The Cathedral and Incan Ruins

Cusco Travel Blog

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Pretend Incan, note the money bag hanging around his waist!
First stop today was the Cathedral.  although this really is a must do in Cusco, they bloody well know it and charge like wounded bulls!  At S/25 each to get in, it blew our budget a bit for the day (this is equivalent to around A$10 each, which would be pricey in Australia).  When a guide asked if we´d like a tour, we bluntly told her that we couldn´t afford her services because all our money went just on getting in (funnily enough, she did not seem surprised and just smiled, nodding, and walked away!).  The first part of the Cathedral, the chapel, was built on top of the old Incan House of God (Suntar Wasi) and the main cathedral followed later and went over the palace of Inca Wiracocha, taking over 100 years to complete (it had to be rebuilt in 1650 and 1950 following major earthquakes).
Llama ladies looking for photo opportunities!
  The inside is quite spectacular with gold and silver everywhere you look - the massive silver altar and silver storeroom give a pretty good indication of where the Incan treasure ended up!  Walking around the Cathedral takes around an hour and there are quite a few signs with English explanations, so not particularly necessary to get a guided tour.
After a simple lunch, we met our tour guide for our city tour - she promptly walked us down to the Cathedral and said that this is where we would start!  When we booked the tickets, the Cathedral was not mentioned at all.  This was a pity, because would have been good to have her explanation as well.  We waited for the rest of the group for about an hour, before meeting up with them again at Qoricancha-Church and Convent of Santo Domingo.
Part of the ruins at Sacsayhuaman.
  The Qoricancha was an enormous building in its time, and famous for the gold lining the tops of the walls inside and outside -  the main temple was also lined with gold, no doubt as it was the Temple of the Sun.  Now there are just some stone walls and small rooms remaining as the Spanish built a Dominican church and convent over the top of it in around 1534 (once again, rebuilt in about 1681 after earthquake damage).  There are various rooms and galleries with items on display, but we didn´t get a chance to go through these.
Next stop on the tour was the Incan site of Qenko, dating from around 1500.  The incas used the massive rocks here as part of the temples and formed a labyrinth system through the fissures.  This holy place honoured the sun, moon and stars but is now a temple to commerce with lots of vendors trying to sell you things and a man dressed up as an Incan wanting money for having his photo taken.  It is impossible to take a photo of anyone here without the hand going out for a contribution, but our guide has told us not to pay because it encourages people to avoid educating themselves and getting better work.
The famous Sacsayhuaman (the adultered Western pronunciation being Sexy Woman) came next on the itinerary - this is a huge complex with many sites, but we visited the "fort", which is only called a fort because the Spanish couldn´t believe such a large and impressive building could be anything but.  It was more likely the most important temple of Upper Cosco, dedicated to Andean cosmology, the sun, moon, stars and other deities.  Some of the stones weight up to 120 tons and you can get a good view of Cusco from the top of the exisiting site.  Sacsayhuaman is also the site of the famous Inti Rami - the Sun Festival - which takes place every 24 June and involves thousands of people dressed in traditional garb.  You also have to run the gauntlet of sellers here to get back to your bus.  Cusco is probably the worst place so far for being actively hassled by street sellers.
Tambomachay was the second last site, a much smaller one with a 500m walk each way.  The remaining parts are mostly water systems and it is believed that this temple was build to honour water and the land.  Apparently if you rub the water on your face you are guaranteed eternal youth, so we´ll let you know what happens in another 20 years or so!  The water was also used to make the local Cusqueño beer for many years.
The last Incan site was Pukapukara, which was most likely a lodging place for the Incas going to Tambomachay.  There is very little here anymore, but the remains perched on the side of the hill are quite scenic.
On the way home, we were taken to a factory selling llama/alapaca etc., products.  Didn´t want to buy, but we got a free coca tea!
After such a busy day, we went up the road for a quick dinner and back to bed in preparation for our early start tomorrow.
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Pretend Incan, note the money bag …
Pretend Incan, note the money bag…
Llama ladies looking for photo opp…
Llama ladies looking for photo op…
Part of the ruins at Sacsayhuaman.
Part of the ruins at Sacsayhuaman.
photo by: Vlindeke