Thursday, 4 May 2017

Exploring Cuzco downtown

ALLIE: DAY 81: Saturday, 5th of May
view over one of the passes leading to Cuzco

Drive to Cuzco, traditional weaving and interesting churches, streets and plazas

Women weaving and making hats and belts
After breakfast with the Rogers we are setting out to drive back to Cuzco with them. Jim stops for us in the little town of Chinchero where we can watch some thirty women and children weaving and spinning Al paca and Llama wool into the most colourful and elaborate designs.
These women wear the most stunning looking traditional dresses and hats and Jim engages the young ones in a little conversation on their names and ages.
This is a great project initiated in the late 70is to protect these ancient traditions and to pass on the knowledge of weaving to the younger generation. We buy a belt and a string for my sunglasses and feel that we have contributed at least a bit.

In Cuzco we check in the ‘Hostal Rumi Punku’ in the unpronounceable sounding street Choquechaca. It’s a nice and clean 2 star hotel with a lovely courtyard and a roof terrace.
Then it’s time to explore the city. We would like to see some of the churches and historical sites but it seems that the tourism board tries everything to prevent tourists from being able to see theses sites!
the basilica in Cuzco
We want to enter the basilica cathedral in the main square, but we need tickets for it. ‘you can buy them at the tourist office two blocks from here’, we are being told.
Ok, try to find that. Hidden in some off street we are told that you cannot buy the ‘religious tickets’ here, go to such and such a place. Al right.
After at least 30minutes we finally find the right ticket booth, pay our admission fee of 12 Dollars (nearly everything here costs that amount for two people) and enter the Eglesia.
the main square in the town center
The darkness is illuminated by massive golden alters. All the gold that the Spaniards have found in this Inca city were taken away from them and melted into church decorations.
It’s too baroque for my taste but the paintings, wood carvings and metal works are very impressive. In this church you also find one of the most unusual paintings of the ‘last supper of Christ’: here Jesus and his apostles are eating roasted guinea pig and sweet corn!

It’s time for a coffee in the square. We find the cosy looking ‘Café Trotamundos’ which has an upstairs balcony overlooking the Plaza de Armas.

ornaments at a front door
As Jeff had explained earlier on, all cities in Peru have a Plaza de Armas, because that’s where the Spanish disarmed the Indians and forged their weapons into religious objects.

We walk up some narrow stairs to the northern side of the town which rends us fantastic views across this amazingly well preserved city.

Not a single modern high-rise building spoils the integrity of this old Inca capital. And all the streets still show the skills of the Inca masons that carved exact sizes of stone blocks to build their walls.

After spending some time on the internet and doing our diaries I go out again, this time up the hill to the Area of San Blas. Cusco certainly is not short of a huge variety of hotels, cafes, bars and markets.

the old city of Cuzco with its unique architecture
The light is beautiful and we meet again for a sun downer at the Plaza de Armas. Phil shocks me in saying that we he cannot find our ballooning shots from Urubamba. That would be a disaster! (Fortunately I do find them later and the evening is saved!). We are both rather tired and decide to have an early bite at a little and very cheap vegetarian restaurant (only 3 Dollars a meal) and then collapse. It’s amazing how tired one can feel at only 8pm!
PHIL: Day 81/5 May

Jim gives us a lift to Cuzco and we are diverted on the way to look at the World Championship paragliding competition in full swing from a cliff high above the Sacred Valley followed by a fascinating visit to a co-operative set up to perpetuate Inka weaving amongst Quechua girls all of whom sit on the grass on an sunlit adobe courtyard learning their skills.

Cuzco is possibly the only major city in the world with no high-rise buildings, and for this the Peruvians deserve much credit.
The universal greed for more ‘productive’ use of valuable land has been totally resisted and even new or restored buildings are kept in character. The tourist authorities seem less good at affording multiple entry to their vast stock of religious and secular treasures with a complex system of charging which defeats any logic and seems aimed at not providing what most tourists want.

Papal greetings to the world of the Andes
One feature of the city which is less appealing is the ubiquitous smell of (presumably) human urine – no doubt because there are almost no public toilets - and the universal presence of dog shit. Walking the narrow alleys is a minefield which deters any attempt to enjoy the wide variety of balconied windows and Inca-built stone doorways.

street life in the city
These shortcomings aside, Cuzco is crowded with churches, museums and accommodation of all types for the visitors who come to see them.
The cathedral is filled to bursting with elaborate gilded woodwork, silver altars and oil paintings from the ‘Cuzco School’. Restaurants and pubs abound ranging from very basic to luxurious and ostentatious, The Brits and Irish are particularly well represented on the pub scene but after a Pisco sour we settle for a vegetarian restaurant close to the Plaza de Armas.
The Hostal Rumi Punku where we are staying is predominantly occupied by English-speakers and rooms surround a courtyard in the Spanish-Moorish tradition. Our sleep is punctuated by dogs and discos (as usual) and occasional fireworks .

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