Early in the morning we flew to Cusco, the ancient Inka, i.e. Quechua capital, located at nearly 3400 m/asl. Now, that was a jump! I had been warned about high altitude sickness, and that one should take it slow when getting high. But we didn't have time for that, and I hoped for the best, expecting only some minor breathing problems. So far, 1751 m/asl was my highest, let's see what happens.
We settled in a nice hotel in the city center. I wanted to change some Euros, but the Hotel accepted only American Dollars. This I would find often in south America - the European Euro just isn't very welcomed, it's gotta be the American Dollar.
Later we went to see the temple of Coricancha and St.
St. Domingo, built upon the ruins of Coricancha temple
Domingo church. It's absolutely worth seeing. When the Spaniards conquered Cusco, they destroyed the temple almost completely and built the church upon its ruins. But there are still some well preserved leftovers, walls built of huge stones precisely shaped into squares and put together without binding agent. The walls stand sideling and the windows are shaped trapezoid - this is to prevent the buildings from crashing during earthquakes. How ingenoius, yet simple is this?
Cusco is a nice city with a smalltown feel to it. Many colonial buildings are preserved, as well as some leftovers from Quechua times. This used to be the Quechua empire's capital, but Pizzaro managed to conquer it with only 168 soldiers, 1 canon and 27 horses. There is no hustle and bustle and it is nice to just walk the streets.
At all times we were stopped by local people selling handicraft, paintings, rugs, fabric dolls and stuff. I have to say, that the guys that were doing that in front of the hotel were annyoing. They would practically ambush you with their copied paintings, even telling you their name so we could come back later to buy from them. Much nicer were the local ladies, dressed in traditional dresses and selling handmade toys and rugs, alpaca socks and caps. They weren't aggressive at all, and mostly spoke quite solid english so we could talk to them. They walk the streets offering their stuff, some of them would have a kid along or a lamb, or even a llama, and for a few Sols you could take a photo with them. There were even kids on their own, earning their share by posing for photos. I have to say, that I hesitated and didn't want to join the fun when a bunch of my fellow tourists would round up to take photos ones, twice, three time and more with everyone getting a shot with their own camera, while the locals would patiently stand there and pose as requested.
This all seemed to me like a human zoo. I asked our Peruvian guide about it, and he explained that this might look bad, but truth is, these are poor people from the villages and they make good money with this supporting their families. Sometimes you gotta see the bigger picture, I guess.
In the afternoon we drove out to Saqsaywaman (spelled almost like sexy woman :D), a Quechua kind of fortress overlooking Cusco. This complex showed us again the Quechua's ingenuity in building: large dry-walls made of polished rocks that fit into each other perfectly and keeping them together without mortar or any other binding agency. Historians are still not sure whether Saqsaywaman was a military fortress or a place of ritual activities.
We learned that, as much as the Quechua were powerful and progressive, they did not have a written language nor did they know about the wheel. And, as much as popular history makes us believe, they were not the most ingenous people of south America. They were simply the people the Spanish conquerers encountered when they arrived, which gained them fame.
In the evening we went to an alpaca factory. I have been looking forward to this, saving my money to buy some alpaca clothes for me and my family. We larned how to distinguish pure alpaca from the one mixed with other fabrics and bought some beautiful pieces.
All day I have been feeling not so well, with a light headache and nausea. I knew it had to do with the high altitude, and let me tell you, there's no problem breathing, but it's this weird bad feeling like if something has gripped you tight and won't let go. I took a hot shower which made me feel better and went to sleep early.