3 Days in Cusco Peru

 OMG! The worse bus trip ever. 14 hours with switchback mountains right and left traveling at between 70 km/h down to 30 km/h and back up. Did the driver really have to make up the 2 hours delay on our leg of the trip, or more accurately—at our stomachs expense? We were seated on the second level in semi-cami for sleeping which is usually ok, but in this case the many rapid turns had the whole bus swaying which is exaggerated on the top. At one point Frank (me) was trying to use the bathroom, like in an airplane, which had a urinal too—ok that’s cool—but thank god there were two handles on either side, because the entire bus was swaying so hard I thought I would crash against the lousy door and break out into the aisle with (should I say it) my Johnson in hand or semi commando. Held on tight-that’s a sigh of relief you hear. At 3:00 am Janet fumbled around for some prescription anti-motion meds. The pills were all crushed for some reason, but she ordered: “Don’t worry about that—"lick your fingers take a scoop".

A view from the bus coming into Cusco

In any event, we had some experience with this bus motion, but not on a trip of this much time. It was like being seasick after a while. We ended up both nauseous and developed headaches. As well, we were gaining altitude, 3300 meter, which contributed to the headaches. Frank really had a hard time sleeping. We felt like we had hangovers. When we got to town and our hostel we had to take a long nap. Our host had hot water and tea available, ie., coca leaf tea, which Frank drank for the altitude; which calms you right down.  We finally got up for dinner and went to “Jack’s Cafe”, an American take on Peruvian cuisine. We ordered bland comfort food, ie., chicken noodle soup and salad, due to remaining stomach issues, which stayed with Frank for several days. FYI- Frank has had tummy issues twice, this time and then back in Ecuador for 2 days. Grin and bear it.  After a short walk around the square or Plaza de Armes we relaxed with a show "Homeland" again and went to bed early, really early (6:00 pm)


The bus view of city

Cuzco was the capital of the Inca world and empire. It was like Washington DC, being the major area of government policy.  It was originally mapped out in the form of a PUMA, representing their God on earth. The major god was the God of the Sun. It is also the major launching point for the mountain citadel, Machu Picchu, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. Surrounding the City there are ten (10) separate temples in close proximity. We will discuss these more, but I want to discuss a phenomenon that we have experienced here that has not seemed so prevalent in other portions of Peru that we have visited. This is not an opinion based on exhaustive research, but it seems reasonably accurate from our interaction with our guides who by occupation extol the virtues of the Inca Empire. The Cuzco guides, as opposed to the Lima guides or others, are passionately against their Spanish conquerors. They openly talk about the genocide of the Inca people and the eradication of Inca culture by the General Pizarro and Spanish soldiers and particularly the Spanish missionaries, which in this country were Dominican Order. The guides complain that the Inca language has been lost and most of the temples we have been seeing were defaced to eliminate Inca religious symbols and also robbed of gold and silver by the Spanish. FYI—Gold and silver had no value to the Inca; they used the substances for decoration, but they did not value it monetarily. We can observe that most Inca Temples within Cuzco have been destroyed in part and a Catholic church placed in its stead. This was the strategy of the missionaries to eradicate the Inca religion and lead them to Christianity; for the military it was simply to conquer and to steal wealth starting in the year 1532. One Guide spoke proudly of the resistance movement, and the capture, torture and fight against death of their final Inca leader, Tupaq Amaru. The “Regional Historico Museum” has a video about his torture. The center plaza location of the torture, ie., drawn and quarter, etc., was originally called the Plaza of Weapons, but now has been renamed “Plaza of Tears” for the crying masses that witnessed the demise.

The Lima guide’s philosophy was that the Spanish conquest was part of the history of the country, is why Peru is as it is, and should be embraced. Of course, after Cuzco was captured the capital of Peru was moved to Lima in the year 1535.

We started our day with another “free walking tour” Our tour guide was a very spunky woman of Inca heritage.  This tour was very focused on a few sites, several with “opportunities” to buy goods at the BEST places according to the guide.  Our preference is to see the full city layout on the walking tour, then we can plan our remaining days by the sites of interest to us.  Our guide did review the Inca building expertise with examples of city walls where the Spanish builders overlap the Inca, see the photo below.  She also provided an excellent cooking demonstration focusing on ceviches.  After the demo we opted to eat at the restaurant.

In the afternoon we visited the Convento de Santo Domingo.  This is a very nice church but the site is actually the most important temple of the Inca empire called the Coricancha.  We hired a local guide, these can be found outside all of the important sites.  His English was good and this turned out to be a great visit.  Per our guide this site would be the equivalent to the Vatican and dedicated to the Sun God.  The walls were originally covered in Gold.  When the Spanish conquered, they required the Inca to surrender the gold as ransom for their lives.  Then the Spanish built the church on top of the temple. Thankfully the Spanish incorporated the Inca stonework into the structure.  After several major earthquakes, the Spanish church required rebuilding but the Inca stonework, far superior in design survived 

After the church we did not have a plan on how to visit the massive area, so we took a chance and went into one of the dozens of tourist offices and ended up negotiated a three-day tour.  By doing a tour we were able to see many temples and ruins surrounding Cusco which was the center of Inca empire. However, their empire stretched to Ecuador, where we also saw ruins, and also into Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

In Cuzco city the Inca’s built massive walls lining the steep cobblestone streets and plazas. In addition to purchasing the tour we also needed to purchase a “Boleto Turistico” a/k/a BTC—or tourist ticket allowing entrance into 17 sites.  The sites we visited are:

  • Saqsayhuaman (a/k/a sexywoman):
  • Qengo:
  • Puka Pukara:
  • Moray:
  • Saltadas:
  • Tambomachay:
  • Pisac
  • Ollantaytambo 

We will not bore you with the details of all of these sites, our favorates were Ollantaytambo, Moray and Saltadas.  See the large gallery below of our highlights. 

After day one of our tour we visited the local food market and stocked up on two days of food for $8 and gave our tummies a rest with some home cooking at our hostel.

We negotiated a drop off with our tour guide at Ollantaytombo after the ruin site visit.  This will be our hostel location for the next three nights.  One day of rest and then our Machu Picchu trip, then back to Cusco.