Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cusco - Friday 30th January

Arrived at 06:00 on the (now standard) overnight luxury bus - the road was a bit bumpy so didn't get too much sleep. We were offered a cup of hot Coca Tea when we arrived at our Hotel, which was quite pleasant & most acceptable.
Although Cusco is at 3,350m high, we have not been affected by altitude sickness, but were still suprised by how cold it can get at night, even although it's mid summer here. I have had to wear my woolly fleece, only the third time this trip.

Our first impression of Cusco was that it was not as pretty as Arequipa. The churches, being made of re-cycled brown sandstone, plundered from the old Inca buildings, were a bit dark & dreary. They even charge to go in the churches & Cathedrals.
The main square is surrounded by restaurants - all serving the same food, except Paddy's which served up large plates of typical "Irish Food" i.e. everything came with mashed potatoes. They also had two happy hours each evening !

Cusco is the city in South America most visited by international tourists, so it's not surprising that "fleece the tripper" is the popular local sport. The local street vendors were quite pushy, if you replied "no, gracias" when they tried to sell you yet another woolly hat, they would quite often reply "why not" & continue to pester you. I think many women carry a few trinkets around with them at all times, ready to pounce on any tripper they come across. The locals dress themselves & their children in local costumes & even carry cute baby Llamas around so they can charge you money to photograph them. I even saw fully grown Llamas being dragged around town to be photographed.
They charge 5.00 Solas per photo - damn it, you can almost buy a 'Pisco Sour' for that.
My favourite tee-shirt had "No, Gracias" printed on the front - essential for walking the streets of Cusco.

Cusco was the centre of the Inca (or Inka) civilisation & there is evidence of the Incas everywhere. Some if the original Inca stone walls are still standing having survived centuries of earthquakes. The Incas were fantastic architects & builders.
The thing that fascinated me was that their walls were made of dry stones dovetailed together, with no gaps between them & no mortar. Each stone was fashioned to fit the previously laid stones whatever their shape, so an irregular pattern was built up, which probably accounted for its great strength.

There is one famous stone which has 12 sides, each side
exquisitly fitted to the other stones - this stone even has its own street named after it, "Hatunrumiyoc" which means 12 sided stone (what else). This wall was part of the original palace of Roca, the sixth Inca.

After a recent earthquake, they dug away the rubble of a Spanish Colonial church to reveal the original Inca walls, still intact.

The Incas were remarkable people. Although they reigned from the early 12th century, they were only were only predominant for about 100 years, from the reign of Pachacutec in 1438 to when the Spanish reached Cusco in about 1534.

The Incas were great engineers but, amazingly, they didn't use wheels - they didn't have any animals capable of pulling carts (horses & oxen were not indigenous). They knew all about wheels, though - they made toys with wheels.
They also didn't have a written language, although they used a system of knotted strings to record quantities, but not much of this has survived & it hasn't been de-ciphered yet.
The history of the Incas was therefore written by the early Spanish Conquerors & other historians many years later from word of mouth stories.

For all their sophistication, the Incas were no match for the Spanish who had horses, armour & steel swords.
It's a pity the Spanish Conquistadores wiped the Incas out - but then nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.
[Enter Michael Palin in red cardinal's cloak, stage left - for Monty Python fans]
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holly08121 on

Glad you have tried the Tea! Think your way of getting to Cusco by bus is probably much better so you got aclimatized slowly! I found the building work fasinating the Inca's seemed like very intelliegent people!

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