnt interestingly that the architecture changed depending on if a site was sacred, inhabited by the nobility or by the general citizens. The Incas also had the unique way of putting cement on the inside of the walls rather than between each stone.
Our final stop was the water temple, Tambomchay which as the sunset truly was beautiful. Our guide told us they like to tell tourists it was the royal bathhouse and the water gave eternal youth. Our guide scoffed at this nonsense and went on to point out would you get in that freezing cold water halfway up a blustery mountain (you can definitely count me out, I already have to psych myself up to get out of the shower in chilly Peru!) he then pointedly added: “besides the water gives ou diarrhoea” … Staying away from that then!
This was far from the last lot of Incan ruins we’d see in the next few days, Cusco and the surrounding area was crawling with them!