Inca trails and Spanish tales (part 1)

Trip Start Jun 08, 2012
Trip End Aug 16, 2013

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June is the perfect time to be here in Cusco... as it's a whole month of festival there is something happening every day, and it goes on for the whole day (and normally involves being woken up at 6am with fireworks)!!  I've seen traditional dance competitions and military parades in the main square, carnival parades, traditional food markets.... and this coming Friday I get to join in!  We are going to be doing a parade from the Spanish school (Amauta) apparantly in traditional costume... should be some interesting photos to follow!

During the week I have just being doing my Spanish classes Monday to Friday in the mornings and have spent most afternoons in the centre watching the festivities and exploring the town.  We normally go out for dinner in the evenings and then a few(!) beers in the highest Irish pub in the world, although 2 of us did brave buying fresh food at the market one night and cooking it in the schools kitchen. Slightly worrying that the following day my friend was taken ill wiith salmonella and had to spend a night in the hospital - I think the beers I consumed afterwards killed off any germs but I'll be sticking to restaurants from now on!!  The school also organises an activity every evening for an hour, so last week I also did a cocktail making class where we made Pisco sours (Pisco is the local liquor made from white grapes, like a brandy, and you mix it with lemon juice, egg white, honey and orange peel - much tastier than it sounds!) and had a salsa lesson on Friday night.  I think tonight we are learning to play the pan pipes!!!!!  The language classes are really good, they try and keep them interesting so one day we all went to the San Pedro market and "interviewed" the stall holders, and we've also been learning songs and attempting(!) to sing them.

I had a very cultured and tiring weekend exploring Incan ruins with a fellow traveller, Suzan.  On Saturday we took a taxi to a site 11km away called Tambomachay and from there walked back to Cusco which passes 3 other Incan sites - Pukapukara, Q'enqo and Saqsaywaman, which took the whole day.  I was too tired to even drink that night, but we did get serenaded in a restaurant by a local mariachi band!  (For anyone interested in the history or meaning of these sites I've added a very brief description at the end of this post).

Sunday we decided to take it a bit easier and took a taxi to a small town called Pisac which is 33km north of Cusco and in the Sacred Valley.  The plan was to take the bus to Pisac but after spending an hour being sent in 4 different directions by 4 different locals to find the bus stop (nothing as simple here as a pole in the ground saying "bus stop"!) and asking every bus we saw if they were going to Pisac as none of them displays the route or destination in the window, we gave in and took a comfortable taxi instead!  Pisac is famous for 2 things - a massive daily market (Sunday is the biggest) and more Incan ruins.  We did the market first which sells everything from clothes to dolls to art to jewellery to fresh fruit and veg, then headed up to the ruins which sit 4km high above the town.  At the courtyard we stopped at for lunch they were cooking the local delicacy, Cuy (stuffed and roasted guinea pig), and they grow there own so there was a big guinea pig house in the middle of the courtyard which was really odd!  The Pisac ruins are definitely my favourite ruins from the weekend.  The views from the top are amazing and the site is really big and still complete unlike Saqsaywaman which was destroyed by the spanish conquerors so only the foundations remain.  To get to the ruins (we took a taxi there but decided to walk down), my trusty(?!) Lonely Planet says, and I quote, "take the steep 4km footpath starting along the left side of the church.  It's a spectacular climb up through terraces, sweeping around mountainess flanks and along cliff hugging footpaths, vertigo inducing staircases and a short tunnel carved out of the rock." , so we thought we would be adventurous and walk back down from the top.  Hmmm, steep - check, spectular climb (or descent) - check, cliff hugging and tunnels and vertigo inducing staircases - check, however, there was definitely no path after the first couple of kms, and definitely didn't end up anywhere near either a church or Pisac!!  In fact, we ended up a 20 mins walk outside of Pisac and 20m high of the ground, being separated by a 30 cm wide concrete ledge and a sheer drop the other side of it...  as we only had an hour of daylight left we took our chnaces ad practised our best balance beam walking along the ledge until we managed to find a way to scramble down!  Thankfullly Suzan agreed with me that it was enough adventure for the weekend so we took a comfy taxi home instead of standing up on an overcrowded bus for an hour sniffing other peoples armpits!! :o)

So that's it for the weekend, back to class this week and deciding what to get up to next weekend.

Cioa! Xxx
PS, having some issues loading photos but will try adding them again later so check back for updates!

Tambomachay - small ceremonial bath site - named El Bano del Inca.

Pukapukara - meaing 'red fort' thought to be used as a hunting lodge or guard post with panoraic views looking down into Cusco

Q'enqo - small ruin meaning zigzag.  It's a large limsetone rock riddled with niches, steps and symbolic carvings, thought to be a place for cerimonial sacrifices.

Saqsaywaman (pronoucned sexy woman) - meaning satisfied falcon and the largest of the 4 sites.  It was torn down by the Spaniards after the conquest and the blocks used to build houses in Cusco. The shape represents the teeth of a puma with 22 zigzagging walls and the site is used for the annual Inti Raymi celebrations.  (Cusco was originally designed in the shape of a puma with Saqsaywaman forming the puma's head). 

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April on

Sounds like quite an adventure! I can just imagine being there with you. I'm sure my legs are glad that they are not! :) Looking forward to photos!! xxx

Rach on

Sounds like it an amazing trip. look forward to seeing the photo's

Mila on

Bueno a partir de ahora te escribire en Espan-ol ya que tienes que ser toda una experta en el idioma. Como me alegra que estes haciendo este viaje, Peru tiene que ser precioso y un pais que me gustaria mucho conocer.
Hope you are having an amazing time, i have got lots of friends from Peru please E-mail me if you need anything.
Take care

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