(August 17 – written by Dave)
We’ve settled into Cusco and made some progress on our list of things to do.
Our bikes have been serviced and most importantly, our BBs have been fixed (I hope). We had Nancy’s BB replaced and mine greased/adjusted. We’ve been getting creaking sound the last few weeks from them. We still have to patch/fix my frame where one of the water bosses broke off leaving a hole in the frame. I’ve been corresponding with Co-Motion (the frame maker) with ideas of how to fix so that we can make it to Ushuaia and then get a more permanent repair done back in Oregon.
We’ve also sorted out our trip to Machu Picchu – we are going there early next week. It is quite expensive and somewhat complicated to actually get to the site – and it was tempting to pass on it just because of the hassle. But we’ve come all this way and to not go would be a shame really. This is the tourist high season so we won’t be getting those amazing people free mountain views you see in the tourist brochures but at least we’ll make it there.
We’ve been eating good food, working through a list of places that Nancy has researched on the web or from friends. The food here is of a very high standard, in large part because all of the tourists that come here. And we’ve finally found some Peruvian coffee culture that is worth writing about. In fact, getting a good coffee here doesn’t require a trip to Starbucks. There are quite a few little hole-in-the wall cafes and most of them have a proper espresso machine. We’ve seem more flat whites on menus here in two days than in the entire first two months in Peru.
We’ve done a little shopping, or at least checking out the shops. Nancy found a very nice alpaca scarf that was “only” 700 soles ($210 USD). The same store also had a pure vicuna scarf for an eye watering 7,000 soles ($2,100 USD). Remember that vicuna is the wild range animal that has to be captured to be sheared and can only be shorn once in three years. Whatever, more than $2,000 for a scarf – we’ll be passing on that one.
We’ve done a little tourist stuff as well. Today we visited the Qoricancha Inca temple. Or at least we visited what was left of it. Back in 1534 when the Spanish arrived, Qoricancha was thought to be the most important temple in the Inca Empire. So, what’s a good Spanish Catholic to do other than raze the temple and build a church on top of the old foundation? The temple must have been quite striking as the Spanish used a lot of it in the building of their church. There was a big earthquake here in the 1950s causing some of the Spanish stucco to fall off the old Inca walls. This got the archaeologists excited and before long several large rooms were revealed to actually be of Inca origin.
The church is and has been run by the Order of Santa Domingo priests since 1534. There is a good deal of colonial Catholic art on display in the church buildings we visited – historically interesting but all a bit over the top if you ask me. Just like in the rest of the world, local indigenous populations suffered a lot in the name of the Catholic God. Cusco was the capitol of the Inca world and a real prize for the Spanish. They controlled their prize with gun powder, horses, fear of God and European diseases – the latter, mostly smallpox, really decimated the local populations.
Evidence of the Inca is really all around Cusco. The classic Inca stonework is a popular style here now. That is, stones cut precisely to fit together without mortar. I’m sure that some of the stone we see throughout the city is “original” but also a good deal is probably also reproduction. For sure the stonework we saw at the temple is original.
We made a good number of trips to the Plaza de Armas in the two days we’ve been here. We are not sure why, but we keep seeing groups of young school kids doing dance routines. We don’t know if this is part of a festival season thing or something else – either way it’s fun to watch. And yesterday out in front of our hostel, there was a big parade of some sort. Just like with the square, it’s hard to figure out if it’s there is a real reason for the parade or it’s something as simple as it being Thursday afternoon at 4PM – whatever the reason, participants seemed to be having a good time.
We are looking forward to the weekend and a few more days chilling here. Our bodies were ready for break and having so many food choices gives us a good excuse to get up and eat. More later if we figure out what’s up with the plaza dancing kids or we see another parade.