Day 3 : Cusco, Peru

Holy ****!  Our flight into Cuzco scared the pants off me. Brian loved it of course. Older than God that plane was. The window shade looked like Swiss cheese and the dinner tray was janky- it just fliped down and swung from side to side on its own every 5 minutes.  So we are cruising along at a nice comfortable altitude, and our plane takes a sudden hard left then nose dives - this is a regular size commercial plane mind you. I'm tinking we are about to die, Brian is looking at me with huge eyeballs, and no one else seems to even notice. Why is no one noticing this imminent tragedy? And in about 3 minutes, tops, we have landed.  Cusco airport is nestled in the Andes mountains - so rundays are short and, well, "nestled".

Plaza des Armas at night - ready for Christmas. We obviously are here are a very low tourist season, we have seen photos of this plaza filled with thousands of people.

Now Cuzco is exactly what we pictured Peru to be. People are friendly; scenery is unbelievable and still a slight culture shock, which is nice. It's the only place we've seen restaurants solicit business like teenage boys on spring break. We have found ourselves addicted to the infamous and various cocoa leaf products of Peru: cocoa leaf tea, gum, the monkey on our back!

The view from our Hotel Balcony ($25 a night). We had tv with cable, hot water and a little balcony.
In the stairwell of te Hotel. Doesn't everyone have a skull in their lobby?
The fountain at the Plaza des ArmasThe original plaza was twice the current size, and functioned as the cultural center of Inca life. Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca Empire, was designed in the shape of a Puma to reflect their Inca animal mythology. (Peruvians Love the Puma!)
A typical street in Cusco, no wonder the Incas had such great glutes. The center of Cuzco is small enough to walk around, although we probably need good walking kicks. Its an ankle twister around here
The buns are getting quite a workout here. Here is one of the many stairways leading all over the city. The elevation of Cusco at At 11,150 feet above sea level requires acclimation
Peruvian barbed wire. Simple enough, jamb some aggressive little cactus into an 8' mud wall - and call it good.
I love how you can see the layers of the building. They are still building this way too. This one needs a littl epaint and she'll be good as new!
Outside the Basilica Cathedral . This is a Catholic temple built in 1516 upon Inca Viracocha’s once palace. It has 10 chapels inside and a real silver altar.
Ahhhh, is that a real lamb?
View from the hotel Atrium. This is looking down on the public area where we eat breakfast or just hang out.
The Plaza des Armas - the main square. Historically, the Plaza has served as the city’s primary meeting place. There are numerous cafes, restaurants, and stores spilling out into the Plaza. Many of the restaurants have outdoor tables, and there is constant entertainment throughout the day and night.
The cathedral in Plaza de Armas. The Spanish destroyed Inca temples for the stone to build two churches to replace the Inca temples. Stoopid Spainards.
A group of some village kids on a feld trip to the "big city". Taken at Iglesia de la Merced and Convent . The third founded in Peru in 1536. In the basement of the church are the remains of the Spanish conquerors.
Looking outside the door of our favorite cafe in the San Blas district of Cusco. It is the more bohemian part in the city - hence the big ass hill. In San Blas you'll find plenty of very picturesque places and lots of local art. A great alternative atmosphere of the city.
some locals... in San Blas District. Nowadays, Cuzco is known for its indigenous population--often seen on the streets in traditional clothing--and its substantial tourist-fueled night life.
To get to our favotire cafe takes a schlep up this hill - so what goes up must come down and that is OK. We cant have strong glutes and flabby thighs!
We sort of crashed a wedding,except this scary cat was there. We are still trying to find out what these costumes mean - besides nightmares of course.
Cusco Market But, I should clarify: in addition to the rows and rows of colorful fruits and vegetables there are rows and rows of meat vendors that leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to knowing exactly where that pork loin came from. Apparently, there are no “spare parts” in Cusquenan cooking; they are all available for purchase
Waiting for Brian to eat his sami so I could get some variety elsewhere...I personally like variety
The San Pedro Market is really as close to a semi-outdoor mega-supermarket as you can get in Cusco. - an open air market anything and everything found here.This is the biggest fresh market in Cusco, and a food lover’s dream come true.
We HAD to eat here every day so Brian could get his favorite sami. The Subset Movie Cafe. It is great food spot and a small independent cinema that shows some classic films - about $1 each.
Hot toddies every night - yum. We stopped into a little 2nd floor restaurant over the Plaze on our first night - and here every night since. cinnamon - nutmeggy deliciousness.

Before you embark on the Inca Trail hike it is suggested you take a few days to acclimate to the altitude. You can cover Cusco in a day. So we easily got lured into 2 tours, but they turned out to be pretty sweet.  The first a  half day tour to the local museum and some small Ruins right in town (which we take today).  The second A full day tour of the Sacred Valley (Tomorrow - and next post).


Qorikancka Ruins Our first Inca Ruins. Qorikancka. Incas built earthquake proof architecture - over 68 earthquakes a year there. In Inca times, Qorikancha (Quechua for ‘Golden Courtyard’) was literally covered with gold. The temple walls were lined with some 700 solid-gold sheets, each weighing about 2kg.
Qorikancka Ruins Perfectly aligned windows. The temple was built in the mid-15th century during the reign of the 10th inca (king). Various religious rites took place in the temple. It is said that the mummified bodies of several previous incas were kept here, brought out into the sunlight each day and offered food and drink, which was then ritually burnt.
Saqsaywaman Ruins. Inca site Saqsaywaman. B was so excited, with our guide's accent, he thought he was going to "sexy woman". Together with the city of Cusco, this monumental complex is considered the first of the new seven wonders of the world. This huge construction was planned and built by Andean Man. The Incas called it the House of the Sun and the Spaniards called it a fortress because of its zig-zag shape
Qorikancka Ruins A close up of Inca construction, no mortar needed.This wall has withstood all of the violent earthquakes that leveled most of Cuzco’s colonial buildings.
Qorikancka Some village girls giggling at Brian. The three million Peruvian Quechua refer to themselves as “the people” . In the twenty-first century the Quechua lead isolated lives as marginal farmers in the high Andes. There are some five thousand Indian communities but few densely populated settlements
Saqsaywaman Ruins Like a puzzle. The best-known zone of Sacsayhuaman includes its great plaza and its adjacent three massive terrace walls. The stones used in the construction of these terraces are among the largest used in any building in prehispanic America and display a precision of fitting that is unmatched in the Americas

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