Friday, November 29, 2013

We've arrived at the Handle

So the bucket list item we’ve come to visit here in Peru, is Machu Picchu.  Arriving in Cuzco is essentially like grabbing hold of the handle of that bucket.  As far as we were concerned, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley should be considered the whole bucket….there is so much to see and do.

Cuzco Plaza de Armas
If altitude is not your thing, then you may want to give this a miss.  If you are game, then a “take it easy” kind of attitude early on will help you to enjoy your stay.  The city is located at 3,400 m (11,200 ft), and the air is a bit “refined”.  As the city is also very steep, it’s a perfect storm of conditions for travelers on foot who consider themselves fit.  Coming from San Diego, (the folks) and Ron and I from the ocean (it too is at sea level – hahahaha) we either needed to reason with the altitude, or it was going to flat out kill us all.   When we were dropped off at the top of the sidewalk and needed to navigate the steps STRAIGHT DOWN to the front door of our hostel, we all took several very deep breaths, and squared our shoulders.  Troopers, everyone!
I’ll get to the “must-see” sites in a bit, but we had some pretty good eating while we were in Cuzco.  Because it’s the entry-point to the most interesting Inca and Pre-Inca ruins around, international folks are everywhere, and as such the dining opportunities are fantastic.  Ron and I wouldn’t call South American cuisine our favourite, but the folks at Fuego, a burger joint just off the main square was like hearing a siren song of North American food.  Burgers, no make that BURGERS and ONION RINGS, were amazing.  Note the ever-present Pisco Sour.  

Burgers for EVERYONE
Now those are ONION RINGS
Everyone capitalizes on the altitude thing….

It’s not too often you show up in a city and say, “let’s go look at building materials”, but everyone who knows anything about the Inca and their building techniques (thank those Ancient Aliens again), know that they were renowned for puzzle-piecing massive rocks perfectly into position.  800 years later, bone rattling earthquakes and freezing temps notwithstanding, you can see that they still fit.  And all without mortar!  It baffles everyone that sees them, and this rock is the most famous of all, with 12 sides perfectly matched to its neighbors – not possible to slip even a piece of paper in the joints.  It was a treasure hunt to find its location, on a smallish side alleyway.  We were instructed by the modern-day Inca warrior standing guard not to touch the thing.  
Not touching the 12-sided rock
Rather than take a tour, I was determined, despite the altitude, for us all to walk from site to site.  We took a taxi to highest location (at 3700m) and furthest from town, and were able to walk downhill, visiting sites along the way. 

First stop…Tambo Machay.

Highest to date
Outdoor Incan Shower
Peruvian Friends
A short walk away, we hit Pukapukara.  Meaning Red Fort, used for hunting parties and travelers, it has fantastic views overlooking the valley.

Strategic Location
Q’enqo was reached via a wander through the fields of grazing llama and alpaca, and came complete with rock etchings and the obligatory sacrificial alter. 

Q'enqo Cutouts
Meaning “Satisfied Falcon”, Saqsaywamán’s pronunciation can be remembered by the mnemonic “sexy woman”.  For us, it was the highlight of the day.  For those traveling in our wake, this is a place that can easily take an entire day to explore.  The main site, shown below, is only a small portion that most visitors see, as littered throughout the hillsides are additional evidence of the enormity of the past Inca empire in the area.   

Saqsaywaman Approach
We have hundreds of photos, but here are a few notables. 

Incan Zig Zag

Pyramid Doorway to the sky
Ron holding up HIS wall
Taking a break
The next day we were off to Pisac.  The locals kept telling us that it was “better” than Machu Picchu.  We’d be the judge of that!
Tunnel to the other side
Pisac Panorama
On the blustery edge
No wonder they chewed so much coca
Precision Joinery

No comments:

Post a Comment