Cusco

Cusco Travel Blog

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Plaza de Armas parades

Since we returned from Machu Picchu we have been recovering, exploring Cusco and the annual festival, Inti Raymi, 24th June.  Thankfully our hotel had sorted the extra night so we didn´t need to sleep under the stars in Cusco!

Cusco was a main city during the Inca times so we have been learning heaps about the Inca, their culture, communication, buildings, festivals, etc....

Sunday we slept in, then found a bar - Uptown Club - over looking Plaza de Armas, to enjoy Euro 2008 (Spain vs Italy), the parade around the square and a couple of beers.  A well earned cruisey day.

yeah, Guinea Pig... it was okay!
.. ah, how nice to be on holiday... :-).   Dave had promised himself that on return from Machu Picchu he would sample the local favourite fare... Guinea Pig, roasted!  He chewed it to the bone... not a scrap of meat remained on his... the waiter, on collecting our plates, inquired if we liked it.  I hadn´t finished mine and said, ah... it was okay.  Looking at Dave´s plate, the waiter laughed ... Dave said, nah - didn´t like it at all!  There seems to be parades all the time in Cusco, so there were people, parades, marching bands and fireworks going tonight as well.  A very happening town! 

Monday we met up with Troy and Elody (an Aussie/French couple from the trip) and spent the day exploring the Inca ruins close to Cusco.

Inca ruins
  First we had to buy the required Boleto Turístico... the offical tourism ticket required for visiting any sights around here.  They love to give BIG tickets in this place... lol.  For everything there is a ticket (even the loo)... and then the security people love to check the ticket many times at the sights and Museo´s (museums).  So, we first sorted getting our Boleto Turísto and then a headed up the hill to the ruins.  Once we got to the ourskirts of town we tried to find a taxi, cause by now the hill was getting very steep, and remember we are at elev 3326m here... makes it hard to walk up a steep hill.  The four of us jumped into this little taxi.  The driver got out and walked around his car, and then started talking rapidly in Spanish.
Caving ... Freddy style!
  Luckily Elody had a little Spanish so could translate... apparently the four of us were too heavy for his car, so we had to go in two trips up the hill!!!  So we exited that cab and found a station wagon to take us up to Tambomachay.

Tambomachay, known as El Bano del Inca (the Bath of the Inca) was the first of the four sites.  We were lucky enough to pick up a guide at this site who spent the next 3 hours with us... Freddy was knowledgeable and had great English.  He offered to come with us down the hill with us to Pukapukara, Q´enqo and finally Saqsaywamán.  A real bonus was when he took us off road thru some caves that had been used by the Inca for heaps of things including making mummies and preparing young men for the army.

see, you can see the show ... it´s just down there! (maybe next time we buy tickets)
  We soon found ourselves squeezing thru small gaps and down deep dark holes... and laughing!  Some of them were quite tight and we never would have found and explored these without him.  Sometimes it is great to go with the local and great how things work out. 

As we left Saqsaywamán we were whistled at by one of the officials ... remember how they all like to check the Boleto Turístico - well even more, they like to blow their whistle ... it seems we were stepping out of the allowed area.  Climbing down the hill instead of the staircase isn´t allowed.  After asking directions, he also gave us an impromptu tour of the site.  Showing us lots of creatures in the Inca walls and telling us many theories.  He also gave us advice about the festival for the next day.

Ice cream on the hill
  When to arrive, where to sit for the best free view and to take a cut lunch... seems we had a cunning plan for Inti Raymi the next day at Saqsaywamán.  S/´20 later we returned to town, via the Inca staircase. 

24 June ... the Inti Raymi Festival, Cuzco´s most important festival, ´Festival of the Sun´ held on June 24 to celebrate the winter solstice, after a week of parades and dancing.  Little did we know in advance what this festival was all about, and given our lack of Spanish, it was difficult to get any information in advance.  Now that we have been we know the story!  Our day commenced with meeting Troy and Elody, and Kerry (also from our trip), then flagging a taxi.  We were careful to get another station wagon after last time, and the guy we found was very proud to show his offical festival authority, explaining that only taxi´s with this were able to enter the site today.

beating the sun?
  He was probably also pleased with the fare that he was able to charge!  So we headed up the hill amongst much celebration... it certainly felt like a day of partying in this town!

Arrival at the site saw many many police and people, at only 9.00am.  We followed the crowd heading for the perfect spot that we had selected the previous day, only to discover that unlike other years the police had cordoned off the perfect hill for observing the celebrations.  Forcing people who in previous years had occupied three different hills about the site, onto only one hill and a flatish area.  Needless to say, it wasn´t just the tourists that were unhappy.  So by 9.15am we were on our hill, and eagerly awaiting the commencment of the festivities.

the hill reclaimed - go the people!
  To start at 10.00am... so we thought.  However, as we discovered... the site filled and filled with people, and sellers of all kinds of things - from icecreams, ballons, snacks, wallets, cameras, binoculars and much more.  How many people can one hill take we wondered!

We finally got a written program in English and discovered that the festival had in fact started in town, at Qorikancha at 10am, then made it´s way thru the main Plaza, and the procession would wind it´s way up the hill - eventually getting to us, at Saqsaywamán.  Meanwhile, we sat and sat.  The ground was hard and the sun was hot!  We had ice cream, played cards, ate lunch ... and still the ground was hard and the sun was hot, and we waited.  By the time there was a glimpse of action the place was totally packed and we heckled anyone who dared to stand blocking our view.

Making friends on the hill
.. even if there was nothing to see yet. 

Finally the reenactment of the Inca Inti Raymi ceremony started with great fan fare (was hard to tell, given the distance from the main stage and the language barrier).  Still we were present.  The best part was when the Peruvian people stood up to the police and broke thru the barriers... they weren´t going to be denied access to the hill that had served them well in the past ... the first small break thru was quickly dealt to by the police and their batons.  But the second, much larger attempt was a success for the people... they streamed thru the barriers and up the hill, with the crowd roaring, whistling and cheering.

Another pleasure of the day was making friends with a local family who shared our spot on the hill top.  The children were cute and while initially suspicious of the strangers, soon warmed.  The Dad of the family was throwing rocks at people who dared to stand up, while the littlest enjoyed the chocolate biscuits that we shared with him.  The daughter was very pleased to ask in English our names and share her name.  Community exists all over the world.  We enjoyed the show with them and laughingly agreed to meet up on the same hill top spot next year.

 

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Plaza de Armas parades
Plaza de Armas parades
yeah, Guinea Pig... it was okay!
yeah, Guinea Pig... it was okay!
Inca ruins
Inca ruins
Caving ... Freddy style!
Caving ... Freddy style!
see, you can see the show ... it´…
see, you can see the show ... it…
Ice cream on the hill
Ice cream on the hill
beating the sun?
beating the sun?
the hill reclaimed - go the people!
the hill reclaimed - go the people!
Making friends on the hill
Making friends on the hill
Cusco
photo by: Vlindeke