Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cuzco, Peru

So we finally headed out of Cuzco (or Cusco, which is either the Quechua/Incan spelling or maybe just how Peruvians spell it) rather reluctantly, the day before last-- this city is amazing. Wins the Most-Beautiful-Central-Plaza award for our entire trip. Beautiful churches and colonial mansions line the streets (all built with the stones of Sascsayhuamán, just outside of the city, and other nearby Incan ruins, which were decimated as a result- stupid Spanish) and a good number have been converted into museums, some of which retain the furniture of the Spanish colonial period- very pretty, very cool. The churches are enormous, all Catholic, all gorgeous (though surprisingly I think the cathedral in Copacabana, Bolivia is thus far my favorite).

Not to mention we were in Cuzco for the week of Inti Ramyi, the Festival of the Sun. Inti, the Sun God, nourishes the earth and controls the harvests and is everyone's favorite, apart from Pachamama (so this party was nuts). It was also believed that the emperor or Inca was the son of Inti. So honoring this all-important dude consists of numerous llama sacrifices (preferably black llamas, but sometimes 100 white ones will do) and bringing in mummies of nobles to witness the celebrations in the Plaza de Armas (the aforementioned prettiest-plaza ever). And in Plaza de Armas itself, it seemed like every day there was a new parade through the streets, with kids dressed in traditional garb and costumed dancers (with crazy crazy masks) as far as the eye could see. The celebrations actually coincide with the winter solstice on June 21st, the shortest day of the year (and thus the day you are most likely to make sacrifices to appease the god of the sun, I guess). That being said, we picked the most popular time to go to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, and it was definitely worth it.

Our hostel in Cuzco was great (Pirwa) and provided an excellent venue for watching the World Cup (which we have begun to schedule our bus trips around), losing money at poker night, and rest after our trip to Machu Picchu. We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the Sacred Valley which in the site of dozens of Incan and pre-Columbian ruins. We were most excited about the hundreds of tombs in the mountains beside Pisac, the awesome stone work at Ollantaytambo, and the views at Chinchero. Okay, mostly the mummy tombs (also, remember those mummies in Argentina I was telling you about ages ago that were frozen and you can still see their skin and hair and the color of the clothes they're wearing? Turns out those are really, really rare. All the other mummies are only skeletons (but these were at a high enough altitude that they were frozen and thus preserved), and only four of these frozen mummies exist: the 3 we saw in Salta, Argentina, and 1 more in Arequipa, Peru, incidentally, where we actually are now. So more on Juanita the Ice Princess to come).

On the official festival day for Inti Ramyi (not the solstice date, but in fact the 24th) we went to a local fair that our Machu Picchu guide Victór told us about. And it was so much more than a local fair. It had, first of all, an absurd horticultural section, with the fluffiest llamas and alpacas (like giant ewoks with spunky little smiles) you're ever seen and the most magnificent guinea pigs we've ever laid eyes on (we cruised through the pig and cow section, as I'm still smarting from Luis's farm in Mendoza). The the food section, only 200 meters away, serving the most succulent looking alpaca and llama and whole guinea pigs on shiskabobs. Oh! And Incan Kola, which outsells Coke and Pepsi in Peru and tastes like carbonated bubble gum! And the rides- ferris wheels and the Mexican Hat (that thing that spins you around and makes you nauseous, does anyone call it the Mexican hat but me?) and lots of others, and cotton candy and chocolate covered bananas and foosball tables for every man, woman, and child! Needless to say we had a lot of fun and took way too many photos of llamas.

I wish I could write more about Cuzco to do it justice, but I kind of left this post off too long. But I can say it's easily one of the prettier cities we visited (blows Sucre, Bolivia's colonial jewel and dubbed 'The White City,' clear out of the water) and I will have no problem going back. So, all that being said, we're now in Arequipa, Peru, and we're leaving for a trek(ish) today in the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world (there's one about 100 km from here that's deeper)- beats the Grand Canyon by a long shot. And by trekking I mean, eating in restaurants, sleeping in hostels, and soaking in the hot springs later today. Day hikes may follow tomorrow. Besos y abrazos! Hablaremos pronto!


  1. I'm going with you when you return to Cusco! It'll be the second time for both of us. It's fantastic you got to celebrate the Winter Solstice and partake in the festivities. This trip seems to get better and better!

    Love, Laura

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