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Wednesday, March 24

Peru Dia Quatro - Wherein We Undertake an Expedition to the Capital of the Incas

I was sick for most of the three weeks leading up to the trip, but, with the help of timely antibiotics from the good Dr. Atlas, bounced back just in time for our arrival in Peru. During our time in Lima and Cusco, people were dropping like flies from GI and altitude sickness (soroche). I usually have a tempermental stomach, but so far so good.

We were met at the Cusco aeropuerto by "Percy" from Lima Tours and our driver. Our group is Bob and Susy, nephew Jordan, Bob's friend Daniel, and Susy's lovely parents, German y Carmen, who we would get to know much better over the next few days. Cusco is at around 11,500 feet, more than twice as high as Denver, CO. I can tell you that soroche is no joke. Waiting for our bags, I could feel my heart speeding up and timed my pulse at 88bpm. No matter what you do, it feels like you just can't get enough air into your lungs. Julia and I both had this feeling even though we were on altitude sickness pills.

All I can say is, if you go, get the pills and take all of the advice seriously. Three to four cups of coca tea per day, which is delicious and reminds me of Breathe Easy ephedrine tea, helps a little, I think by constricting the blood vessels, but by itself was not enough to offset fully the effects. At the hotel, I took oxygen twice and Daniel, whose lips were blue on the first day and night, took it at least twice.

Take it easy on you first day!! Fifty percent (50%) of people going to Cusco get soroche, and it matters not whether you had it before or not, or if you are in shape or not. Google soroche and check it out and talk to the locals when you get there.

Even though we could not get to Machu Picchu this trip because of the flooding, I still have learned a lot about it. I learned that it is actually much lower than Cusco at about 8500 feet. If you get soroche, it is recommended to go on to Machu Picchu ASAP to help balance out your system! I always thought of Machu Picchu as The Top of the World, and apparently it feels that way once there, but Cusco is much higher.

Percy got us checked into the Hotel Libertador, which I thought was very lovely and nicely appointed. Julia had some issues with it that I don't really get. Maybe it is just her attitude at the time. I dunno.

Like much of the old city part of Cusco, it is built on Inca ruins. The Spaniards destroyed as much of the Inca Empire as they could—slash and burn and stone by perfectly masoned stone. It is so sad because, except for Machu Picchu, very little is left over that doesn't have more modern work or ruins on top. :-(

Anyway, in the hotel, they have incorporated the existing Inca stone into the architecture of the hotel. It is expansive and well-appointed. The rooms are a bit small, but there is ample sitting room spread around the lobby, and Wi-Fi, which I found a little weird.

Javier, our tour guide, is awesome—earnest and exceedingly well-informed. We liked him from the start and he only got better as we got to know each other. Javier and our friendly driver picked us up, minus Bob, after a too-short rest and took us to visit Awanakancha, an animal preserve and breeding farm filled with llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanaco. They were cute, shy, and very smelly from the rain. The vicuña and guanaco are still wild and have never been domesticated.

Llamas (or alpacas but I think llamas)

Vicuña (top)
They all spit a black goo to show displeasure, but we managed to avoid this. Now I can insert my favorite Spanish word, llamallero (pron. yamma-yay-ro), which is a llama wrangler.

Then we were off to Sacsayhuaman, a huge temple ruin outside the city, where it rained but finally cleared just as we were finishing. Along with an enormous appreciation, I feel humbled by the scale of the vision and the perfection of both their planning and execution, all supposedly accomplished without slaves!! I will be forever amazed.

At this site, they have a winter solstice celebration with traditional, pagan services, but tickets are $100 so no locals can go. Typico.

We then rode back to the city and walked through Q'orikancha, which is now an enormous functioning Catholic cathedral and Santo Domingo convent built on top of the sacred Inca site, The Temple of the Sun. The church is just huge, and the many alters hold clues to what probably happened to the Inca gold that was not shipped back to Spain after the Conquistadores were finished with their destruction in the name of God and country. The art around the altars contains many examples of the Cusco School of art that subtly, and not so, incorporated Inca and pagan imagery into the Catholic iconography, like Francisco Pizarro, holding a bag of coins (bottom right), portrayed as Judas at The Last Supper, with a guinea pig for the main entree.

Can you see any other differences from Michelangelo?

We finally made it out the door to what is left of the temple and we were again impressed with their artisanship. The masonry on their most sacred sites is done without mortar of any kind, and huge, irregularly shaped blocks fit perfectly onto, against, and under other oddly shaped stones. They are locked together by hidden overlaps, moved with ramps and ropes, and held aloft for polishing by levers. The windows and doors use trapezoidal openings to strengthen them from seismic activity.

How many earthquakes have these walls withstood since the 12-1300's while our best built work collapses like a house of cards?

The Spaniards actually plastered over this beautiful stone, some of which was only uncovered after an earthquake that shook the plaster off.

I got oxygen on our return. We had a very light dinner where we saw Peruvian fusion music (Beatles on wood flute and guitar) and hit the comfy bed hard and early to try to recover from our day.

I will try to post some video onto YouTube at some point from the garden outside the temple but that must wait for another day.

1 comment:

Be nice!