Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cusco, Peru

     After surviving our first cancelled flight of our trip (Quito airport closed due to bad weather), we made it to Cusco, Peru only a few hours later than scheduled. We were immediately taken with the city, which is literally built on Inca foundations. It is amazing to walk the narrow streets and admire the spanish colonial buiildings perched on stonework at least 500 years old.
     We visited Qorikancha, “temple of the Sun”, perhaps the center of the Inca universe. The Spanish stripped hundreds of tons of gold and silver from the site and then built a Dominican church on top of it. Several of the original Inca temples remain inside the church, constructed with amazingly fine masonry. The church was destroyed by earthquakes as recently as 1950 – the Inca stonework only suffered minor damage. Several of the temples were used to follow the progress of the sun and track the Inca calendar (18 “months” of 20 days each, plus a couple of extra days at the solstices). We had a great guide who had studied the astronomical features of the site and shared his findings with us.
     Our next excursion was puffing up to the Inca ruins of Saqsaywaman, located above the city, which itself is 3,300 meters (11,000 feet) above sea level. What is left of the ruins is very impressive – the Spanish hauled away most of the samller stones in the mid 1500's to build the cathedral and other buildings in Cusco. The remaining stones are massive and perfectly fitted. We wandered around and found an area of the natural rock formation that formed a natural slide, polished smooth by countless people sliding down, which we did of course – just like we imagined the Inca children did hundreds of years ago.
     Aside from exploring the historical aspects of the city, we enjoyd wandering the streets, sampling the roast cuy (Guinea Pig), and searching for the perfect Pisco Sour.

Next stop, the Sacred Valley and Machu Piccu.

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