2 May 2014 Friday. Lima was ok, but we were really looking forward to traveling through the heart of the Inca Empire, and its capital Cusco.
The morning was spent flying from Lima to Cusco. We checked into our hotel with enough time for a light lunch (see picture of Linda with her chicha morala drink...by now her favorite...made of purple corn) before the tour started at 1:30 pm.
First a word about tour guides. The information they impart does not seem to come from a common source that all tour guides draw from. Each has his/her own version of "facts" that is often contradicted by subsequent guides. It didn't take long for us to accept the input with a grain of salt...judging for ourselves based upon the evidence presented whether to accept the stories being told. So in my recitation of what I learned in this and subsequent blogs, please don't leave too many comments correcting what I've written!
Our tour was made up of a mix of folks from English speaking countries...Americans, English, and Australians for the most part. This saved time as every word did not have to be restated in Spanish. One American had
Linda with a bowl of the variety of corn
The Incas were experts in hybridization and experimentation producing many variations of corn, potatoes, and other crops.
read "The Last Days of the Inca" by MacQuarie before the trip, so was providing additional and sometimes contradictory information to those around him throughout the tour. I will read this book once I get home, but this left me wondering whether it was better to read about a place before or after one visits. Reading before has the advantage of informing oneself, but has the negative factor of one forming visual images about a place that inevitably are changed by reality...it doesn't look anything like I had imagined!
Our first stop was the Temple of Koricancha, a palace used to worship the Sun God. As with most Inca buildings in Cusco, the foundations had been overlaid with Spanish buildings; in this case a Dominican monastery. The only fact that all guides agreed was that the Conquistadors and Catholic missionaries, whether Dominican or Jesuit, had a devastating impact on Inca culture, destroying most of their art and buildings. Here enough remained that we could get some understanding of the unique construction whereby stones were cut and placed so precisely, that a razor blade could not be inserted between the huge blocks of stone. My pictures include examples and explanations
Linda enjoying her chicha morada
This drink is made of purple corn and is sweet. Tastes delicious.
of their building technique. But again, some information was contradicted...our guide stated that the angle used for walls and door and window openings to counter the forces imposed by earthquakes was 17 degrees...other stated that the angle was between 13 and 17 degrees. I can agree that all structures were built with some angle, and that this resulted in just minor damage from great earthquakes. We also learned about the importance of the snake, puma, and condor as representatives of the hierarchy of nature from earth to sky. Cusco was laid our in the shape of a puma, with Sacsayhauman being the head.
Our next stop was the Plaza de Armas or Main Square, which in every city we visited was surrounded by the most important buildings, with the cathedral being the foremost. We were able to visit the Cusco cathedral, but not allowed to take pictures, as was the case for all religious buildings we would visit in Peru and Bolivia. We learned that the wealth of silver and gold plundered by the Spanish was divided between the church and the crown, with the church receiving a bit more than 50%. Whereas the crown had all their gold
and silver shipped back to Spain, with some loss to pirates and storms, the church used some of their loot to build massive alters and decorate the interiors of their churches, with prolific use of gold leaf to cover most surfaces. The alter in the one of three sections of the cathedral used over 50 tons of silver.
We then drove to the northern outskirts of Cusco to see the temple/fortress of Sacsayhuaman, otherwise known to tourists as Sexy Woman. As can be seen in the pictures, this complex is constructed of massive, megalithic rocks; with the same technique where there is no space between each rock. We climbed all over the site and saw the remains of the observatory. Almost everything that the Incas built was aligned in some way with the sun or stars, as recognizing the change in seasons was extremely important in determining when to plant and when to harvest. For the Incas, agriculture was everything as their civilization was dependent upon successful crops...more about that in subsequent blogs. Mother Earth was perhaps their most important god as far as providing sustenance.
We then visited the prerequisite tourist trap where we were given demonstrations
The Serpent, Puma and Condor symbols on the terrace next to the Temple of the Sun
The snake represented the lower parts of the earth. The puma represents the earth. And the condor represents the sky.
of weaving, from the use and qualities of llama, alpaca, baby, alpaca, and vicuna wool, to the use of various herbs to produce natural dyes, so that we would understand what was the highest quality. The shop had piles of the results of these efforts for sale, and of course went to support native artisans.
Our final stop was the east gate to the city, where tolls for those traversing the Inca Trail would pay the toll, where runners could deliver their messages, and the undesirable turned back.
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