Fifth Day of Five: Around Cusco
Day 158 – December 27, 2011
In your best Don LaFontaine voice, say the following, “And now the exciting conclusion…”
We awoke back at our hotel in Cusco after yesterday’s ride (again courtesy of PeruRail) from Aguas Calientes to the outskirts of Cusco and a late-night taxi ride (again courtesy of Raul, our driver from the Sacred Valley tour) to Tika Wasi, our accommodations of choice in Cusco.
As we had some time to knock off before our flight departed back to Lima, we enlisted the aid of Raul once again who drove us around some other sites around Cusco worthy of your consideration if your travels ever take you down to these here parts of Peru.
However, and here is another tip to start off this post,…
Tip #013: See all other ruins before seeing Machu Picchu.
The ruins of Machu Picchu are so breath-taking and awe-inspiring that all other Inca ruins in the area are simply pretty piles of rocks. The family and I definitely were impressed by Pisaq and Ollantayambo, but we wondered if we would have been as awestruck if we had seen theses sites after Machu Picchu.
Such was the feeling of under-whelmment (yes, I just made up that word and I hope to trademark it soon) we all had when we entered…
Suqsaywaman. Located outside of Cusco, this site is reported to have a mystical purpose. Raul told us that the city of Cusco was laid out in the form of a puma, an animal sacred to the Incas and still an important symbol for Peru, and that Suqsaywaman was the puma’s head.
This site is large and comprised of two main mounds. Around these mounds are, as stated above in Tip #013, piles of rocks.
However, these stones are rather impressive as they are huge and are fitted together without mortar. The architects, designers, and builders of this site – along with most other Incan places – simply carved and whittled away at the rocks until they fit together. There must be something to this procedure as these places are still standing.
For the rest of our time, we walked around and saw the stones, looked at some llamas (or alpacas or vicunas…I still haven’t been able to tell those animals apart)…
…and was impressed by the vista of Cusco we could see from the vantage point that Suqsaywaman provided us.
As we completed our tour of Suqsaywaman, we knew we had come to the end because we found ourselves at the gift shop.
From Suqsaywaman, our tour group went to Q’enqo, which was described to use by Raul as a place where llama sacrifices were held. The priests would know when to do the sacrifice because the cave where the ritual was done had slots in it that would allow the rays of the sun to enter at certain times during the year.
Our last stop of our tour was Pukapukara, which was a checkpoint on the road to and from Cusco.
We finished our tour with Pukapukara and after a quick lunch, we were dropped off at the airport where we caught our flight back to Lima and our home.
As you might have gleaned over reading the past five posts, it was an incredible trip and one that I am glad my children will remember even when they are my age.
I’ll end – like any good speechwriter – with a joke courtesy of our driver (who we found by chance), Raul (so you can blame him if his ha-ha is off the mark).
As he drove us around the outskirts of Cusco today, he pointed out the local stadium and said it was the biggest in the world…
Now I have an odd collection of facts running through my brain so I was aware that there are college stadiums in the United States, soccer stadiums in Mexico, and cricket stadiums in India that can seat over 100,000 (actually the Top Ten List can be found here), but I was not aware that a stadium in Cusco, Peru, that hosts the local soccer stadium had the distinction of “largest”.
“Why is it the largest?” I asked, playing the straight-man perfectly.
After my lovely wife translated my question, his response was, “Because it’s never full.”
And here I thought football fans in the United States (and here I am thinking of the days when fans of the New Orleans Saints went to games with paper bags over their heads) were harsh on their losing teams. They had nothing on Raul.