Cusco & the Sacred Valley of the Incas

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June 7th 2015
Published: June 7th 2015
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Cusco, the Inca city of gold, gateway to Machu Picchu and the dream destination of many. Well, for me it was the second time but what a big difference it was from when I was in Cusco 33 years ago. I know time changes much, but that it would be so different I would have never guessed in my wildest dreams. Anyway more to that later and lets start where I finished my last report,

After an amazing time (I know most of the time I spend here in South America is amazing, but it just is such a place) I took the night bus to Cusco. The busses here in Peru are fantastic and dirt cheap. For about A$30 you get a sleeper seat and they have in-bus service, just like in an airplane. And night busses have the added advantage that you save on the hotel. I arrived in Cusco at 8 am and took a taxi to the hotel.

Now the last two month I have spent in hostels that varied in comfort and cleanliness. And that is because you pay between $10 and $30 per night, depending on the location. Carla has pre booked our hotel and I have left it up to her where we are going to spend our time together. So it was a bit of a culture shock when I arrived at the hotel; it was a 5 star luxury that I did not expect. When I arrived my backpack was taken from the taxi to the room and I was greeted with “Sir”. The room was amazing and the bathroom was bigger than most of my hostel rooms. And they had fluffy towels and soap. Not what I was used to on this trip so far….. But who was I to complain………

Carla arrived the same day as I so I had arranged with the hotel to come with the driver to the airport to pick her up. And what a lovely sight it was when she stepped out of the terminal. She had left Brasilia 19 hours before but she looked as fresh as she would have just stepped out of bed. It was great to hold her in my arms after nearly two month.

After we checked her into the hotel we went straight out into Cusco to explore the city. As I mentioned before I had been in Cusco in 1982 so I thought I would recognise some things. But so much has changed that it was hard to find any recognisable landmarks except the main church. When I was here last the Plaza de Armas was a dusty square with no plants, now it was a green place with benches and trees. And a zillion tourists……

A bit of a historical background of Cuzco. Cusco was the ancient Inca capital and was founded around AD 1100 by the Killke people and expanded by the Incas around the 14th century.From here the Incas ruled their vast empire with an iron fist until the 16th century when the Spanish successfully conquered the city and plundered all its gold. And there was a lot of gold as the Incas worshiped the sun and the temples dedicated to it was plastered with gold plates. Gold had no monetary value to the Incas and because it was shiny it symbolised the sun but to the Spanish it did, so they killed and plundered like there was no tomorrow. The Spanish also captured the ruler of the Inca Empire, Atahualpa, and the Incas offered to fill his prison cell with gold for his freedom. Well, the Spanish accepted but killed him anyway after they received the ransom.

As it was the capital of the Inca Empire all the buildings were build out of stone to last, so every street in Cusco has remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. And these walls are amazing as the stones perfectly fit together. The Incas didn’t use any mortar for the stonework, but fitted the stones perfectly together. If you look at them you think a laser cut the stones….. Amazing craftsmanship. And the Spanish build their amazing churches on the old Inca building and I have to say they did a pretty good job. Today you can visit churches and monasteries like the beautiful La Compania de Jesus, Santa Catalina, El Triunfo and La Merced to name a few. Most of the places have some really nice museums that are filled with Christian artefacts and great paintings. And in some of them you can see the Inca ruins they were build on. Around the Plaza de Armas you have the most dominating and beautiful churches and the insides are just stunning.

We had arranged to stay in Cusco for 6 nights and one day was allocated to go to Machu Picchu. So we had 4 days to explore Cusco and the surrounding areas. The first two days we spend in Cusco and see the many attractions it had. Now I can tell you that one can spend easily 10 days in Cusco alone as it has a lot to offer. Churches, convents, museums, atmospheric plazas, great restaurants, a nice market, etc. Carla had bought us a tourist ticket to see all the main attractions and she was determined to see all 18 of them. So our day was spend getting up at 7 am and hit the tourist road nice and early, running from place to place only interrupted for lunch and an occasional coffee………

The other two days we had in Cusco we had arranged for a driver to take us to the surrounding areas of Cusco to explore some amazing Inca ruins. OK, we could have taken a tour bus and would have saved some money, but we wanted to make the most of our stay here so we rather spent the money. The only hitch we had is that some locals decided that it would be a good time to protest against Peru Rail and man do they know how to protest. Instead of just holding a demonstration they just shut down whole town and blockade the streets. So it was rather difficult to get to places and we got turned around several times. Annoying, but I can understand the locals as well. We heard two accounts why the locals were protesting; one was by the doorman of the hotel who explained that Peru Rail is not owned by the Peru government, but by a Chilean and English company. And they don’t do a lot for the locals and all the profit goes out of Peru. The other account was from a staff on the train who said that the locals want that the prices to go up for the train travel and more money passed on to them. So whom to believe?

One of the places we visited around Cusco included Sacsayhuaman on a hill in the northern outskirts of Cusco. It is an impressive place with massive stones that weigh up to 130 tons and the walls run parallel for 360 meter. Again the stones are perfectly fitted together. It is believed to be a temple to the sun, but nobody can be really sure what it was and most likely will be a mystery forever. When I was here last time I was told that it was used by the Incas as a sort of a sport stadium where they played football with the heads of the enemies. That was proven wrong but I liked the story anyway.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas was another place we visited and there we found places like Moray, Pisac and Urubamba. For me the most impressive place was Moray and again nobody knows exactly what it was, but the most likely theory is that it was a a open air crop nursery. At Moray you see three colosseums that are perfect circles and when you look at them from above it is an impressive sight.

Beside the Inca ruins we also visited Salineras were one can find over 5000 salt pans where the locals harvest salt from a spring. It was an experience to walk through the different pans and see the locals at work.

So here you have our update from Cusco. There is so much more to write but I cannot go on forever. All what I can say is that it is a fantastic place and it should be on everybody’s bucket list to come here.

Now this update doesn’t include our trip to Machu Picchu as we are writing a separate update for this. Machu Picchu is not just any place, but one of the most amazing destinations on this planet; until I went to Antarctica it was my #1 place I have been in my short life and my return would be a great one. So stay tuned for this update….

Thank you for reading to the end and have fun wherever you are. And maybe plan your next holiday to come to Cusco; it is worth it…..

Additional photos below
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7th June 2015

You are right!
Peru, and especially Cusco, should be on everyone's bucket list. Carla does it really needed to stay at a 5 star hotel to make this experience really special.
8th June 2015

I learned a long time .....
..... Ago that women are right most of the time. But Carla was especially right in this case. A once in a lifetime experience..... Thank you for your comment and have fun wherever you are....
8th June 2015
Sacred Valley of the Incas

Sacred Valley
An apt name for a very special place in the World. Fantastic you had the opportunity to visit Peru twice. Every stone has a story and great to hear yours.
9th June 2015
Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley....
..... is a great place and I will never forget it. There is something that captures you forever. Hard to explain. Thank you for your comment Dancing Dave and enjoy your adventures.....
14th June 2015

33 years later
Not surprising to hear all the changes you've observed in Cusco. Progress... Glad Carla booked the two of you into some luxury. Never hurts after extended time in hostels. Variety is the spice of life. are fortunate to have been to this amazing place twice.

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