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Cusco’s Surrounding Inca Sites

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Around Cusco itself are 4 Inca sites and I visited them on 2 different days.

First visited was Sasqaywaman, located on the hill above Cusco, is believed to be a major sun temple site. It’s stone wall, made of gigantic stones, some over 100 tons, stretches over 1000 feet.
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From the top were great views of Cusco.
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The grounds were well manicured by a team of llamas. My friends and I had too much fun with this.
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Another day we walked to three other ruins sites. My friends and I also met a woman from Switzerland who joined us. It was a nice go with the flow kind of day. All 3 ruins sites were in the hills behind Sasqaywaman. The first was nearby, Qenqo, a small site which had some sort of Earth shrine.
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After Qenqo it was a long uphill walk to the last 2 sites. It was a beautiful day with a nice lunch stop along the way.
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After the lunch spot, we arrived at Pukupukara, a red fortress in a beautiful spot.
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Then, nearby in a little stream valley was water shrine Tambo Machay, which still had water flowing through it.
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Posted by solorooster 21:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cusco

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Over the last week and a half Cusco has been my home away from home. It was also a time when friends from home arrived to do the Inca Trail.

Cusco is a very interesting city located in a steep valley 11,000 feet up in the Andes.
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The city’s architecture lacks modern buildings so it appears lost in time. Maybe I’ll coin it the Florence (Italy) of South America.
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The red tile roofs are from the Spanish colonial period.
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In a way, it’s too bad, because Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire and very little survived because the Spanish reused the stones for their own constructions. There are, however, some Inca walls still visible throughout town.
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The town if full of squares and cathedrals surrounded by colonial aged buildings and narrow steep cobblestoned streets.
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One very interesting place in Cusco is the San Pedro Market. It is huge and sells food, clothing, home products, exotic fruits, and everything in between. The meat section was the most unique.
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My friends and I ate lunch here several times and got some tasty dishes for a great price ($7 for everything in the photo).
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We also visited Qoricancha Temple, partially built over by a monastery, which was the Inca’s main temple in Cusco. The Incan stonework does not use any mortar and are connected via Lego-like features interlocking for strength.
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Inca walls are thick, well designed, and have withstood many earthquakes that many Spanish buildings have not.

Also of note is the temple walls were capped by 2 inches of gold (taken by the Spanish). You can see this in the replica below.
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There were also many altar pieces and decorations of gold and silver in Inca Temples.
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Gold and Silver to the Incas did not have monetary value. It was just something they had.

We also took several trips up to the Jesus monument with outstanding views of the city. It also provided us a training route for the upcoming inca trail.
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It was great to see some familiar faces from home as I met Gabe and John at the airport on the 8th and Pat and Natalie came walking through the hostel door during breakfast on the 9th.
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As we prepared for the upcoming Inca Trail the night before, we had to eat all of the perishable food we had bought from the market. So, we had a fruit party. The power went out so we had it by candlelight. Some of the exotic fruit included chirimoya, granadilla (passion fruit), huanabana, and maracuyá. Some fruits were white and chewy inside, while others were stuffed with edible seeds.
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Posted by solorooster 12:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Pisac and Cusco

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When arriving to Cusco, it was recommended to go to the nearby town of Pisac on Sunday to go to the market.

Before leaving for Pisac, I took a photo of the view from my hostel out the window of Cusco. My hostel here has a cool relaxed vibe moreso than many other places I have stayed.
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Pisac is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the busride from Cusco was beautiful. The Pisac market was huge. It expanded beyond the main square into the surrounding streets.
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In the center there were food vendors. I had some corn but the kernals were huge and tasted starchy like a bean.
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After the market, a friend and I explored the Pisac ruins. These ruins were located way above the countryside.
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These ruins are incan and had large expanses of terracing and 3 areas of stone ruins which included dwellings and temple structures. The temples had large stones cut at precise angles. The weather was cloudy and overcast. This appears generally to be a wet place. Occasionally, a poke of sun shone through the clouds. It definately made me realize I am on the doorstep to Macchu Picchu.
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After the ruins, we shared a cab for a 50 minute ride to Cusco ($16). The view was magnificent on the way in.
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Afterwards I walked the central area of Cusco in dusk once again tonight.
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Posted by solorooster 20:56 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Puno to Cusco

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I decided to take my time getting to Cusco and take a touristic bus that stopped along the way. Leaving Puno, we stopped an hour and a half into the trip at Pukara. There, we went to a museum of the Pukara culture, which was pre-incan. They sacrificed people and buried them in the pyramid as an offering to the gods. Unfortunately, the stones from the pyramid were used to create the cathedral. This theme also holds true in Cusco as well.
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The next stop was La Raya, a mountain pass of 14,000 feet. Glacier clad mountains of over 18,000 feet high were visible from there. I talked to a few people biking between Cusco and LaPaz, that seems like a breathtaking effort!
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After the pass, we decended and ate lunch, a buffet including alpaca and sheep meat. Then we visited Raqchi, a incan temple site from the 15th century. The Temple of Wiraqocha was dedicated to the spiritual god and the site was a key trading center in the heart of the inca empire about midway through the 11,000 km (7,000 mile) trail. The buildings were laid out according to the equinoxes.
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As we kept heading towards Cusco, the hills got steeper and more green, and the clouds more numerous. There were many examples of terracing on the hillsides.
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The final stop before Cusco was Andahuaylillas, a town with an amazing church. The town was also located at lower elevation (10,000 feet) and had palm and pisonai trees that were 400 years old. The church, built in 1570, had the most increadible interior. The altar and many of the works of art were framed by 24 carat gold. Large frescoes covered the walls trying to tell the catholic story in a way to entice the incans to buy into it. No photography was allowed inside.
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A museum outside of the church also had some examples of incan skulls, which were elongated for people of class in hopes for greater consciousness. This was done by making babies until the age of 13 or 14 to wear a device.
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Once arriving in Cusco, I checked into my hostel and ended up going out to eat with an interesting gang of people. After dinner we proceeded to the Museum of Pisco and did a tasting.
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Afterward, I walked to the plaza de armas at night. Cusco so far has quite a unique feel ... very spiritual and colonial at the same time. The cobblestone streets and architecture make it feel list in time. I have not seen it really by day yet.
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Posted by solorooster 22:33 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Islands of Lake Titikaka

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When I was in Bolivia, my guidebook said that the town of Cocacabana and Isla Del Sol were a highlight on Lake Titikaka (the local spelling), However, there was a strike which closed the road to Cocacabana and I chose to skip that and go directly to Peru. Peru has within it’s borders 60 percent of the lake and some interesting places to see as well so I decided to take a 2 day tour with a recommended company staying overnight on an island in the lake.

The boat left from Puno and went 30 minutes to Los Uros, a community of floating islands made of reed. These communities, consisting of Aymara, or pre-incan peoples, moved onto Lake Titicaca to avoid the Inca (Quechua) and then the Spanish. Since they are floating, they can go wherever they want on the lake. Our tour visited one of the many islands that make up the community of Uros, named Puma, where 20 people live. large_DSC03454.jpg
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The guide showed us how the island is built (2-3 meters thick) with the reed root forming the foundation and layers of reed providing the floor. It is tied together with rope. The reed is also used as medicine and can be eaten as well. It was growing in abundance in the area where they reside now. The people here rely on tourism as their number one source of income now and populations are dwindling because young people are moving to the cities, however for now the islands continue to exist. There are 2000 people in the community as a whole. The people here also fish and make handicrafts. They were very aggressive in selling their crafts.
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I felt almost obligated to buy a few things. The people on the island were friendly though and we broke up into groups and the residents showed us their house and we talked a bit about ourselves as well. After that, we took a reed boat across to the main island, where there was a little viewing tower and a store.
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After Uros, we had about a 2 hour boat ride to Isla Amantani.
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This is a real island and is home to 10 communities and 4000 people. All of the land around Lake Titicaca including the islands contain terracing, this dates back to pre-incan times. After the first village didn’t take us, we continued onto the village of Villa Orinajon. The island was very tranquil and there were animals everywhere.
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Quinoa is also grown here. It has been grown in the Andes since ancient times.large_DSC03526.jpg
Us 20 on the tour ate lunch in a house together. Not much meat is eaten here … only occasionally fish.
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After lunch, we broke into fours and met our host family for the night. A woman named Binita walked the 4 of us to our house, where 8 people live. After settling in briefly we then met again to ascend to the temple of Pachatata about 1000 feet above the lake. Due to the logistical problems earlier, it was dusk at the top and very beautiful.
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You could see the volcanoes of Bolivia on the other side of the lake.
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Pachamama is mother earth and Pachatata father earth. Cochamama represents the water. After the top, we walked back in the dark and had dinner, which was more soup, rice , and potatoes, at our respective houses. To cap the night off, we dressed up in traditional clothing and went to a party. It was fun and I got to talk and dance a bit with some of the locals.
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my host Binita on the right and her neighbor Norma on the left

the wooden instrument being played is called a zampoña

Day 2 started out at the house.

We ate breakfast of bread and a pancake (with no butter or anything) and drank muña tea, which is an herb for the altitude.
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The kitchen was a small structure and the stove was wood fired.
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After breakfast, it was off to the port, bidding farewell to our families. We took a boat ride to the island of Tequille and spend some hours exploring the island. What a nice day for a walk on Tequille! The island also felt even more laid back and undisturbed than Amantani. The blue sky and distant clouds reflected into the lake and we walked among terraces and flowers.
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One flower was the cantata, the flower of Peru and Bolivia.
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There were many stone arches we walked through as well.
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We ascended to the town center and ate lunch there.
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Before lunch our guide Angel told us about the history of this island. The history dates back 10,000 years BC when people started entering the area and the lake was much smaller than it is today. Later, the pre-incan peoples, starting with the pucara developed terraces and water systems. Several other groups lived here and then finally the Incas, or Quechua. To them, the island was sacred and part of a triangle with Isla del Sol and Amantani which held special energy. Later, in the 1800s it actually became a political prison for awhile. Now, the island is very tradidional with strict laws. Crime is non-existant and there are no police. People live by the incan way of don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be lazy. The people are required to wear traditional dress which does not pertain at all to tourism. The women wear blankets over their head called chucos and depending on their marital status, they have different types of pom poms hanging from it.
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The men wear hats and sachets. The color of the hat likewise shows marital status.
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We ate lunch here with a spectacular view of the lake and then ascended across a pass which offered an equally spectacular view of the other side.
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We walked down 500+ stone steps to the port and 3 hours later, we were back in Puno. It was an easy ride where I got to know better some of the other people on the tour.

Posted by solorooster 19:56 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

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