Written by SeenThat on 27 Feb, 2011
Just one kilometer from Sacsayhuaman is Q’enqo, a large limestone structure carved with many steps leading to nowhere, or to a place that doesn’t exist anymore. This is a motif typical of huacas, sacred stones appearing in Inca worship places. Between these two sites, horses…Read More
Just one kilometer from Sacsayhuaman is Q’enqo, a large limestone structure carved with many steps leading to nowhere, or to a place that doesn’t exist anymore. This is a motif typical of huacas, sacred stones appearing in Inca worship places. Between these two sites, horses can be rented for short rides; if arriving in an organized tour (which is the recommended option due to certain dangers here), ask before booking a place if time is scheduled for this activity.The name of the site means zigzag in Quechua. At first this may seem more appropriate for Sacsayhuaman since this fort was built in a clear zigzag pattern. Here, finding the pattern demands an effort since it was carved within the stone. Apparently, chicha (a fermented corn drink) and llama blood flowed through these canals during ceremonies. The last things of interest in this rock are carvings of a condor and a puma on its highest point. Below the rock are caves with carved niches were mummies were stored. A point of special interest is that Altiplano mummies were desiccated by the very dry weather of the plateau, without the complex processes used in Egypt. Nearby is a small amphitheatre of stone niches with a vertical stone which originally may have been a statue. It doesn’t take long to finish this visit; Puca Pucara is the next Inca ruin in the tours around Cusco. "Puca Pucara" means "Red Fort" in Quechua. The name is no less interesting than the site itself. Across the Titicaca Lake from here, Tiwanaku was probably contemporaneous to Angkor, apparently dating back to the late first millennia. Apparently – again this ambiguous definition – the denizens were Paucara (or Pucara) people, who spoke a language closely related to Aymara. Then a calamity occurred and they migrated across the Titicaca Lake, founding Cusco and the Inca Empire. Accordingly, Pucara (and Paucara) are recurring names in the whole area and were later on adopted as surnames by many.The Red Fort is six kilometers away from Q’enqo. Despite its name, the site was probably a tambo. This is a Quechua word used to design storage facilities. Even nowadays, many markets in La Paz include storage areas called "tambos." Here, many partially surviving rooms of regular size and no sign of fortifications occupy a modest hill. The most interesting sight is the terraces on adjacent hills – some of them in advances stages of decay that were used for growing corn and tubers.Nearby - practically across the road from Puca Pucara - is the last Inca attraction in the area, known as Tambomachay. Despite called "tambo" this is not a storage facility, but an elaborate bath; thus it is often referred to us the Inca Bath. A natural spring was channeled here through three waterfalls, a wall with niches surrounds the complex; this beautiful piece of engineering still works perfectly well.Is a tour of four sites in half a day in the company of too many tourists worth the effort? After all, this is neither Machu Picchu nor Cusco. I had my doubts before the tour. Yet, these humble sights provide additional angles to few experiences of the Inca Empire still available to us today, and as such, they are recommended.Close
Written by SeenThat on 10 Feb, 2011
Old is the FutureTalking with Andean denizens may be confusing. The very concept of time in Aymara and Quechua is strikingly different. Some time ago I was talking with a local friend about an event in her far past and she told me in Spanish:…Read More
Old is the FutureTalking with Andean denizens may be confusing. The very concept of time in Aymara and Quechua is strikingly different. Some time ago I was talking with a local friend about an event in her far past and she told me in Spanish: "It’s too ahead, I don’t remember." The sentence doesn’t make sense in Spanish, but it’s perfect in Aymara.Simply, in the Andean cultures, the past is ahead of us, because we can see it, i.e. remember it. The future is backwards, because we don’t see it. The result of this worldview is that the future is never taken seriously. Don’t expect to meet people on time even if it was agreed several times (another local cultural point is that only things repeated three times are agreed upon; note the excited "Si! Si! Si!" in local conversations). Combine that with a lack of historical writings from before the Spaniards arrival and speaking with locals about their past may get complex. Especially with regard to certain adjectives. "It’s old," somebody told me shortly after I arrived at La Paz for the first time. Seeing my sudden interest on the detail, he added: "maybe 300 years.""Oh, that’s nothing for you," he added after he saw my reaction.New is CuscoIf Machu Picchu was the oligarchs’ winter retreat, Cusco was the imperial capital, second only to Aztecan Tenochtitlan in this side of the world. As everything here, there are no exact historical records, though the city is not very old. Tiwanaku was probably contemporaneous to Angkor, apparently dating back to the late first millennia. A baby. Apparently – again this ambiguous definition – the denizens were Paucara (or Pucara) people, who spoke a language closely related to Aymara. Then a calamity occurred and they migrated across the Titicaca Lake, founding Cusco and the Inca Empire. Many Bolivians still like telling stories about secret passages underneath the Titicaca Lake. The crossing happened likely in the 12th century, with Manco Capac and Mama Oclla as leaders. "Manco" is a Spanish distortion of the term "Mallku," a type of leader in local cultures. Overall, there were only 13 Inca emperors, a short lived empire which began the destruction of local cultures; later, the Spaniards took over and almost finished this task.Under the new colonial masters, the area and its main city began a slow but sure decline. Its luck changed in 1911, when the ruins of Machu Picchu were found after having been forgotten for a while. The term "discovery" is weird while used in the Americas. After all, the people living there obviously knew about the place. Even the Spaniards knew after it; records show the ownership of Machu Picchu reached local courts in the 16th century. So in 1911, the English speaking world found Machu Picchu and Cusco entered a revival period.By then, Cusco was almost purely Spanish in style. Then, in 1950, an earthquake destroyed much of the downtown area and created the opportunity to restore Inca structures. As of today, Cusco still looks like a Spanish town, though it is clearly sprinkled with Inca ruins.The Empire’s NounsFit of the two belligerent empires which used it as an administrative center, the town’s focal point is named "Weapons Plaza." It contains two extraordinary structures which link it in spirit and shape with another important (and nearby) city of the colonial period: Potosi. The beautiful cathedral was built in baroque style, while nearby is the not less impressive Iglesia de la Compañia, the Jesuit epicenter in the area. The Jesuits held an important position in colonial South America until they were expelled in the late 18th century for defending the original denizens’ rights.Left of the cathedral (Ataud and Tucuman corner) is the Museo Inka, which is more interesting than its parallel in Agua Calientes, near Machu Picchu. Its collections of metal artifacts, mummies, qeros (wooden cups) and other Inca artifacts are by far richer. Close and related is the Museo de Arte Precolombino (Plaza de las Nazarenas), which offers collections predating also the Inca empire. The museum is closely related to Museo Larco in Lima, which is responsible for the displayed objects.I do not want to make a complete list of the local museums; there are plenty of them. For a traveler rushing through town, the ones mentioned in the previous paragraphs are more than enough, especially since they are the most closely related to the core reason for a trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. For those who are not in a rush, there are obviously more attractions; including Inca related ones, like the impressive Sacsayhuaman ruins. On these important issues, in a future journal.Close
Written by lamtrc on 02 Feb, 2011
Few would go to Machu Picchu without making a stop at Cusco. The city of Cusco is about 3,500 m above sea-level (roughly 2 miles), so experiencing some level of high-altitude sickness is inevitable when first arrive. If you are a healthy adult,…Read More
Few would go to Machu Picchu without making a stop at Cusco. The city of Cusco is about 3,500 m above sea-level (roughly 2 miles), so experiencing some level of high-altitude sickness is inevitable when first arrive. If you are a healthy adult, then just slower your pace and don't run, drink (alcohol), or smoke (if you do smoke) excessively the first few hours, and you should be Ok. Due to its popularity, it is a good idea to reserve your Cusco - Machu Picchu round-trip train ticket over the internet prior leaving for Peru unless you stay in the country for an extended period of time and are very flexible with dates. If you prebook tickets online, upon arrival you have to claim your actual train tickets at Cusco ticket office but not at the train station. I was lucky enough that the staff of my hostel saw my ticket claim. Because I arrived on a late Sunday morning, they warned me that I had to go the ticket office immediately to claim my train tickets since it would be closed in the afternoon, and my train was leaving on the next day. If I had headed to the train station instead, I probably would miss the ticket office hour and couldn't make it to Machu Picchu. After waiting for over one hour at a pretty nice and modern ticket office, my number was finally called. I thought that would be the last hurdle, and I would be on my way to Machu Picchu the next day...Yay! Not so fast, according to the ticket agent, there wasn't any train from Cusco to Machu Picchu anymore. The actual train would depart from Poroy, and I had to take a connection bus (arranged by PeruRail) from Cusco train station to Poroy train station early in the morning. Nevertheless, I had my train tickets...Yay! Oh, don't forget to bring your passport when claiming your tickets.Because I'd read some not too nice reviews about Cusco before going there, I only booked to stay for 1 day. Big mistake! As all other cities, it has shady areas that you don't want to be in. However, I think the city in general is definitely charming with wonderful people and worth a longer stay. The historic old town is fantastic and pretty safe to roam around. You can find rows and rows of street vendors selling everything, or you can wander a few blocks off the main streets and be off the crowds. Food is as good as it can get in Cusco. There are tons of local restaurants with US$3-5 dishes that taste like heaven. There are also many upscale restaurants with US$10-20 a menu item. One thing I can vow is that food in Peru is never disappointing, whether you go to a cheap local eatery or a high class restaurant. I had not a bad Peruvian meal. Since you are 2 miles closer to the sun, winter days in Cusco are actually quite warm as the sun beating down on you. It is pleasant to walk around with a light jacket or just a long sleeve t-shirt. However, it is freezing at night, so bring a heavy coast. In fact, the temperature starts dropping drastically after 3-4pm in winter, so don't make yourself look like a stupid gringo (and I saw few) walking around Cusco at night in a pair of cargo shorts shivering. Talking about Cusco night, if you think it is pretty during the day, you probably will think it is pure magical at night around the huge old town square area. It is like a South American Krakow, bars [checked], fun [checked], people [checked], and charm [BIG CHECKED].Cusco, a charm and a prelude to Machu Picchu, enjoy it!Close
Written by LenR on 27 Jul, 2009
There is so much to see in Cusco and in the surrounding area that the number of attractions almost becomes overwhelming. Some years ago someone had the thought of selling a combined ticket which would allow visitors to visit everything. It never quite worked like…Read More
There is so much to see in Cusco and in the surrounding area that the number of attractions almost becomes overwhelming. Some years ago someone had the thought of selling a combined ticket which would allow visitors to visit everything. It never quite worked like that because a few attractions refused to join but it covered enough and was priced appropriately to make it a good buy. That changed somewhat when the Archdiocese of Cusco took the cathedral, the church of San Blas and the religious art museum out of the ticket. It was not helped either when the price almost doubled in 2007.Never-the-less the ticket is still useful if you are planning a reasonable stay in Cusco and surroundings and plan to see many of the attractions. The "Tourist Ticket" of Cusco or Boleto Turistico is required to visit almost all of the Incan ruins in the Cusco Valley or "Sacred Valley", as well as the many of the interesting museums within Cusco itself. The ticket is good for 10 days, which is plenty of time to see just about all of the sites.The places you can visit with the ticket are in three separate categories. Within Cusco City there is the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Museum of Popular Arts, Site Museum of Qoriqancha, Monument of Pachacutea, Regional Historic Museum, and Center of Native Arts and Dance. Then there are the four Incan Ruins near Cusco: Sacsayhuamán, Quenqo, Tambomachay, Tipón, Pikillaqta. Finally there are the Inca sites in the Sacred Valley: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero. Foreign visitors should expect to pay about S/. 140 (about $45 USD), Peruvian nationals pay S/. 70 with National ID. There is a discount for students under the age of 28, so take your current student ID for a potential discount. The Tourist Ticket can be bought at Avenida El Sol 103 of 102 (Tourist Galleries), opposite InfoPeru. This is in the first block after leaving the Plaza de Armas, on the left hand side if you are walking from the Plaza. You can also buy it at an office at the corner of Calle Garcilaso and Plaza Recogcio. The ticket can be bought at almost all the sites with the exception of Historical Regional Museum, Centre Qosqo of Native Art, Tipon and Pikillaqta. You can only buy your ticket using soles (not dollars). If you are interested in only Cusco’s cathedral, Inca Museum, Museo de Arte Precolombino and Temple of the Sun, the tourist ticket is no use. The Temple of the Sun, arguably Cusco’s most fabulous sight, levies its own admission price and is not part of the ticket. The Inca Museum and Museo de Arte Precolombino also charge admission independently. The cathedral can be visited separately or you can buy an integrated ticket to visit it, the church of San Blas and the religious art museum. This is what we did but it would have been just as good to buy individual admission because we didn’t make it to the San Blas church.Close
Some visitors use Cusco purely as a stopping point n the way to Machu Picchu but this is a mistake. One of the joys of this city is to explore the many narrow cobblestone streets with their colourful terra-cotta roofed buildings. If you are not…Read More
Some visitors use Cusco purely as a stopping point n the way to Machu Picchu but this is a mistake. One of the joys of this city is to explore the many narrow cobblestone streets with their colourful terra-cotta roofed buildings. If you are not acclimatised to the altitude, this can be a real problem.The central city is most enjoyable explored on foot. Even many of the streets which are open to traffic are so narrow that it’s simply faster to walk than to drive. One problem, however, is that streets change names every few blocks and this has been further complicated by the city erecting new street signs with old Quechua names to highlight its Inca heritage. These naturally bear no relationship to the common Spanish names that everyone still uses to designate addresses.I strongly suggest you walk the narrow, steep streets which lead north from the Plaza de Armas to the San Blas district. This area has recently been restored and the white-washed adobe homes with bright-blue doors shine in the sun. Many of the stone streets are built as stairs or slopes not suitable for cars so it is pleasant, but exhausting, walking. The area is known as Cusco's artisans' quarter since many of the best craftsmen have their workshops and small art galleries in the cobbled, narrow streets surrounding the 16th-century church of San Blas. It is believed that this area was also the artists' district even during the Inca times, with the streets filled with the best gold- and silver-smiths, potters, painters and carvers from throughout the Inca empire. San Blas church, founded in 1562, is of simple adobe construction but it contains an extraordinary wood pulpit once claimed to be carved from a single massive tree trunk. This is now disputed. At the top stands Saint Paul, his foot resting on a human skull, believed to belong to the craftsman who made the pulpit. San Blas really comes to life in the evenings when the bars and restaurants open. It is wise, however, not to walk the pedestrian-only streets late at night because of possible opportunistic thieves. The area above the fountain to the northeast of the plaza is a good place to take advantage of the view out over Cusco and the red tiled rooftops. On Saturdays there is a handicraft market in the square.Close
Written by seis on 15 May, 2007
Shopping Handicrafts in Cusco There are markets behind avenue de Sol all over Cusco. These markets are much cheaper than Lima, and will be worth the money to tote your souvenirs. Pisac Market is also great but not much cheaper than Cusco. This market is…Read More
Shopping Handicrafts in Cusco There are markets behind avenue de Sol all over Cusco. These markets are much cheaper than Lima, and will be worth the money to tote your souvenirs. Pisac Market is also great but not much cheaper than Cusco. This market is only a short Bus Ride from Cusco, and the villagers from other areas arrive on certain days to shop and barter. If you want to make a whole day of shopping this is a worthwhile venture, and it offers the local variety of the Central Market. It is best to buy your souvenirs here so not to be tempted in Aguas Calientes, Lima, and Lake Titicaca where they are twice as much. Everything is negotiable, and if you are looking for a certain item it will be helpful to ask at each stall for the price. This will give you the base price to start negotiations. If you are shopping with friends and want similar items buy together as discounts are given for multiple purchases. However, when negotiating negotiate the price as far down for only one item. That way you can negotiate even further for multiple items. Tips:1. Check all seams on hand made goods. My fiend Greg bought a duffel bag to help carry his loot which ripped within two days. If you find a defect that is small that you can fix or don't mind use that as bargaining leverage. 2. Sizes run much smaller in Peru than the US. When in doubt by at least one size bigger if not two. Especially, in children's clothing. We bought 2T clothing for our children that are 12 months and it fit already. If possible try it on. Often knit wear will fit odd with small shoulders etc..3. Know some Spanish. At least the basics:Cuanta Cuesta - How much?Muy Caro - Too Expensive.Por dos - For two.And you have to know your numbers. If not haggling will be very ineffective. 4. Have small bills and change. A good technique is to say that you only have ten soles, but if you need change you don't have that advantage. 5. Haggle Haggle Haggle. They expect it, and it makes shopping so much more fun. 6. Trade. I have often traded things that I no longer had use for like a portable Cd player, and some kids clothes. This is a good idea if you have things from home you might think will work well. My Cd player was well received and I was going to give it to goodwill, so it worked out great for me. Close
Written by Barbara Colliander on 12 Dec, 2006
We are here! Machu Picchu, Peru! We couldn't believe that we had reached the place we had read about so often! The 5-day Inca Trail trek to get to the famous citadel was an equally wonderful adventure. Here follows our story.Arriving in Cusco on a…Read More
We are here! Machu Picchu, Peru! We couldn't believe that we had reached the place we had read about so often! The 5-day Inca Trail trek to get to the famous citadel was an equally wonderful adventure. Here follows our story.Arriving in Cusco on a flight from Lima, we wondered if the altitude at 11,000 feet (3600 m) would affect us. We also wondered if we would experience rain, since we are at the end of the rainy season (November through March). Who is "we"? There are only two in our group: Barb and Sandy... experienced backpackers... but not experienced in trekking. And definitely not experienced in climbing those ancient steps!The altitude affected us in Cusco as we climbed up and down steep hills to visit sights - and climbed again to get to our hotel. We got out of breath easily. Since we had a few days to acclimatize, we managed well. A good activity for the acclimatization day was a city tour of Cusco (Sachsayhuaman, the Cathedral and Coricancha are included).The rains came. We had rain before, during and after the trek, but good rain gear and a day pack cover were sufficient to keep us and our gear dry.Trek Day One to Q'ente - Hey, this is easy!The trek started with a train ride from Cusco, which then runs along the Urubamba River to km 88, enroute to Machu Picchu. Our train was filled with tourists, heading to the "Lost City" for a day tour. We Inca Trail trekkers (the two of us) got off the train at km 88 with a lot of "good luck" wishes from others who stayed on the train. Our guide checked us in at the guard station and we crossed the Urubamba River to our first campsite, Q'ente.Sounded like an easy Day One to us! However, after a morning snack, we took a hike to the ruins of Machu Q'ente and Wayna Q'ente, and had a good lesson on Inca culture and architecture. The view from the ruins was spectacular, looking up and down the Urubamba River and the Sacred Valley. We returned from the 6 km hike, knowing that we had some beautiful scenery ahead of us on the trek!A late lunch, rest, tea, evening meal and good conversation rounded out the day's activities. Already we were experiencing the delicious food prepared for trekking groups! Each evening, the guide gave a briefing about the hiking for the next day and answered any questions. The guides were very knowledgeable about the Inca history, the local Quechua culture, and the flora and fauna of the area. They also had a good perspective of current Peruvian culture and events, to give an overall realistic picture of their country.Trek Day Two to Llulluchupampa - Ummm, it isn't so easy!Day Two started with breakfast at the campsite, and, after meeting our cook and porters (the camp crew), we headed out towards the Llulluchupampa campsite, about 11 km westward and uphill. We left the Urubamba River after viewing two more ruins, and hiked up the valleys of the Cusichaca and then the Llullucha Rivers. Beauty was everywhere! There were hamlets enroute, and we passed local people with horses or burros going to their fields (the animals are allowed on the trail in this area). Now and then, there was a house which acted as a mini-store selling candy bars, colas, and water.Lunch was prepared for us enroute. This meant a sit-down meal in a dining tent, usually cooked, and very plentiful! Snacks for the day had been given to us in the morning, so we had to be careful not to over-stuff ourselves! We still had an afternoon of hiking to go!The trail continued upward, gradually first, then steeper. We thought it was very difficult, because the altitude caused us to be short of breath and we needed to go slowly... and stop occasionally for a brief rest. We drank plenty of water!Our campsite was in fog when we arrived. We were very near the highest pass in a meadow area with mountains all around. Beautiful, even in fog. A latrine (we have our priorities) had been erected by the camp crew (who had passed us along the way), along with our tents and dining tent. Tea and snacks were followed by dinner and more conversation, and we were treated by a cleared sky and full moon before turning into bed!Trek Day Three to Phuyupatamarca - Good grief! This is really tough!Day Three was the most difficult day, and not because of the rain! (What happened to the clear sky from the evening before?) This was the day that we hiked over three passes. The first comes fairly quickly - if you are a fast hiker (which we were not) - and is Warmiwanusca (Dead Woman's Pass) at 14,088 feet. Two others followed. The day's hike was about 16 km... do-able in most hiker's minds. We struggled.However, the most difficult part of the hiking this day was the Inca steps! Up, up, up... then down, down, down. Then up, up, up... you get the idea. One came to respect (and "love to hate") the work of the Incas! The steps go straight up and down (did they not know about switch backs?) and each step is a varying height. Even with hiking poles (we consider a must), they were a real challenge!Enroute, there were the Inca ruins of Runkuraqay and Sayacmarca. We took a break and were treated to more interesting stories of the Inca and the purpose and importance of these places. We were reminded that, since the Inca had no written record, there are a lot of things that we do not know about the Inca culture. Archaeologists have done a lot of research and have ventured educated guesses, but one must be careful about saying "for a fact, this is what the Incas did or intended". Nevertheless, we were impressed by the immense amount of work that the Inca Empire accomplished.Our campsite that evening was actually at the third pass of the day - Phuyupatamarca. Since we were on top of a ridge, we had beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. We arrived late in the day and just before tea, we observed a beautiful sunset. During supper, we were called outside and watched the full moon rise!Trek Day Four to Machu Picchu - Downhill steps are no easier!Day Four took us into Machu Picchu. Our route was cut off at Winay Wayna ruins due to a landslide that had happened the preceding month, and the trail had not yet been repaired. As a result of the trail closure, we did not enter Machu Picchu via the famed Sun Gate; instead, we descended from Winay Wayna on the porter's trail to km 107 of the railroad track and walked the train track into Aguas Calientes.The hike this day was mostly downhill. That did not translate to "easy", but simply meant that one did not lose one's breath. The Inca steps (3,000?) were difficult to negotiate, especially with the rain! However, we were treated to many beautiful flowers (as was true all along the trail), and took many pictures of the orchids and other brilliantly colored native blossoms.Lunch at Winay Wayna was in a restaurant/hostel type building. Everyone converged on this place before continuing to Machu Picchu. Nearby were the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, discovered in 1942 (more recently than Machu Picchu!). We had a cultural tour at that amazing ruins before descending with the many trekkers and porters, who all had to take the trail down to km 107 and hike the 5 km to Machu Picchu Pueblo. This is where we stayed overnight in a hotel. Ah, showers and a bed! The day's distance totaled about 11 km. Day Five at Machu Picchu - We are soooo stiff and sore!Day Five at Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary was awesome, in spite of the fact that we did not enter through the Sun Gate the previous day... and despite fog and threatening rain. We met our guide (same person as the trek) early, so we could avoid the crowds that arrive around ten in the morning.Our guide told of the discovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham in 1911. We walked and learned all about the Inca citadel that was formed here on a narrow ridge near Huayna (Wayna) Picchu Mountain and Machu Picchu Mountain. It is believed that the settlement was built by Pachacuti (the Inca ruler) as a retreat for his royal family. It is a combination of temples, gathering places, residences and work areas. Indeed, we felt that it is a very sacred place. One can only imagine what it was like then, the splendor of the "city", yet, at the same time, realize the relative simplicity of their lifestyle.As we returned to our hotel in Cusco, we knew that our 'Adventures Within Reach' trek was truly an adventure! We never doubted it was "within reach", but the "adventure" exceeded our expectations! Close
Written by lashr1999 on 22 May, 2006
Coming back from Ollantaytambo and heading back to Cusco we decided to ask our guide if he could take us to a Chicharia. The guide said he knew of one and would take us there since we were a good group.
What is a Chicharia,…Read More
Coming back from Ollantaytambo and heading back to Cusco we decided to ask our guide if he could take us to a Chicharia. The guide said he knew of one and would take us there since we were a good group.
What is a Chicharia, you may ask. It is a place that sells chicha which is traditional corn liquor that people in Peru drink. Chicha sort of tastes like the liquid in a can of corn with liquor in it. It is cloudy, tart, has a big foamy head, and gets its color from the corn being used to make it. Our guide said to find a traditional Chicharia look for a broomstick with red ribbons, flowers, and corn attached to it. Newer ones have signs to tell you chicha is served there.
When we first entered the yard area of the Chicharia we were each given a coin. We were told that Peruvians play a game to pass time. We were supposed to throw our coin into the mouth of a pig statue from far away. None of the people in our group got it in.
When walking around the yard area we saw an area which housed guinea pigs. We were told that on special occasions cuy (guinea pig) was served with the chicha. When I saw what a guinea pig looked like at this place, I no longer had a desire to eat one. They looked kind of like a fuzzy tribble or mouse. I would forever equate eating cuy with eating a poor Peruvians family pet, after that.
Next, we went into a room with a few wooden benches and tables. There were a few older ladies holding pitchers of chicha. Our guide told us that the recipe for chicha is passed on by oral tradition from mother to daughter. We were each given a glass and pitchers of chicha were handed around. Before we drank, we were told we had to give thanks to the earth god for giving us the chicha to drink. This is done by spilling a little chicha in four corners in the form of a square. I drank a cup or two after that. We encouraged our guide to chug a pitcher of Chicha. He did so after we cheered him on.
After drinking it was time to head back. I decided to go to the bathroom here before heading on the bus. It was only a short time. When I headed back for the bus, I saw it was half way down the road. I started running after it, scared I would have to spend the night here until another tour group passed by. The bus was a long way off but I still could see it. One of the men from the house called out for me to wait. It seems he had the cell phone number for the tour guide. He called the guide and the bus headed back. So much for this being an impromptu stop, I guess the tour usually takes people here! Back on the bus I got ribbed for missing the bus. However, I was not the tour guide who had just drunk a picture of chicha and had forgotten a passenger.
Written by lashr1999 on 21 May, 2006
Puka Pukara is a historical Peruvian site that is found 4-5 miles away from Cusco on the road to Pisac. At first the site seems like a bunch of serpentine stucco walls encircling an overgrown garden of grass. However, you understand the significance of the…Read More
Puka Pukara is a historical Peruvian site that is found 4-5 miles away from Cusco on the road to Pisac. At first the site seems like a bunch of serpentine stucco walls encircling an overgrown garden of grass. However, you understand the significance of the site when a guide or a book you read explains the history.
Puka Pukara had many functions in its time. It used to contain fountains, canals, baths, various rooms, and towers. Due to this, it was though that Puka Pukara was used as a sort of hunting lodge or resting place for travelers. Here, weary travelers could stop off to rest, eat, or drink.
Another function of Puka Pukara is that it may have been used as a fortress. In fact, the name Puka Pukara comes from two Quecha words meaning red fort. In its day the fort may have been an impressive red color since the limestone contained iron. If you’ve ever been to Sedona, Arizona imagine the red rocks there used to construct a large fort. That’s what the fort may have looked like here back in the day. The location of the fort is strategic, it overlooks the Cusco valley and it looks down at Tambo Machay. Tambo Machay was a very important site in Incan times. A bonus of the strategic location on an overhang in the mountains is that you are treated to some impressive views from here.
As you enter and when you leave the site Peruvian people have set up tables to sell their wares or ask to take picture with them for a few sols.
You can take a 4 hour tour to visit this site and others from Cusco for around $10. You can get here on your own by cab or bus as well. Use your $20 tourist ticket to get into this site as well as 15 other historical sites.
The Cathedral was built on top of the foundation of Inca Wirachocha’s Palace. Stones from the Saqsaywaman site were used in its construction. The cathedral in Cusco is very impressive and ornate. It is surrounded by several chaples. In fact, you buy your ticket to…Read More
The Cathedral was built on top of the foundation of Inca Wirachocha’s Palace. Stones from the Saqsaywaman site were used in its construction. The cathedral in Cusco is very impressive and ornate. It is surrounded by several chaples. In fact, you buy your ticket to enter at the Capilla de la Sagrada Familia. Then, you exit the Cathedral and pass through the Capilla del Triunfo which is the oldest church in Cusco. One thing to remember is the tourist ticket does not cover entry into the cathedral. You have to purchase a separate ticket to enter here.
The cathedral has various painting and other items covered in gold and silver leaf. The statues themselves have very ornate dress and have cloth clothing on most of them. At the center of the cathedral is a silver leafed altar and the famous Maria Angola bell that hangs in one of the towers. There is a choir made of cedar with intricately carved rows of saints, popes and bishops.
The Cathedral is full of contradiction and hidden meanings. The Cathedral was started in 1550 but not completed until 1669. The façade has a renaissance style, while the interior has a Baroque style because of this delay. The natives of the land tried to combine Christianity with their own culture and religion. This was very interesting for me to see. I looked for evidence of it as I walked through the church, while the guide pointed out the more plainly seen examples. This is most evident in the famous painting in the Cathedral by Marcos Zapata of the last supper. Here, the apostles sit around a table instead of sitting on one side of it. They are dining on Cuy (guinea pig) a staple for the Incas. They are drinking Chicha (a type of alcoholic corn drink which the Incas drank).
Another good example of this is the famous statue of "El Senor de los Temblones" or Lord of the Earthquakes. This has a figure of Jesus on a solid gold cross. The Christ on the Cross has Incan features, is darker in complexion and has profuse bleeding. There is a legend that states that in 1650 there was an earthquake. The townspeople were frightened so they started a procession and prayed with this statute. The tremors miraculously stopped after this.
Yet other example of this combination of religion and culture can be seen in the depiction of cherub and angel. The Peruvians thought that angels could not actually fly, they were just good climbers. When you look at painting in the cathedral of angels or cherubs they are seen hanging from curtains or clinging to beams.
Finally, there are wood carvings with hidden Incan symbols. Many carving have serpents and pumas. The Puma represents life to the Incans.
The cathedral is a must see. Try to do the Where’s Waldo thing and spot examples of the fusion of Christian and Incan influences in artwork the guide does not focus on.