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Published: October 31st 2015
Notice the precision the stones are cut
We flew to Cusco from Lima, over the snow topped Andes mountains. Cusco is the heart of the once mighty Inca Empire. It is a fascinating city at 12,000' elevation and is accessible to many Inca archaeological ruins. Population approximately 350,000 and is the oldest, continuously, inhabited city of South America. Cusco has had many earthquakes over the years. Massive Incan built stone walls line many of Cusco's buildings. The streets are often steep and narrow and you'll see many decendents of the Inca's as you walk through the city. When Columbus arrived in the Americas, Cusco was the thriving, powerful capital of the Inca Empire until Spanish conquistadors destroyed the civilization during their 16th century colonial quest. The Inca Empire had its origins in the twelfth century. Manco Capac was one of the earliest Inca leaders. However, records show that the area was occupied by other less known cultures for several centuries before the rise of the Incas. Incas had no written language, their history is strictly what has been passed along from one generation to the next. Incas main Empire lasted approximately 100 years, prior to the arrival of the Spanish. It is said that disease brought by the
More precision in cutting and placing the stones
Spaniards caused the fall of the Inca civilization. Cusco's history dates back to the middle of the fifteenth century.
As soon as we arrived in Cusco, we were offered coca tea to help help us adjust to the altitude. It is made from the coca leaf, which is where cocaine comes from. It is such a small amount, that you're not affected. Many from our group had a difficult time adapting to the altitude of 12,000'. We began our trip from our hotel, Libertador Palacio del Inka, a former colonial palace, they had cocoa tea for us as well. They also offered oxygen to those who had altitude sickness, it perked them up considerably along with, Diamox, altitude sickness medication. I was one of the lucky ones who wasn't affected by the altitude. We stopped to see Inca ruins at Pisac, in the Sacred Valley. From there, we stopped at the traditional textile weaving center where women take the wool from Ilamas & alpacas and make many different garments and blankets. Many of us bought beautifully hand-woven items to support these hard working weavers. We explored a quaint town, Ollantaytambo, which rests on Inca foundations. We came
COCOA TEA FROM COCOA LEAVES
GOOD FOR ALTITUDE SICKNESS.
across an old Inca trail. The Incas also had a way to build aqueducts which supplied water as they needed it. The bricks were made from mud, straw and water and are still standing today. We stopped off at the salt mines of Maras, 3,000 pools mined by the Incas centuries ago and still worked by the locals today. Each bag weighs 120 lbs and is carried up hill by the locals. The Incas were peaceful people, they didn't know about war, and didn't have any weapons to fight the Spaniards other than clubs and rocks. The Sacred Valley was occupied by the last surving Inca's. Two hundred Spanish along with their massive army, killed the last of the Incas in that area. So when the Spaniards arrived, the Incas weren't capable of fending them off and so little by little, this amazing civilization disappeared. The Spanish looted and took pottery, gold and silver. Much of this was used to build large churches and to take back to Spain.
Finally, we board the train to Machu Picchu, which is a 1 1/2 hr long ride, thru winding mountains and along a narrow gorge, where we finally reach
the village of Aguas Calientes. There we catch a bus which takes us to the "Lost City of the Incas"!. It is raining, so our guide suggests lunch, a delicious buffet of Western food. My first view of Machu Picchu was OMG, amazing! I was surprised at the vastness of the site. It rests at approximately 9,000' and is spectacular! Our guide explores the vast ruins with us, full of complex passageways, steep staircases, hidden niches and terraces, which were used to grow corn. Corn is used in ceremonies, the indigenous people treat corn as sacred. We begin to picture life here in the 15th century when 1,200 people lived within this maze of granite walls and temples. Many of the ruins had stucco & painted walls, which has been discovered on a few of the ruins. Machu Picchu is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites on the continent. It was the least known of the Inca ruins, it was never mentioned in any records kept by the Spanish, as they never found it. It was only known to a handful of peasants who farmed the area, the outside world was unaware of its existence until American historian, Hiram
MAP OF INCA EMPIRE
They built thousands of miles of roads throughout their Empire.
Bingham, stumbled upon it on July 24, 1911. He was actually searching for another lost city, Vilcabamba, which he thought he had found! It was mysteriously hidden from the Spaniards by all the trees and brush from the surrounding jungle. Bingham returned in '12 to begin clearing the site and mapping it. Perhaps it was unoccupied at the time the Spaniards arrived. At any rate, it is believed to have been an important ceremonial center. There are two high points, one is the sun dial or rock pillar, which they used for telling the time of the year to plant their crops and when to harvest. The second one is the hut at the very top of the site. It is quite interesting and took us many hours of walking and hiking to cover the entire site. We also came across a hidden rock cave, carefully carved by the Incan stonemasons, with an alter and sacred niches. We stayed at a local hotel, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel,in Aguas Calientes. The meals were excellent and each room had a fireplace. After dinner, the staff lit a fire and we went to sleep to the crackle of the fire and the
light dancing on the ceiling. There were hot springs in the area, which my roommate said were very nice! I decided to catch a few more winks!!!! This part of the trip was, undoubtly a highlight for me! I've seen many Mayan ruins in Belize and Mexico; the Pyramids in Egypt; and now Inca ruins..........much to think about!
From here, it is onto Iquitos by plane and a bus ride to the town of Nauta, where we board the Delphin II to cruise the Amazon and walk thru the jungle known as Pacaya Samiria Reserve, the largest reserve in the country and the second largest in the Amazon region.
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