Monday, January 05, 2009

Day 7: Viernes – Cusco

Tom, Jenny and Destiny flew back to Lima on Friday. I bought my plane tickets after they did and the Friday Cusco-Lima tickets were sold out so I had the day alone. I woke up at 5:30 with everyone else and then couldn’t fall back to sleep so I got out of bed and headed for the Plaza de Armas. I went into the cathedral and saw the famous last supper painted with a guinea pig as the meal which was done to appeal to the Incas. The inside of the church was beautiful but no picture taking allowed.

I then went to Koricancha, a church built atop an Incan temple. Cusco was viewed as the navel of the world and Koricancha was the religious center. I wasn’t too impressed. When the Spanish first came the temple was full of gold but it is long since gone. There were some paintings from the 15th and 16th century that were nice, but nothing spectacular.

I went back to the Plaza de Armas and got a taxi to go to Tipon. On the drive we passed a few people who had filled the gutter with carrots to wash them, which made me question the quality of the food I had been eating, despite the rich flavor.

Tipon is a short drive from Cusco by a little town and has an irrigation system that the Incas rigged. The fountains are supposed to have ceremonial purposes or it was a royal garden (I’ve read both). There was a sign in the front that said the water was not to be used to wash cars. I guess enough people were using this 500 year old irrigation system to clean their cars that it became necessary to post it.

Driving away from Tipon there was a sign for a zoo and so we stopped by. It was private and the guy let me in for 3 soles (a buck) and the taxi driver in for free. It was small, but it had anteaters, monkeys, a condor, a puma and some other random animals. It was worth the dollar.

Here’s the bridge we crossed to get to it. It is typical of smaller bridges that I saw.

After the zoo we went to Pikillaqta, or City of the Fleas in Quechua. These are ruins from the Wari (roughly 700-1000, I’ve seen various dates for them, none of which completely agree) who predated the Incas. The Wari conquered many of the surrounding people and oppressed all cultures of those they conquered. There is support that the Incan culture borrowed from the Wari. Their ruins were similar to the Incas – lots and lots of rocks stacked on each other.

I contemplated going to Andahuaylillas, at town further out that has a beautiful church, some call it the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. But I felt like the cathedral on the Plaza de Armas was good enough for the day and it wouldn’t be worth it to pay the cab fare to walk around a church for half an hour. Instead I had the cab driver take me to the Tambomachay ruins outside of Cusco. Tambo means lodging with the necessary accommodations and machay means place of rest. Tradition calls the location the “Bath of the Ñusta” due to two aqueducts that have clean water all year coming from wells. The bathrooms there were marked with dolls by the doors. I went in and as I was standing at the urinal two girls walked in looking for someone. They left the door open on the way out so I could enjoy the scenery as I was standing there.

I then walked to Pukapukara – Red Fortress, which you can see from Tambomachay. Tradition says that after visiting the baths of Tambomachay Incans would go to Pukapukara for lodging.

I think I would have enjoyed Tambomachay and Pukapukara much more had I not gone to Machu Picchu the day before. Everything seemed less impressive and not as important. But they were still worth the quick visit. I then walked the five or so miles back to Cusco.

Back in the city I went to the museum of ancient history. I was not impressed and could have skipped it and not missed anything. It was small and didn’t have much in it besides some pictures similar to those in Koricancha.

Walking from our hotel to the Plaza de Armas we passed buildings which still have walls build by the Incans. This stone is famous for having so many sides, yet fitting in perfectly.

For dinner I ate alpaca. It was cooked in a lomo saltado fashion and served with rice and was excellent. I planned on having alpaca on Thanksgiving, but the restaurant where we ate on Thursday didn’t serve it, so I delayed my Peruvian Thanksgiving meal for a day. The restaurant where I ate was on the Plaza de Armas and so afterwards I went and sat on the stairs in front of the cathedral to try and write about the trip. But vendors kept coming up to me trying to sell me things. People are everywhere trying to sell artwork, and this kid Pablo Picasso Jr. came by. It was the third or fourth time he had tried to sell me paintings since I had arrived. Some girl came by and told me all the American presidents from the current Bush back to Hoover. I was impressed, but not enough to buy anything. Other people came by and I gave up. I went back to the hotel to pack and headed back to the plaza because I was bored. I saw an internet café and went in, it was the first time I was online in more than a week. The internet was slow and I gave up after less than half an hour. As I was walking back to the hotel some girl stopped my and offered me a massage; these people are everywhere in Cuzco. It was around 10:30 and I said it was a little late. She said she would give me “algo mas private” (something more privado). I just started laughed at her and kept walking.

Here is Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 Part 1, Part 2, Day 7, Day 8