Pancakes at Jacks ... eat your hearts out!
They certainly saved the best for last! Cusco
conjours up so many images and romantic visions but nothing truly prepares you for the first sight. It was designed in the shape of a Puma to represent the current world and strength in Inca culture. It was originally called Qósco which means "Naval of the World" and was the heart and capital of the Inca empire which stretched from Colombia to Chile and Argentina, most of that territory being gained in the just 92 years during the reign of the 9th Inca. The city itself is at 3,400masl with a beautiful mixture of Inca empiral architecture and Spanish colonial architecture which was erected over Inca sights in the 1500´s when they invaded, for once it´s not the English to blame!
Arriving by plane after a rather large night in Arequipa
(Who´s Elvis?!) we landed in Cusco and went to the institution that is Jacks for breakfast.
A happy bunch at Jacks
Pancakes are good! After a great feeding and watering we headed into Plaza de Armas and were lucky enough to see the Sunday parade whereby local army, children and locals raise the Peruvian and Cusco flag. It´s humbling to see how proud Peruvians are of their country. The Cusco flag may look familar, it´s the original gay rights flag and was actually the Inca flag.
Cusco is designed for travellers and romantica alike. More shops than mastercard could possibly manage, parties that never stop, more history and legends than you have time to hear and all set in the most beautiful surroundings. I can totally understand how people get stuck here! After a day or two of shopping and wandering about I didn´t want to leave either.
Around Cusco are various Inca ruins and key sites and on our second day we took a day trip to Saqsaywaman
(or as travellers say Sexy Woman) which is a fort on the high part of the city and is the Puma head of the city.
The parade in the main Plaza
It means Satisfied Falcon in Quechua, the language of the Incas. Really impressive site but unfortunately our guide didn´t really do very well in explaining much! Qénqo just next door is the place where the Inca High Priests mummified the population before they were buried in the mountains to be sustained for their next life. We then went out to the sacred valley which was the agricultural area that sustained the city and it´s still lush green with hundreds of terraces that support over 4,000 varieties of potato! The valley is beautiful and surround by imposing mountains which makes the setting even more breathtaking. We finished the day in the incredible fort at Ollantaytambo
which was one of the last strongholds of the INca and built on the river that leads to Machu Picchu.
Cusco by night
The steps were good training for the Inca Trail!
In the heart of Cusco are two really impressive sights - The Sun Temple called Qorikancha and teh Cathedral. We were at the sun temple first, the centre of Cusco and the empire of the Incas and a temple to worship one of their most important Gods - the Sun. The building is beautiful and completely awe inspiring in that they managed to carve beautiful grey granite stones so perfectly and erect them totally symmetrically. Within the temple are smaller temples worshipping the moon, stars and wind, Mother Nature was everything. When the Spanish invaded they built a Church over the site to try and remove all traces of the Inca but an earthquake in the 50´s revealed the site.
The Cathedral was really interesting, with the Black Jesus saint of Cusco and "Last Supper" painting complete with Guinea Pig as the meal they were eating, nopt sure that´s a traditional Pesach dinner but there you go!
And of course it would be wrong to miss out the fact that we partied with the rest of the travellers most nights although requesting more "Musica Latina" than most! It´s an incredible sight to dance in a club and when the door opens get a glimpse of the main square lit up at night.
Imperial Inca architecture at Saqsaywaman
So most nights were spent with a Mojito in hand and dancing to Calle 8 and Llamada de Emergencia and getting salsa lessons from Elvis. Not a bad way to while away the time i´d say! Although the morning after´s were generally rather subduded!