Home of the Incan Empire

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
Trip End Dec 03, 2009

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We arrived into Cusco, Peru from a 6 hour bus ride from Puno. The ride itself crossed over the highest point of our trip at 4338 meters above sea level. We stopped there for a picture to prove it!

After arriving into Cusco we took a short bus ride around the city to familiarize us and then we checked into our hotel. We have had had a free afternoon and a day, so Dave and I strolled the Avenida del Sol (Avenue of the Sun) and took in the sights. They have an amazing history with the Incas and the Spanish conquerors and one of the places to see where the two cultures joined is at the Church of Santo Domingo which was built by the Spaniards on the site of the greatest Incan Sun Temple. You can still see the foundation that was built by the Incas between 1439 and 1532. The stone masonry is amazing! The Cathedral on top is pretty cool too, and it has a painting of the last supper with a guinea pig on the dinner table inside!

We went into the Qorikancha museum at the site of the Santo Domingo church and it has the history of both the time when the location was the Inca Sun Temple ("Qorikancha" means Temple of Gold) and the current Catholic Church from the Spaniards. The Incan temple used to have full walls covered in gold and huge gold Sun medallions inside. The gold was all stolen and melted down by the Spaniards when they conquered the city, but some of the buildings from the Inca times still remain. They are so interesting and it is just amazing how they managed to make the stone edges line up completely perfect to make the walls. David, being the engineer, was very impressed!

After that we took a walk to the Plaza de Armas, the town square. It is certainly the most picturesque town square we've seen on this trip (and EVERY city and even small village has a town square!). There are two Cathedrals that surround the square and the rest of the buildings all have the Spanish arches designs and the park in the middle has lots of flowers and trees and a lovely fountain.

We also went to the Inca Museum and hired an English guide to explain the exhibits to us as most of it was in Spanish. It was also very interesting to see how the Peru and Cusco indigenous people lived and then how the Incas conquered the area, and how the Spanish conquered the Incas. We also learned about how the Inca sites were made and a little information about the Inca Trail which we are trekking in a few days.

Last night we did enjoy a lovely dinner at a local restaurant for one of our group members’ birthday. Our guide Roland went all out and arranged a cake and some balloons with Janey’s name on it and a party room at the restaurant. We had a great time and great food too. Then we went to a local bar for a few drinks (not many as alcohol doesn’t help in the altitude!) and celebrated Janey’s birthday.

Cusco is a cool city, but unfortunately it is a city where we are harassed constantly by people wanting to sell us crappy tourist stuff and city tours and all sorts of random things and it’s really annoying to just walk around and not get to just relax and enjoy the sites. It’s the first city that we’ve found like this and hopefully the last!

Tomorrow we’re off to Ollyantaytambo which is on the way to the start of the Inca Trail and we’re going to the Sacred Valley to see some more Inca ruins and one more night to prepare for the Inca Trail. So we’ll be offline for the next 5 days or so while we do the hike and then we’ll post again once we’re back (hopefully in one piece!).
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