Sacsayhuaman and the Corpus Christi Festival


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June 19th 2014
Published: June 22nd 2014
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John is impressed with the stone workJohn is impressed with the stone workJohn is impressed with the stone work

It's hard enough to get small pieces of wood to fit together really well using modern electric tools. It is so cool that they could get these massive stones to fit together so well hundreds of years ago.
On our last morning in Peru, we slept in and took our time repacking suitcases for the trip home. After breakfast and checkout, we stored our luggage with the hotel and headed out on foot to visit Sacsayhuaman (for pronunciation imagine a drunk slurring the words “sexy woman”). As we walked out of the hotel it was clear there was something going on. The streets, which had previously been full of speeding cars (pedestrian crossings have been a bit like a video game, but with only one life) and many police directing traffic, were completely filled with pedestrians. As the narrow street opened up to the Plaza de Armas (main square), there were people in costumes and uniforms, and all manner of outlandish brightly colored and shiny decorations, mostly with religious overtones. We had unwittingly arrived for the feast of Corpus Christi, a major holiday event, particularly in Cusco. People were everywhere, mostly selling and eating food, but we were told that the crowds would be three times as thick this time of year, if not for the distraction of the World Cup. We imagine the square would be completely unmaneuverable in that circumstance. There was no shortage of deep-fried whole
Cusco, viewed from the overlooking hillCusco, viewed from the overlooking hillCusco, viewed from the overlooking hill

We were all a bit surprised what a large an lively city Cusco is. From this vantage point you can see how it fills the valley and starts climbing up the hillsides.
guinea pig and other delicacies available to satisfy one’s hunger. We looked on at the crowds and the parades with wonder for a bit and then continued on. In order to head out to Sacsayhuaman, we needed to walk all the way around the periphery of the square to reach the other side. Following the directions provided by the hotel, we headed out of the square into increasingly un-touristy streets. After walking about a half-mile we became concerned that we were lost. The Peruvians we encountered have all been very pleasant, helpful, and tolerant of our weak Spanish, but Lauren couldn’t be convinced to ask for directions. She did, however, provide Sonia with a few phrases, which Sonia then employed, adding a few French words here and there for good measure. Using some useful gesticulation in addition to Spanish we could partly understand, a kind Peruvian explained where we had missed a key turn. Not to be outdone, a second woman chimed in with her own explanation of where to turn. Now feeling comfortable asking for help, Sonia did one more check with a fellow we found mid-way and we easily reached Sacsayhuaman after climbing a bit and getting increasingly
Remains of the wallRemains of the wallRemains of the wall

Much of Sacsayhuaman was destroyed by the Spaniards taking stones to build other things. Our guess is that it was too hard for them to move the massive stones in the long and winding defensive wall.
sweeping views of Cusco. Inside the park we climbed a steep hill until we finally arrived, out of breath, at the “top entrance” (and parking lot where we could have simply been dropped by taxi). The ruins of Sacsayhuaman were a bit different in character than the others we had visited – they site was primarily an Inca military outpost, set in the hills above Cusco to protect the town. Much of the site was destroyed by the Spanish who took the stones to build other things. What remains are parts of walls made from massive stones, fit together with great precision. In a field below the ruins there were bleachers set up and a few alpaca grazing. We understand now that part of the Corpus Christi celebration takes place up at Sacsayhuaman and potentially involves the sacrifice of a pair of alpaca – and we wonder which of the alpaca we saw were to have that honor. After enjoying Sacsayhuaman, we walked back down the hill and pushed back through the square in search of lunch. We settled on “Incanto”, which was quite pretty inside and a nice respite from the throngs outside. We were left with about two
Alpaca on the hilltopAlpaca on the hilltopAlpaca on the hilltop

There guys were roaming around the field just below the fortress. According to something we read, two of them may have been sacrificed later that day.
hours before heading to the airport. The kids were tired of walking and happy to be parked in the hotel lobby with internet access. John and Sonia went for a walk, heading out of the Plaza de Armas on the less crowded but still quite lively Avenida El Sol. It was an uneventful walk, but we did escape the super touristy Plaza de Armas and get to see more of the “real” Cusco than we had previously, while enjoying the fresh (and thin) air. On our return to Plaza de Armas we spent some additional time trying to capture photos of the crowds and festivities, but it was quite difficult to move about and find good vantage points because of the crowd. We returned to the hotel in time to get organized for our flight. A short cab ride got us to the airport in plenty of time. We encountered again a couple from the cruise who had planned a Peru itinerary very similar to ours (we ran into them on the flight to Cusco, at the hotel, in the main square in Cusco, and at Machu Picchu). Our flights all went smoothly, but with lengthy layovers at each stop: Cusco to Lima, Lima to Newark (overnight), Newark to Boston.


Additional photos below
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John at the top of SacsayhuamanJohn at the top of Sacsayhuaman
John at the top of Sacsayhuaman

Looking back down at the stone walls below
John at the top, againJohn at the top, again
John at the top, again

Lots of photos of John today - the kids are done posing at ruins. Cusco is visible in the background as well as parts of some of the interior walls
Andrew at Sacsayhuaman Andrew at Sacsayhuaman
Andrew at Sacsayhuaman

Cheered by the prospect that we are on are way out of the ruins, Andrew poses against one of the stone walls.
Plaza de Armas filled with PeoplePlaza de Armas filled with People
Plaza de Armas filled with People

The Corpus Christi celebration filled the square with people.
Guinea Pig anyone?Guinea Pig anyone?
Guinea Pig anyone?

One of many food vendors for the event. The items to the left of the chicken are deep-fried, whole guinea pigs.


23rd June 2015
Another view of the packed Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas
What a fantastic view of Cusco during Corpus Christi. The Spanish conquistadors would have been proud!

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