The weekend started with a trip to one of the local restaurants close to the famous Koricancha temple to try Alpaca meat. Tasting somewhere in between beef and pork the meat was slightly tougher than pork but very nice – I would definitely recommend. Next on the list of eating things is Cuy / The guinea Pig / The Fat Hamster. These royal creatures apparently live in Castles these days rather than burrows / grasslands (at least in Pisac if you see the photo I took below).
Prior to the Spanish arriving Koricancha was the most important Inca religious site that literally translated means 'Golden Temple'. Apparently the temple stunned the Spaniards given the amount of gold and precious stones that decorated the interior. However when the Spaniards held the Inca leader Atahualpa to ransom the temple was stipped of its gold before later being demolished and rebuilt in a colonial style. The only evidence of the original structure remaining is the foundations made from Inca stone.
On Saturday myself and my class mate Sarah headed up to Sacsayhuamán (pronounced literally as Sexy Woman
in a kind of Jamaican accent) and Christo Blanco. These two
historical sites rest on the hills to the North of Cusco and really are nothing short of impressive. Sacsayhuamán was a fortress constructed by the Incas using traditional rounded stone masonry without mortar. Some of the individual stones are estimated to weigh up to 200 tonnes and like many other Inca structures in Cusco have survived numerous earthquakes over the years unlike many colonial era buildings. The design of the fortress for its era is intimidating to say the least with jagged walls intended to expose the flanks of attackers and foundations for numerous rooms and towers. Christo Blanco sits on the hill beside Sacsayhuamán and impressively dominates the night sky of Cusco when illuminated. The statue which is modelled on the Rio statue of Christ was a gift from Christian Palestinian refugees in 1945. From both sites above Cusco the views of the City are stunning.
On Sunday we visited Pisac in the Sacred Valley for a visit to the ruins above the town and the famous food and clothes market. Hailing a white taxi similar to Simon's infamous yellow fiat in the Inbetweeners 6 passengers (yes 6...) piled in for the winding mountain ascent. The
scenery on the way up was stunning with rolling hills giving way to canyons, snow capped peaks and the white water of the Rio Vilcanota below. We had a lot of time to enjoy this as I swear at times we were ascending so slowly I could have got out and run faster albeit for only 100 or so yards before my body would have packed up....
The markets in Pisac feature many colourful stalls, eateries and shops with the vendors driving hard bargains for their wares. My Spanish must be improving as I successfully bartered down vendors considerably to buy an Indiana Jones style sun hat and a red Inca Kola t-shirt to camoflage my roast beef arms. Inca Kola is a bright yellow concoction similar in taste to Irn Bru and probably yielding similar side effects if drank in sufficient quantities. The highlight of the day by far was the trip up to the ruins which were a 20 minute taxi ride high above the town. After successfully haggling down the fare from 20 soles to 12 with a local taxi driver we immediately questioned whether we had achieved a false economy. Ascending the windy,
landslide sticken road we questioned whether the driver's eye sight was as good a we thought as he hunched over the steering wheel in a mode of concentration resembling that of a student in the middle of a maths exam. The comedy cartoon strawberry on the dashboard failed to put us at ease. Once we were there however the views and the architecture made us quickly forget the taxi ride. The stone work was more rectangular than Sacsayhuamán and I suspect from a different era. The citadel featured numerous guard towers, rooms, terraces and sacred burial caves somehow dug into the cliffs above the fortress. These were apparently where the mummies would be buried. I took so many photographs up there its difficult to pick out the best ones. After the trip to the citadel we took a Colectivo (minibus) back to Cusco just in time for a few shots of the Plaza de Armas in fading light and a beer with fellow Amauta students in the Cross Keys English pub.
Overall a great weekend warmup for my trek to Machu Picchu which begins this Thursday with team Norway!
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