Well, we are back in Lima after an amazing week of exploring the Cusco region of Peru. We took a flight Saturday, May 10 from Lima at 11:30 and arrived in Cusco at 1:00 PM. We were met at the airport by our tour company “InkaNatura Tours” and taken to the Los Apus hotel. The rest of the day was ours to explore Cusco.
Although the population of Cusco is 400,000, it felt like a quaint city. We were close to the Plaza de Armas (pictured here). Off of the Plaza were small narrow streets full of souvenir shops and restaurants. Everything in Cusco is on a hill!!! So, there was much walking up hills and stairs. Normally, this isn’t too difficult, but I forgot to mention that Cusco is at an altitude of 10,800 ft. Quite a jump from our apartment at sea level in Lima!!! On our last trip home, we had gotten Diamox for altitude sickness and that really helped us on this trip.
Our first night at the hotel was a tad noisy. Our room was next to one of the walkways in Cusco. At 3:00 AM we were woken by 2 men who were clearly inebriated. One was crying extremely hard while the other was trying to comfort him. Then, at 5:00 AM, we were woken by the breakfast crew, as the other part of our room was right next to the restaurant.
Needless to say, we moved rooms for our second night at the hotel. This room was on the top floor away from the walkway, street and restaurant. The second night was much more peaceful!!!
After breakfast on Sunday, we continued walking and exploring Cusco. All of the crosses at the various churches were covered in material. This was to celebrated the holiday Corpus Christi. Also, there were impromptu parades with a small band and people carrying covered crosses throughout the city. Also, there were lots of fireworks…..at all hours of the day and night.
Our wanderings took us to the local market and shopping area. We wandered around the clothing street looking for bathing suits, so we could enjoy the hot springs at the beginning of our hike the next day. That mission accomplished, we explored the market area. It was Mother’s Day, people were selling flowers and small hearts that said “El Dia de Madre” on them. The market was bustling. People were eating at the small stands or drinking juice at the jugo (juice) stands. Others were shopping for veggies, fruit, cheese and meat. David wandered down the meat isle, I couldn’t take the smell. He said they used just about every part of the animal from heads to testicles!!!! So glad I didn’t see that…way too much to process!
We were scheduled for a tour of Cusco at 1:00. After collecting the others for our tour, it started at 2:00. Our first stop was the main cathedral in the Plaza de Armas Square. This cathedral was built in 1560, and finished in 1654, by the Spanish. They destroyed one of the Inca Sun Temples – Sacsayhuaman (sounds like “sexy woman”) in order to use the stones to build this cathedral.
There was one alter that was completely done in gold. Extremely impressive and very large. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed to be taken inside the cathedral. The rest of the alters were carved out of cedar and then covered with gold or silver leafing.
The Spanish imposed their religious beliefs on the Incas. However, the Incas still incorporated many of their beliefs into the iconography. An example of this is their interpretation of the Virgin Mary. They had her with a crown that looked like the sun. The Incas believe that gold was dripped from the sun. Her robe was always full. This represented “Pacahmama” or mother earth. Sometimes, they would incorporate a snake on the robe. The snake represented the underworld and intelligence.
In 1650, there was a huge earthquake in Cusco. In one of the side alters of the cathedral, was a statue representing the “God of Earthquakes”. It was carved out of cedar, but covered in llama skins. This god was on a cross, his skin tone was very dark…much like the Incas…and he had a beautiful crown of thorns made of gold. Quite an impressive sight.
From the cathedral, we went to Qorikancha, one of the two Temples of the Sun in Cusco. Why two temples to the sun? Because there were 2 Incan dynasties in Cusco. At one point there were four regions of the Inca Empire and Cusco was considered the capital. The Inca culture began in 1100 AD and ended in 1532, when the Spanish invaded Peru. At the height of the empire, there were 11 million people. The empire stretched as far north as Ecuador and into Chile in the south.
The Incas worshipped the sky, earth and the underground. These were represented by animals. The condor (messenger of the gods) represented the sky, the puma (power)- the earth and the snake (intelligence) the underground. Throughout the various ruins, you can see shapes in the rocks representing these animals.
The Sun Temple, Qorikancha, had walls built on circular stones. These stones moved with the ground during earthquakes and the buildings suffered little damage. They also developed an interlocking system to hold the stones together when building the walls. The walls were covered in gold.
In the middle of the courtyard, was a disc of gold that reflected the sun and bathed the temple in bright light. Also, an offering of Chicha (a drink made from fermented corn) was made to the sun and moon. Later, this courtyard was used as a place for the priest to bath.
There were several temples inside the Sun Temple. The Rainbow Temple, Lightening Temple, Stars and Moon Temples. After the king of the empire died, he would be mummified and would have a permanent place in the Sun Temple. The queen was placed in the Moon Temple when she died.
June 21st was the Inca’s New Year and winter solstice. The Incas studied the star constellations. In one room in the Sun Temple there was a hole in one of the walls. It was explained that when the sun lined up directly with the hole in the wall, it was June 21, the winter solstice and New Year.
Eventually, the Spanish destroyed this temple to construct a Dominican church, Santo Domingo. Again, they used the stones from the temple for the church and plastered all the walls. The plaster came off the walls during the earthquake of 1650.
An interesting fact about Cusco, at one time, it was a lake. It is easy to see how this could be as Cusco looks like it is built in a big bowl. An earthquake broke the lake up and drained it into rivers. Today, some of these rivers run under some of the roads that are there today.
To be continued……………………….