Sunday, 7 May 2017

The ancient Inka sanctuary of Sacsayhuaman and Santo Domingo church

ALLIE: DAY 82: Sunday, 6th of May

A quiet Sunday in Cusco: more ruins, stone palaces and churches
incredibly massive stone walls

Wake up feeling trashed. Even though I was in bed for such a long time, I couldn’t sleep well (oh dear, not again!).

After a good breakfast with fruits and cereal (we have missed that kind of thing!), we wander up the hill to explore the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Some tour guides suggest the convenient abbreviation ‘sexy human’, because not even they can pronounce this word properly.
 The Incas were masters in building absolute accurate stone walls. There is not an inch of space between the huge blocks of granite. It looks as if they were computer designed to fit together – but of course that was 500 years ago and there weren’t any computers.
Three walls run parallel for around 350m with some of the blocks weighing more then 130 tons.
Archaeologists today are still not quite sure of the main reason for this tremendous effort but it is common assumption that this was a sanctuary and temple to worship the sun.

Another site is rather disappointing: it’s called Qenqo and supposed to be an ancient amphitheatre. But not much is left except more big rocks and a cave.
Santo Domingo
We decent downtown again and end up at the ‘Norton Rats’ for a coffee. It’s amazing how many quite good reproductions of British pubs there are in Cusco. A military parade is in full swing and from our balcony we have the best view to see what’s going on.

The weather isn’t very good today and we are quite cold. Return to our hotel for a rest and more computer work.
In the afternoon we stroll down the lanes to Santo Domingo, a church that was built on the ancient site of  Qoricancha - the Temple of the Sun (amazing how many temple there were for worshipping the sun).
military parade in full swing
Compared to some of the rip off entrance fees like Machu Picchu or even Sacsayhuaman, this is a reasonable price and we find good English tablets with information. Some lovely paintings framed with massive gold from the 18th century depicting the Virgin Mary decorate the indoor rooms and again we marvel at the masonry skills of the old Inca.

dramatic processions
Unfortunately ‘La Merced’ is closed. This is the church where Gonzalo Pizzaro is buried. Oh well, then we just have to have our ‘Pisco Sour’ a bit earlier. Walking back to our Hotel I notice the incredible amount of laundry and internet places. Even La Paz was so well equipped with internet, it’s quite surprising.

For dinner we end up in what could well be a ‘coca drug cave’ disguised as a ‘vegetarian restaurant with herbal infusions’!
When we enter, a curly haired man greets us and we finally sit down in the empty little restaurant.
in the pub
The menu turns out to be an asparagus soup followed by spinach rice with sweet potatoes as a main. The desert is the ‘herbal infusion’ - a nice tasting tea – or God knows what! As we eat more and more dodgy and weird looking people walk in and out of this place. Dreadlock hair, nose pins, hippie clothes. A live band is supposed to play later, we escape.
PHIL: Day 82/6 May
It is a cold, grey day – the first without sunshine in many weeks of our travels. A cold wind bites through our inadequate clothing as we climb through the filthy suburban streets to the Sacsayuman Inca site overlooking the city.
Jesus overlooking the valley
We are both short of breath after only a few steps and only on reflection realise that Cuzco is 1000m higher altitude than even Machu Picchu where our long climb had nowhere near the same effect.
Another entry fee and groups of women and children dressed in Inca costume and tending young goats and a variety of camelids (llamas, alpaca and the occasional vicuna) in the hope of gullible tourists shelling out a Sole or two to take a photograph.
Llama's having fun
The Inca masonry, consisting as it does of a massive jigsaw of perfectly aligned diorite blocks, is quite incredible in its mortar-free accuracy. I comment that even today with computers and diamond drills it would be hard to achieve such perfection.
Nearby Allie spots two white llamas having sex – the female lying prone and mindlessly chewing cud whilst the male puffs and grunts in obvious reproductive effort. I’m not sure I like Allie’s wry smile.
On the way down to the old quarter we pause to watch aircraft land at Cuzco airport, noting their weaving approach through the surrounding mountains and valleys. Landings and take-offs are always from and to the east because of the (bowl) of mountains which hem the city in tightly to the west.
One of the British-style pubs, named the Norton Rats in honour of the once-famous brand of motorbike, attracts our attention but seems from the outside to be closed. “They’re never closed”, quips a teenage Californian who was in Cuzco avoiding the US liquor laws, and he’s right so we sit on the balcony to watch the last of many squads of Peruvian soldiers goose-stepping round the Plaza to celebrate Workers’ Day.

watching the parade

It is so cold we retire to the hotel for a shower and siesta before making a final effort to look inside the Monastery of Santo Domingo which, like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, blends Inca paganism with Spanish colonial church architecture.
Allie has found an interesting restaurant – again vegetarian – after passing literally dozens of others which not only offer ‘cuyi’ (guinea pig) but show lurid photographs of tiny naked bodies complete on the plate. Our interest in sampling local dishes can only stretch so far.
When we reach the chosen café, hidden in what appears to be a private house down a back alley, we are not so sure.It looks so ‘alternative’ as to possibly be the base for some revolutionary group such as the Sendero Luminosa, a feeling reinforced as one after the other girls and men in outlandish clothes of homespun wool and with dreadlock hair and body piercing drift in off the street.
They do not stop to eat but disappear to some inner sanctum. One explains that he is a musician from the north coast of Colombia, but are they all?
Allie has another terrible night without sleep, partly because of incessant dogfights, partly because she works herself up into a frenzy of irritation, and most of all because she insists on sleeping with windows and curtains drawn open which, of course, only exacerbates the problem. She wakes me up to tell me.


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