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Day 3: Cusco

Wednesday, May 8, 2001. Sunny 70°

After a small breakfast of fresh orange juice, coca tea, and flat bread (similar to pita bread) with fresh jelly, we were off at 9:00 AM for a tour of Cusco. It was our first introduction to a Peru's style of serving coffee. First the cup is half filled with hot water to which is added a very strong mixture of coffee about the consistency of syrup. Lana's doctor returned to give her a clean bill of health. Imagine two house calls, oxygen, and a nurse all for $120.00. While waiting for the bus, we were approached by some vendors in the lobby trying to sell us postcards. We initially said no and then realized the postcards were a collage of Cusco buildings and us leaving the airport. We had vaguely remembered someone taking our pictures. Sure enough, this enterprising young man had developed the film, pasted our photos over the original post cards, found out where we were staying and was trying to sell them to us. Of course, we bought them.

inca wall in Cusco, PeruCusco is the ancient Inca capital and said to be founded in 1100 AD. The Incas conceived their capital in the shape of a puma which can be seen with much imagination from higher ground with the river forming the spine, Sacsayhuaman the head, and the main city the body. Today, the city is an interesting mixture of Inca and colonial Spanish architecture: Almost every street has the remains of Inca walls, arches, and doorways. Many streets are lined with perfect Inca stonework, tapering upwards and inward with edge and corner rounded. According to Japanese earthquake experts, Inca stonework can withstand an earthquake of 8.5.

Inca sanctuary in PeruOur first stop was Sacsayhuaman (pronounced something similar to “sexywoman”) that contain the magnificent ruins of an Inca sanctuary or temple to the sun. The massive rocks weighing up at 130 tons are fitted together with absolute precision. Three walls run parallel for over 1,000 feet. The original temple with towers and buildings was destroyed, as were many others by the Spanish to eradicate the Inca culture and religion. Unlike most other ceremonial sites, this one did not have a Catholic church built over it because it was too large.

Because the Incas hadn't discovered the wheel or iron implements, all the stone was cut by hand using other stones, meteorite fragments, or natural fissures in the rocks. This led Glenn to ask:
How long it took to shape one rock,
How many rocks were present,
How many people were in the empire, and
How long did the empire last?
Inca temple ruins in PeruHis conclusion: There were not enough people or enough time to cut all the stones, which gives credence to the idea that they were cut by little green men with lasers.

Inca observatory in PeruFurther up the road, we stopped at an observatory where the summer solstice was observed and human sacrifices where said to have been made. Here Marco described the Inca Trilogy: the Condor above, the Puma on earth, and the Serpent below. Throughout the rest of our tour, he would point out rocks and ask what they looked like. We could never see the puma until he outlined it, or showed us a picture of the condor. He was fantastic in describing the types of ceremonies that might have taken place and how the interpretation of certain places had changed over time. Because he was interested in his Inca heritage and ancestry and had studied a great deal, he often had his own interpretation that wasn't in any of the guidebooks. Quite frankly, we thought many of his interpretations made the most sense.

Spring Shrine of Tambo Machay in PeruWe also stopped at the spring shrine of Tambo Machay further up the road. This is in excellent condition in which water still flows by a hidden channel out of the masonry wall, straight into a little rock pool traditionally known as the Inca's bath. We also saw our first birds: a hummingbird, a finch, and sparrow . Unfortunately, we didn't have our bird books with us to correctly identify the birds.

Weaving woman with child in PeruAlong the way we notice many mud walls which had cactus planted on top -- certainly a novel and cheap way to deter would be thieves. We also noticed that many of the women wore fancy hats. Marco said it was because the Inca's used to deform their heads to indicate status. When the Spanish forbade it, they took to wearing different hats. Now they usually reflect a region. Marco was collecting pictures of the various hats and wanted to write a book about them. We also noticed that many of the women wore full skirts with many petticoats. And in the market, Chris had noticed panties with padded butts. Marco said that was because the Inca culture liked women with big butts. At last, a culture that truly loves women.

Trying on Alpaca produ ts in PeruOn the way back to Cusco, we stopped at a small roadside shop offering Alpaca products. Marco said we could trust that the products were true Alpaca which doesn't smell as opposed to llama which stinks when wet. By the time we were finished, we'd loaded up with sweaters, capes, slippers, hats, vests, shawls, t-shirts, and figurines.

Lunch overlooking Cusco, PeruFor lunch we stopped at restaurant overlooking Cusco. From down in the valley, you could hear Peruvian flutes. At one point you thought you'd stepped back in time, until you saw all the cellular telephone towers on a mountaintop across the valley. Again a Peruvian band entertained us, selling CDs. This group even got Percilla into the act with a lively dance. To add to the welcome, the owners had put an American flag on our table and a French flag on another one.

That afternoon some went for more shopping, others checked out the Internet cafas, and others took a nap. That night we went back to Sacsayhuaman to observe the stars as they were intended to be seen from this ancient observatory. All Inca places are oriented to the earth and the sky. Nothing is built by chance While there was a full moon, it was cloudy so we couldn't see all the stars. But like ancient mariners, Marco could see the puma or the condor in many constellations.

We also stopped to see a large statute of Christ overlooking the city that was given to the people of Cusco by Palestinians in 1949 for their support. Interestingly, it was never mentioned in any of the guidebooks as to what kind of support was given.

That night we went to the Inca Grill for dinner, overlooking the Plaza de Amas. Once again we tried different items on the menu and liked some and would rather pass on others. A great time was had by all.

Footnotes:

We later determined the sparrow was a Rufus crowned sparrow.

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