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Published: December 26th 2009
Cuzco - Inca stonewok
the polygonal interlocking type that was the strongests so was used for foundations or defensive buildings.
In Cuzco, unsurprisingly, there is Inca stonework at every turn. Lots of the Inca foundations have Spanish colonial buildings built on top of them. My favourite is the Quorikancha - it was the main Inca temple. When the Spanish arrived it was covered in gold and silver, including 700 gold panels weighing 2kg each and a field of maize with stems made from silver and corn cobs made from gold. The Conquistadores stripped it of all the gold and silver (which they melted down and sent to Spain) and built the church of Santa Domingo on top of it. In the subsequent earthquakes the Spanish church fell down whilst the Inca walls remained, more or less, intact. It's the same with the religious art. The locals always portray the Virgin Mary in a cloak spread out in a triangular shape and usually embroidered with flowers or stars - very reminiscent of Pachamama the Inca goddess. Everywhere you look the Inca culture is still there surviving.
Cuzco is a strange city. The main Plaza de Armas and surrounding streets are full of tourists and locals dressed up in their Sunday best with their cutest llama in tow hoping to make a
Cuzco - Inca stonewok
the regular block type that the Inca's found asthetically pleasing so they used it for palaces.
few bob from tourists wanting to take pictures. We are now well and truly on the Gringo Trail where you are a rich foreigner and a valid target for the game of 'how to part a tourist from their money'. In the main square there are wardens and we watched them chasing off any slightly scruffy locals or those not wearing any shoes. And gone are the little local shops that used to surround the main square, they have been replaced with upmarket boutiques. Yet if you go 5 or 6 blocks away from the plaza you're back in the land of locals - ladies in big skirts and hats walking along spinning, people sitting on the squares putting the world to rights, small stalls where you can buy 2 boiled sweets or cigarettes (a whole packet is far too expensive).. It might be scruffier and dirtier but it has a much more genuine, alive feel to it. Mind the main square did come to life in the evening when there was a procession with bands and dancing, we never found out why.
Being in Cuzco you can't ignore Machu Picchu. I walked there many, many years ago so
breadsellers on the back streets
Edwin is packed off to see it while I have a day of peace and quite indulging in afternoon tea in the grounds of one of the posh hotels. His assessment - “it's ok - it looks just like it does on all the posters”
There is so much more to see round Cuzco but our mission is to keep heading south so we ride another spectacular 240 miles across the desolate but extremely beautiful altiplano to Puno. It's the usual herds of llamas & alpacas, little villages, ladies in big skirts spinning, mountains, rivers etc. etc. - even though we have seen it before its still spectacular and a joy to ride through it. And we have a new sighting - our first Andean flamingos, yes you get lots of flamingos up here, they dont just live in Africa. The lighting is just spectacular and brings out the best in the landscape and rock formations. And if all that is not enough there are still Inca and pre-Inca remains dotted around the place to be explored - how much better can it get?
At Raqchi we stop to see the remains of one of the holiest Inca
Cozco - a local ladies
their hands are never idle.
temples, the Temple to Viracocha, the creator god, where 22 stone columns supported the largest known Inca roof. I expect to just find the ruins but instead we pull into a lovely little village square complete with tiny colonial church, a tiny cafe and ladies in their Sunday best setting up market stalls - they insist we park the bike in the middle of the square. The temple is enormous and next to it are the remains of 190 circular storage towers. All in all a wonderful little stop.
At the end of the day we stop at Sillustani where the pre-Inca funeral towers of the Cholla civilisation, on the shores of Lago Umayo, were looking particularly good in the evening light as does Lake Titicaca as we roll into Puno to a setting sun.
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