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Cusco (or two days to adjust to a higher altitude)

After our quick visit to Lima we flew to Cusco Peru to meet up with the rest of our group and meet our guide.  Our guide’s name was Juan Barrios and he was a Cusco native.  He met us at the airport along with the rest of our group: Liz and Aaron; Laurie and Ken.  We went off to our hotel for a quick lunch and then met up with the group to start a tour of Cusco.
When you think of a city tour you think of buses or vans; but not our tours.  Juan was our guide for these tours and he was very knowledgeable about the museums and the history of Peru.    I learned that Peru was the only civilization in South America prior to Spanish colonization.  The map below shows the four tribes of the Inca Civilization and where they were located.  It wasn’t until after the revolution against Spain that Columbia, Chile, and Argentina were formed.  Very interesting history of this continent.

We did a walking tour of Cusco.  Our first stop was at Basilica Catedral.  I learned here that much of the culture of the Incas was integrated into the church.  For example, in the Inca culture the woman played a strong role, so Mary has a strong role in the Peruvian church.  Also, while the use of mirrors may seem vain, the use in the church was to reflect the role of the sun and moon in the Incan culture.

After the Catedral, we visited Museo De Sitio Del Qoricancha and Convento de Santo Domingo del Cusco.  Both were built on Inca foundations.

Misshapen skulls from Museo De Sitio Del Oricancha


Courtyard of Convento De Santo Domingo del Cusco

Condor, Puma, and Snake – representing the Inca belief in life – above, on, and under ground

The second day in Cusco was another day to adjust to the higher altitude.  Coming from Colorado Springs this was not difficult.  We did another walking tour.  We climbed a very steep street with about a 1500 foot change in altitude to the ruins at Suqsayhuaman.  The view of Cusco was amazing as was the architecture.  There was a stone in the wall weigh 136 tons.  How did the Incas move it?  We went through a narrow tunnel that became pitch black about half way through – we used the walls to navigate.

Part of the hike to Saqsayhuman

Yes, that IS a 136 ton boulder!

The view from the top overlooking Cusco

Going down into the tunnel

We visited some factories (Grupo Esmeralda) where the alpaca is woven into sweaters, shawls, hats and other things.  We also visited a silver jewelry manufacturer.  Everything was made by hand. The best part was if you paid in cash and in dollars you received a discount – bargain!  We climbed a lot this day.  We walked up to Q’engo and then back down to Cusco to visit the market.  I bought bread and cheese for dinner for 6 soles or 2 dollars.  On the way back we went down a street where a former monastery had been converted into a hotel.  It was next to a former convent.  During restoration the Cusco government found a tunnel connecting the two buildings.  I guess the priests needed to provide some “hands-on” counseling to the nuns.  
So we visited 2 churches, a museum, and 2 Inca ruins in our 2 days in Cusco.  It looks like much of the center Cusco is built upon the ancient walls of the Inca civilization.  It is amazing to see walls still standing from at least 500 years ago and even more amazing to think there is very little in the US that is that old and still in use.

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