Arriving at Cusco, we were pleased to finally get some cold weather. It meant fifteen minutes or so of the girls changing into their warm clothes in the airport bathroom while I stood guarding all the bags. I was so happy for some cold weather that I remained in my shorts and T-shirt.
We got ripped off by the cab driver who drove us into town, but at least we had a hotel picked out, and it was a nice. Just climbing the stairs winded us all, which isn’t surprising, because Cusco is at 12,000 feet elevation. On top of Laura being sick still, Eva also started to feel sick, though hers was clearly elevation related.
We arrived fairly early in the day, but most of that first day was spent attempting to arrange transportation to Machu Picchu. We had no idea, prior, that getting there was going to be such an ordeal, or so expensive. The easiest way to get there is by train, but the cost of tickets was outrageous. The only other way is go all the way around the mountains by mini-bus, which is a six hour journey. We eventually found a package that included a hotel in Agua Calientes, the town nearest to Machu Picchu, which can only be reached by train or on foot. This would involve the six hour bus ride, then a two to three hour walk to Agua Calientes, but this was the only way we could afford to make the epic trek to the most famous site in all Peru.
Once that was finally settled, the day was almost gone, and two of our crew were not feeling well, so I went on a walk around town by myself. Cusco is a beautiful city, with a totally different look and feel than Lima. It’s comparable to the differences between Quito and Cuenca. Of course, the reason it’s so nice there is because of all the tourism, which comes with a downside. Every time I walked the streets, I was assaulted by people trying to sell me something. Massages, trips to Machu Picchu, paintings, hand crafts, anything and everything. The crafts were all neat, but I did get tired of having to say no gracias every thirty seconds while I walked.
Our trip to Machu Picchu would be two days after our arrival, leaving the next day for exploring around Cusco. Unfortunately, only Gaia Lila and I were feeling up to romping about. Eva and Laura stayed in bed at the hotel. I felt bad for them.
Our hotel was fairly close to Sacsayhuaman, an ancient Incan site that I have been very interested in ever since I read Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods. If you are unfamiliar with Hancock’s work, I highly recommend it. He provides an enormous amount of evidence for the lost antediluvian civilization that has been censored from history, and his analysis of anomalous archeological sites is scholarly and superb.
Sacsayhuaman is famous for the massive stones that were used for the base of its walls, some of which weigh more than two hundred tons. The precision with which they were fitted together is astounding, and the thought of ancient people dragging them all the way up that on rollers with poles is pretty far fetched. The guide explained it as though it was perfectly plausible, but I find it hard to believe. I’m not saying aliens did it (the guides all know about that explanation, and they laugh it off) but I don’t think that these sites are as young as we are told, and I think it is highly probable that the civilization that was destroyed by the Younger-Dryas cataclysm at the end of the ice ageemployed technology far more advanced than our own.
Regardless of what we believe about their origins, seeing these massive stones is awe-inspiring, and I was blown away by the enormity of the temple.
After we had toured the temple site, we walked over to the next hill, where there’s a giant statue of Jesus, known as Christo Blanco. It wasn’t so interesting to see this statue from up close and underneath, but we had another great view of the city, and I had a very nice conversation with a guy from Oregon. We exchanged info, and I hope to check out the farm where he’s been working later this year when next I’m back in that area. Also, we had several more people ask for photos with Lila and Gaia.
We decided to walk back to the hotel, which was really just down the hill. It was wise that we took a cab up, because it was a steep climb, and at 12,000 feet, this can be taxing for children, and for daddy’s with heavy four year olds on their backs. It was a nice walk, and we stopped to eat some super tasty giant South American corn (called chocos) on our way down.
The afternoon rains began to fall just as we were making our approach to the city. We went back to the room, where the patients were still abed. Gaia and Lila weren’t interested in going back out in the rain, and Laura and Eva were still feeling under the weather, so once again, I set out alone. I had many more things I wanted to see, and not enough time to see them, unfortunately. We would be leaving at 7 a.m. for Machu Picchu, which would be a three day excursion. On my way out I arranged for the hotel to store our bags in their back room and switched our final night of lodging for a few days later, after we would be getting back.
My first stop was Qoricancha, an old Inca site that was later taken over by the Spanish and made into a monastery. Along the main street was a beautiful garden underneath with a stone terrace, atop of which stood the ancient building, which was originally a temple to the Sun God Inti. The whole building was once trimmed with gold, but when the Spanish arrived… you guessed it; they took the gold. Rather than looting, this temple was stripped in order to pay the ransom for Atahualpa, the last Inca king who had been captured by Francisco Pizarro. Bell towers were added to the original temple, making it into a standard catholic church, and the grounds was given to the Dominican order, who made the grounds into a monastery which is still active. There were monks and priests walking about as I toured the small part of the grounds that is open to the public.
It was a beautiful place, if a bit darkened by the history of kings and their conquests.
I walked to a few more places in town that I had not yet visited, including the Plaza de San Francisco, where a huge gathering of some kind was going on. I couldn’t even close enough to see, but it appeared that two separate performances (or maybe sermons) were going on, while all around were carnival-like gambling games, packed with people, all of whom appeared to be locals. Cusco is full of foreigners, but this was a local shindig, and my reluctance to push my way through the throng won out over my curiosity.
I passed a man with some posters that appealed to me, having a strongly anti-state message, and I got into a neat conversation about the illegitimacy of government. The guy had a book about how the Incan culture was actually founded by people who came over from the middle east, with several images from archeology that look more Egyptian and Hebrew than Meso-American. Authors such as Ivar Zapp or Graham Hancock might even argue that it was the other way around, and that the middle eastern civilizations were actually started by people who came over from the Americas, at the end of the cataclysm. Clearly there are pieces missing from the original story, as we can see from such things as the mummification process of Incans, and the discovery of such things as coca leaves, corn, and tobacco in Egyptian tombs.
Laura was finally feeling well enough to go out to eat that night, though I was concerned for her well being, especially given the fact that we would be walking a pretty good stretch to get up to Agua Calientes the next day. Seeing Machu Picchu was well worth the effort, though, and we all went to bed early to be well rested for the next day.
Getting to Machu Picchu, as I’ve alluded before, would be no simple task. We had no idea how much of an ordeal it would be, though it would be worth every struggling step we would take, I am sure.