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The Navel of the World

Miraflores volcanoes
Miraflores volcanoes
We awoke this morning with some sadness because we realized that it was our last tour day, but we were happy to be spending it in the magical city of Cusco. Jon and Barbara had wanted to go rafting, but Jon had succumbed to a bit of altitude sickness the night before, and he was resting in his room. Barbara had elected to stay with him, so just Karen and I toured the profound Sacsayhuman ruins with Marco. Marco told us that most tourists learn how to pronounce the name of the ruins by saying; “sexy-woman”. We rented a taxi and drove up the hill to the ruins, which were close, but up a very steep hill. These spectacular ruins feature astounding outer walls constructed in a zigzag formation of three tiers. The Inca king Pachacutec constructed it as a fortress in the shape of a Puma’s head to protect the Incas from their enemies, but it was eventually conquered by the Spaniards. It eventually became the site of the bloodiest battles between the Spaniards and the Incas, when the Inca king Manco took the fort back from the Spaniards, and then Pizarro retook the fort for the Spaniards in a series of battles that took thousands of lives. When you stand in these amazing ruins, this history jumps to life, but more importantly, you wonder how they ever fit these colossal stones together so perfectly! Marco explained that the stones are a language that the Incas were trying to preserve, and that one of the meanings for the word "Inca" is “light". He again suggested that music might have been the power that lifted the stones. He concluded by saying that when the stones speak, the Incas will return! He then took us to a series of tunnels that lead from the lower part of the ruins to the upper parts. He described these tunnels as initiation areas that would-be priests had to travel through as a type of birthing experience. We fearfully held tightly to him as he led us through the pitch-black tunnels. By this time, Marco knew that we were receptive to the mystic and philosophical elements of his belief system, so he asked if we wanted to visit the house of a local shaman that he had great respect for. Of course we jumped at the chance, but he was not home when we got there, and we were disappointed at missing the chance to visit with him. But we realize that things happen the way they are supposed to, and we just weren’t meant to see the shaman on this day.

From Sacsayhuaman, we traveled to the nearby White Statue of Christ that overlooks Cusco. From there we had magnificent views of Cusco in all directions. After that, we returned to the hotel and picked up Barbara. Then the four of us made a fantastic tour of the Cusco local market, again noticing that thanks to Marco, we were the only tourists in the market. Karen bought a chess set that featured the Incas versus the Spaniards. We bought coffee beans in the market and watched the coffee seller grind the beans. We continued through the market, viewing the various forms of slaughtered animals, and many varieties of potatoes and vegetables. Marco took us to his favorite juice bar where we sat and watched the local Peruvian woman mix exotic fruit drinks for us. As I was drinking my juice, I felt someone near me. I looked to my left and saw that a very small, colorfully dressed Peruvian woman complete with black hat, had sat down next to me so close that we were actually touching. I looked into her eyes and she looked back, and we both smiled. It was a great moment! We concluded the market tour at the shop that featured natural medicines, magic herbs, potions and aphrodisiacs. Marco had his picture taken with Karen by the dried rabbits.

We returned to our hotel room and did some preliminary packing. That night, we ate our last dinner with Marco in the Inka Grill, the old palace of the Inca King Pachacutec. A fantastic Peruvian pipe band performed in the balcony of the Inka Grill as we sampled several different types of potato chips as appetizers, and ate a fantastic meal. We hated to say goodbye to Marco, who had been another fantastic guide for us. We promised to keep in touch and exchange information about Incan cosmology. After dinner, we went to a nearby grocery store and bought some bitter chocolate and other last-minute souvenirs before returning to our hotel.

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