Today we take a large comfy tour bus to Cusco and stop along the way at various points of interest. There are 2 couples on the bus who were also on our islands tour so it was nice to see them again. Along the way our guide explains various features and cultural distinctions. As we passed through the city of Juliaca which it where the airport is he explained one of our questions about the buildings. We had noticed before that most of the buildings are unfinished, they have 2 or 3 stories than no roof, only re-bar sticking out. Apparently this is a tax evasion technique as taxes are higher once a building is complete. Juliaca is the biggest commercial city in the high plains and runs a huge black market. The Peruvian currency, the sol, is very strong against their neighbor Bolivia so people go to Bolivia, buy goods, return, and sell them on the black market. Taxi-chollos, the human pedaled tricycle taxis are very popular here as well, they have about 25,000 of them and they are the main form of pollution free transport.
Our first stop was the small town of Pucara, whose claim to fame is the oldest archeological site in the high plains. The site dates back to 1600 BC, and there is a small museum we visited which houses a few stone monoliths and some ancient pottery.
We stopped for just a few minutes at La Raya which is just the line between the Puno region and the Cusco region. The interesting thing about this point is that at 14,232 feet above sea level it is the highest point in the region. It is also the origin of the Vilcanota river known as the sacred river of the Incas.
A quick stop for lunch at a small town named Sicuani then on to Racchi also known as San Pedro. Racchi was really interesting and I wish we had more time there. It is the site of the remains of a temple called Wiracocha, a magnificent example of Inca Architecture. The complex spread over 652 acres and included houses, temples, palaces, astronomical observatories, food storehouses and walls. Pretty incredible.
The next stop was equally impressive in a totally different way. We went to Andahuaylillas the home of a church built on the site of an Inca temple and it’s frescoes are so beautiful is was been called the Sistine Chaple of the Andes! It was truly awesome, beautiful murals all around the interior of the church walls, and the amount of gold leaf everywhere was jaw dropping.
We arrived in Cusco around 5pm and met our guide for the rest of the week, Juan, who took us to our hotel. After discussing the plans for the next few days he left us for the evening. Our hotel’s location is excellent, just a few yards from the Plaza de Armas or the main plaza. We walked around the square for awhile (where I took the above photo) and Grant struck up a conversation with 3 people from Texas who had just finished a mission trip. Later at our restaurant the same people came in and joined us at our table. We had a fun evening chatting with them, all in all a very fun day.