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Saqsayhuaman, Pukapukara, Q'enqo, & San Blas

We woke up at 7:15 to the sound of a bell tolling for several minutes.This was followed by fireworks, which we were told are often set off by churches in the morning hours. We had breakfast at 8:30 (hot bread, orange juice, jelly, and coca tea). Vidal picked us up with a taxi at 9. We were all glad that Craig was feeling back to his normal self. We stopped at the San Cristobal church, which gives a great view of Cusco. Then we went to Tambomachay, some ruins with three fountains fed by channels. There were some niches that are believed to have held monoliths in a certain pose. Vidal took a picture of Craig and I standing in these niches. We then went to Pukapukara, which were some other nice ruins which were practically right across the street. After that we went to Lacco (the Temple of the Moon). The taxi driver left, as we would walk from here on. This is a large volcanic set of rocks which is very sacred. Just as Vidal was telling us how rituals are still done here today, a shaman rolled up in a van, and hopped out carrying wood and woven fabric. Two other men followed him. They went to a little area and lit a fire to do their sacrifice. It was amazing. Such a rich, living, breathing culture. After that we walked to Q'enqo. There were lots of people riding horses around this area. We saw many carvings of pumas, condors, and snakes, but as with most places that the Spaniards found, the heads of the animals had been smashed. After Q'enqo we walked to Saqsayhuaman. We walked through a cave that was pitch black inside, and we needed to feel our way through to the other end. It was wild. There is another larger tunnel, and there are all kinds of legends that it runs the length of the city, and that it has a history fraught with curses and Inca gld. This larger tunnel has been sealed up because people have been lost in there. There were lots of kindergarten school kids on a field trip there in their red uniforms. They were walking, holding hands, and singing. They slid down a big rock. One was looking at us and the teacher told her "Don't stare at the gringos." We walked around and saw all of the beautiful stonework. We sat for a while atop the hill overlooking the valley. This is where people still to this day watch the Inti Raymi festival during the summer solstice. As the schoolkids were walking away, they saw us on top of the hill. They waved and yelled "Ciao gringos!" It was priceless! After Saqsayhuaman, we walked through the San Cristobal district of Cusco. We passed a lot of friendly locals and said hello.

Then we walked through San Blas, where Vidal grew up. The streets were narrow, and many houses were perched atop hills and only accessible by long staircases that seemed to lead to the heavens. Vidal took us to his parents' house. His mother was making chicha. We were introduced to a young girl and Vidal's nephew Dennis, who shook our hands. Dennis was carrying a small lamb in his arms. We sat on the couch and listened to Quechua blues. Vidal gave us some bottled, carbonated chicha morada which was very good. He showed us some books about Peru. The milkman arrived on his daily visit, bearing a plastic jug full of milk. The propane delivery man also arrived. It was so nice tof Vidal to show us his parents' house. Next we went to the San Blas church. It was gorgeous, but no photos were allowed inside. There were beautiful works of gold and silver. But the most impressive thing was the pulpit, which was carved from a single block of cedar and was suspended from the ceiling. The carvings were so intricate. There were apostles with movable arms, etc. There was even a real human skull poised on top.

Afterwards we went to a nearby restaurant to eat lunch. We sat at an outdoor table. A woman approached us, selling belts and calabash gourds. We said no thank you. She started chatting with me in Spanish, about how she is Quechua but also knows Spanish, whereas her mother can't speak Spanish at all. She was a very nice woman. She sat down next to our table, wrapped some thread around her foot, and started weaving right there. She had two wooden paddles, and she just wove with her fingers. It was amazing. She was doing a two color work that was very intricate. After that I couldn't say no. Her work was amazing, and she did it all herself. I bought a brightly colored alpaca belt for 40 soles. The woman was very appreciative, said she had five children at home, and shook my hand, saying gracias. She then showed us the gourds, which are hand decorated by her husband. They were very intricate, and you can shake them and the seeds make noise. Some told a story with words and pictures, others had just pictures. We bought one that had a condor, puma, and snake, as well as a festival with a band on it for 32 soles. We said that it would always remind us of Ollantaytambo. Craig got lomo saltado and I had lomo with an onion and tomato sauce with rice. It was delicious and tangy, and I loved it, despite the fact that I spilled it all over my pants.

After that we went to a bank that had a Cusquena beer exhibition. There were also some museum rooms with Inca artifacts. They built on top of the Inca walls that already existed there. We walked down a street that was devoted to chicharron restaurants. We toured the Qoricancha, or "Gold Museum", a Dominican convent. It is a church built on Inca ruins, and you can go into various rooms to see both Inca architecture and Spanish Catholic relics. There was a nice plaza that had all kinds of arches and was decorated with gorgeous potted plants. There was a nice garden near the old Temple of the Sun. After our tour we quickly went into the church. A Mass was going on, and it was just gorgeous. As we walked through Cusco we noticed many ornate wooden balconies overhanging the street.

We took a cab to a local market. This was an enclosed market that was set up kind of like a U.S. flea market. People were selling breads, fruits, vegetables, wedding dresses, llama fetuses for sacrifices, candy, shoes, etc. It was wild. We were the only gringos around. Vidal bought a knitted mask that is used in festivals. The mask was made of white yarn, and when Vidal put it on, the clerk joked that he looked like us. There were knockoff Jansport backpacks that instead of "Jansport Made in USA" said "Jansport Style in USA." People were selling rolls of toilet paper, soap, coffee beans, and chocolate. We walked to the Plaza de Armas. We got money from the ATM, bought film, bought a book on Peru for 65 soles, and two maps of Peru for 25 soles each. When walking through the Plaza, we noticed one street was blocked off. There were hundreds of Catholic school girls marching down the street, praying and chanting. One woman had a bullhorn and was leading the prayers. We crossed the procession and went into Norton Rat's to play pool. There was a balcony from which you could watch the procession, and I took a couple pictures as a big lit up float of the Virgin Mary came by, followed by a marching band. Craig and Vidal got Cusquena and I got a rum and Coke (but since it was happy hour I got two for the price of one). First we playerd cutthroat. I won. But we noticed that there was a duplicate ball, so the numbers didn't work out right and cuttroat wasn't realy fair. So we played the way we had played with Carlos, only with some rules that you can only hit balls on a certain side of the tableuntil you have sunk all other balls. I got some papas fritas to eat. There was a wood stove going, and it was quite warm in there. Vidal won the next two games. We got a picture of the three of us. It was a lot of fun. We walked back to the hotel and said goodbye to Vidal, which was another sad goodbye.

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