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Published: April 24th 2010
Plaza de Armas
Cusco´s Plaza de Armas
Onward to Cusco - ancient Inca capital
From Arequipa, we took the night bus, Cruz del Sur, to Cusco. We splurged for the ‘cama seats’ thinking that we would sleep through the 10-hour bus travel. Hah…with the incredibly windy mountain….dirt road, the bus lurching to and fro and winding all about, it was hard to get comfortable and relax.
We arrived at the Cusco bus station at 6 am, at an elevation of 3310 meters, tired and groggy…we knew we were in for a rough day. We thought we had a taxi from the hostel waiting to pick us up, but we saw nobody there waiting for us…as soon as we got into the bus station there were people yelling “taxi, taxi, you need taxi?” and people trying to take our stuff. “No gracias….tenemos un taxi…estamos esperando….” We tried to contact the hotel, using the pay phone, but couldn’t get it to work…so we went back to the Cruz del Sur booth and asked them to arrange a reliable taxi for us to the hostel. There are licensed taxi drivers and then there are lots and lots of drivers who claim to be taxi drivers, who are
Cusco, the land of the Incas
not…and who end up robbing people…so it is really important to be vigilant and cautious.
Anyway, we talked to this woman who showed us her official tag and she arranged a taxi…but not before telling us that the hostel we were staying at was bad and that she could take us to another, nicer (more expensive) hotel. We just nodded and figured we’d ignore her away…which worked.
We paid our overpriced fare and got to our hostel. We dragged our 200 lbs of gear (we bought more stuff) upstairs to our room and could not decide what to do…eat? Sleep? The assistant suggested mate de coca (tea made with coca leaves) which sounded like a good idea to us. So we made up some tea and after drinking a cup did feel a little better.
I forgot to mention that while we were waiting for the Cruz del Sur bus to depart from Arequipa, we checked our email and found a message from our friends, Peg, Todd and Nico. We met them while volunteering in Banos de Agua Santos. They had just finished up the Inca Trail hike to Machupicchu and were leaving the
Typical Cuzco Street
San Blas area...note the Incan wall on the right side of the street
next day (for Arequipa). So, after eating some breakfast, we wandered around Cusco looking for the hostel where our friends were staying. After asking around some (all the street names are in Quechua language) we managed to find them. YEA!
We ended up spending a good part of the day with them, catching up on where each of us had been and talking about the future….oh yes…the future…let’s not think about that right now. Had fun feeding the pigeons, wandering all around and sharing a wonderful lunch at El Encuentro restaurant. What a great way to spend our first day in Cusco.
Cusco, or Cuzco, or Qosko (en Quechua) is outrageously touristy, insanely filled with tourist stuff and at every street corner…at every step of the way… is someone hustling to buy some piece of something. “No gracias…ya tenemos…ya comimos…ya compramos…”
But wow, the center of the Inca society with extensive pre-Columbian ruins interspersed with hotels, restaurants, etc. On nearly every street in the center of Cusco there are the remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. The Inca stonework walls are tapered upwards. The walls have a perfect line of inclination. Perhaps the pictures
can relay the incredible beauty of these walls. We wonder “How did they do it?” How did they make curved walls? How did they cut, taper, carve and stack the stones? All we can do is oogle and scratch our heads as we wander around this incredibly well preserved, ancient city.
The following day after we arrived, Andy and I took a brisk walk in the early morning to check out a hotel that our friends Todd and Peg had recommended. We ended up negotiating a fantastic deal at Hostel Bazalar, overlooking the Iglesia Santa Domingo, Museo Inka and Temple of the Sun. We scurried back to the other hostel (Qorichaska…very nice by the way) and found ourselves quickly out of breath. Oh yeah…that’s right, we’re at about 11,000 feet high…easy to forget until we start moving around too quickly.
So the first couple of days, we wandered around this incredibly beautiful city, taking in some museums, visiting the monastery and of course visiting lots and lots and lots of artesan markets. We walked along Avenida del Sol, the main highway in Cusco. We visited several HUGE artesan markets and wondered…where in the heck does all this stuff come
WOW..how did they build it?
from? Who makes all of this stuff??? I mean, there’s so much of it… is there a big central factory? Lots of small factories? Is it all really all hand-made? Maybe if we can solve the mystery of who makes all the Peruvian crafts, we can also solve the mystery of how the Incas carved the massive stone and built their impressive cities…then again, maybe not…
MACHUPICCHU - WONDER OF THE WORLD
Before we left Arequipa, we made arrangements to visit Machupicchu. We contacted the hostel in Cusco (where we spent the first night) to find out whether they could help arrange a trip. With all of the flooding in the Valle Sagrado, the devastation at Aguas Calientes and the closure of Machupicchu for about 2 months, we didn’t know what we could do, and didn’t really know how to do it on our own (as the information we read seemed to change each day). So, we figured it was best to go with a tour agency in Cusco who had a better feel of the situation. We were told we had a tour set up and need to send money via Western Union to
12 sided stone Inca Wall
Famous 12 sided stone in the San Blas area of Cusco...how did they cut it? There are stones with more sides than this one...this one has special significance.
confirm. O…K…. and so we did, hoping that all would work out in our favor and that indeed we had a tour waiting for us, once we arrived in Cusco.
And indeed, our second day here, we met with the travel agent who had arranged everything and she told us that everything was set up for the 19th, 20th, and 21st of April. We were to meet with her the morning of the 19th for further instructions (sounds like a secret agent movie, eh? Sort of felt that way too..).
On the morning of the 19th, indeed the secret agent/double agent/travel agent showed up with all the tickets and information we would need. We would be departing at 15:00 hours from Cusco via pre-arranged transport to the town of Ollantaytambo. We would spend one night there and the next morning catch a 5:00 am bus from Ollantaytambo to Piscacucho and from there we would be taking the Inca Rail train to Aguas Calientes. In Aguas Calientes, un guia would meet us, take us to a pre-arranged hostel and then later take us back to the bus terminal to take the bus to Machu Picchu. A guide would
Temple of the Sun
Curved stonework in unparalled in the world. How did the Incas do this????
then meet us at the entrance and give us a tour. We would spend that night in Aguas Calientes and the next day, at 15:10 take the train back to the bus back to Ollantaytambo and then back to Cusco. Got it? Any questions? Preguntas?
Naw…seems straight-forward enough to us. Okay, we have our instructions, we have our mission, and we are about to embark on a very special mission - visiting the heart of Inca culture - one of the seven wonders of the world - MACHU PICCHU.
Amor a Todos,
La Familia Dunning
Stay tuned for the next blog entry…….
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