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Sexy Woman and Guinea Pig at the Last Supper
Adventures in Peru

The clay lick near TRC.  Incredible to see so many parrots and macaws in one place!The clay lick near TRC. Incredible to see so many parrots and macaws in one place! (Andrea Edwards)
Santiago picks us up bright and early. We head to the market where basically we're allowed to look but not touch and under no circumstances are we allowed to eat anything. Especially me since the parasite that hitched a ride from the jungle is thriving in this altitude. (Note to self: when they say don't drink the water, that includes jungle cocktails with ice. Listen when they say, this ice is not for you!)

The market is sensory overload! Rows and rows of everything you can imagine: cheeses, spices, meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, breads, herbs, flowers, toys, clothing, and I think a sample of every one of the 1,200 varieties of potatoes they grow in Peru.

After we leave the market, Santiago hires a driver to take us outside Cusco to see three temples. The first is Tambomychata, the healing place and a temple to water. The fact that these stone walls were made by hand and are still standing centuries later is a testament to the ingenuity and hard work of the Incas. Santiago tells us about the caves near here and explains that the Incas believed in reincarnation but you needed a mummy and a cave to pull it off. The caves are still here, but the mummies are, thankfully, long gone.

Leaving Tambomychata, we pay three soles to a lovely woman in a traditional dress of bright colors to get our picture made with her and her llama. Do we look like a couple of complete tourists? You betcha! Was it worth it? You betcha!

On to the temple for Pachamama, Mother Earth. Inside we see stone altars and many niches for mummies. Santiago tells us that much of what we know about the Incas and why they did things is theory and guesswork because the Incas didn't write anything down. I sort of like that.

Next up is Sacsayhuaman, the main fortress protecting Cusco. Sexy Woman was built with walls in a zigzag pattern to represent thunder and lightning to intimidate enemies. We're amazed at the size of the stones in these walls as well as the complete precision of how they fit together. You couldn't fit a piece of paper between them. The Incas did this by hand and it's pretty darn impressive. Within the fortress is Qoricancha, the Temple of the Sun. From here you have sweeping views of Cusco and the Andes. It's the most gorgeous clear blue day and you feel like you can see forever.

Back in Cusco we go to the Cathedral. Only the guides who work here are allowed to take you through so Santiago waits outside for us. Our guide in the Cathedral is so nice, but her sincere desire to share the details of this amazing place is, unfortunately, overshadowed by her limited English. Her English, however, is about a thousand times better than our Spanish. Why oh why didn't I take Spanish?

So much to see inside the Cathedral, but our favorite part is how the local artisans very cleverly fooled the Spanish. While trying to eradicate the Incas' religious beliefs and convert them to Catholicism, the Spanish hired local painters and sculptors to create this Cathedral using only Christian images. The Incas did that, but they also added their own touch as well. In the painting of the Last Supper you see guinea pig, part of the Inca tradition, as the main course. And in the choir, along with the angels you can also see smaller carvings of Incan deities. My hat is off to the Incas for refusing to give in to the Spanish too easily.

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