Saturday, July 5, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 2 (Cusco)

Saturday, July 5, 2008
The flight from Miami to Lima, Peru was to be 5 hours and 20 minutes. Arrived a half-hour late at 4:45 AM. (Peru is one hour behind Jacksonville, but is actually in the same time zone. They don’t have Daylight Savings Time.)
As we walked through the Lima Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chavez (Jorge Chavez was a Franco-Peruvian aviator), we saw a Café Britt store with all the chocolate and coffee bargains they offer in Costa Rica. Had we landed in the wrong country?!
Onward to check-in at LAN Peru Airlines. They checked our suitcases for free! Next we had to pay the airport tax. Several young ladies and one young man were free to take our business, but the young man energetically waved us over. As I handled the transaction with him, he kept his eyes on Brynne… Went through security, a breeze when you don’t have to sort out the liquids or take off your shoes. Boarded our 9:25 AM flight to Cusco. This time the safety instructions were in Spanish first, then English. It was overcast in Lima, as expected.

Lima, the capital of Peru, is located at the mouth of the Rios Rimac, Chillon and Lurin at the Pacific Ocean. It is the second largest desert city in the world (after Cairo, Egypt). Lima is home to approximately 1/3 of all Peruvians. Founded on January 6, 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, it was originally called the “City of Kings” because of its founding on Epiphany Day. During the “rainy” winter season (June through September) the city is covered by a grey mist or fog called garua, mixed with pollution.

We flew up through the clouds into the sunshine
Flying over the Andes
and soon over the tops of the Andes Mountains, with occasional snow-capped peaks. Then we descended, but not too far, to pleasant sunny Cusco's Aeropuerto Alejandro Velasco Astete (Alejandro Velasco Astete was a Peruvian pilot, recognized for being the first pilot to cross the Andes) at an altitude of 3,326 m. or 10,912 feet.

Cusco/Cuzco/Q’osqo is Quechuan (the Quecha are the indigenous people of the area) for “Navel of the World”. The tradition is that the first Inca (Manco Capac) and his sister consort (Mama Occlo) founded the city about AD 1100. The myth is that the Sun sent his son and the Moon sent her daughter to spread culture and enlightenment throughout the dark, barbaric lands. The two emerged from the icy depths of Lake Titicaca and were ordered to head north until the golden staff they carried could be plunged into the ground for its entire length. Since the soil of the altiplano (high plain) around Lake Titicaca was thin, it wasn’t until they came to the Rio Rimac valley where on the mountain Huanacauri, the staff disappeared into fertile soil. They named the place Q’osqo. The local inhabitants saw the fine clothing and jewelry the pair wore, so they worshiped them and followed their instructions. Thus began the Inca dynasty.
Indigenous band
We claimed our baggage as an indigenous band played local music and offered its CD for sale. We wound our way outside, on the lookout for a held sign with our names. Then we heard someone call “Tamiko!” as a very tall Anglo-type came striding our way. We hadn’t expected to be met by Rob W. himself, but it had to be him. Soon after came his diminutive Peruvian wife Anahi, and we were led to a tourist van with driver Ernaldo and a guy named Hugo who helped carry our bags.
We drove through the city of Cusco to the neighborhood of Santa Monica where Rob & Anahi live in a large rental property. We met their sons Alec (4) and Ollie (2), and their nannies Olga and Laura. I had a Mate de Coca (tea of coca leaf) which helps with altitude adjustment. The drinking of coca tea or chewing the leaves increases absorption of oxygen in the blood, and also helps digestion and stomach cramps. The locals encourage its consumption by laborers to be more productive at high altitudes. Anahi gave us aluminum water bottles (filled with filtered water) with the Ultimate Voyages (their travel company) logo. We had brought gifts for the boys: Klutz books of bubbles and mazes, and Firefly balls. We were shown to Alec’s room where we would stay the night.

Dr. Rob W. has a degree in zoology and a PhD in conservation/avian ecology from the University of East Anglia (Norwich, England). He is author of A Guide to Bird-watching in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and co-author of Treasures of the Forgotten Forest: Artists For Nature in the Tumbesian Region of Peru and Ecuador, as well as of many scientific papers. Rob provided text for the Guide of the Wildlife of Chaparri and Birds of the Clouds: Alto Mayo & Cordillera Colan. He is currently working on a field guide on the mammals of South America. Rob has worked for various international conservation organizations including the Wildlife Conservation Society and BirdLife International. He lived in Ecuador for four years and lived in northern Peru where he worked with several local and international conservation groups supporting local communities in undertaking conservation actions. He was the scientific director of a Peruvian NGO, Asociacion Naymlap, and director of research at the Dry Forest Research Centre in the Chaparri Reserve. He is now Coordinator and Researcher for the Frankfurt Zoological Society's large-scale rainforest conservation project in southeast Peru working with the Peruvian government, and is located in Cusco, Peru.
At noon, Brynne and I were ready to sightsee in Cusco, and on Rob’s advice, we started at the top of a hill/mountain at Q’enko. Rob accompanied us in a taxi and helped us obtain the Boleto Turistico del Cusco (Cusco Tourist Ticket) which would gain us admittance to several Inca sites. He managed to get Brynne’s tourist ticket at a student rate. It seemed very hot, in the high 70s F, and we walked rather slowly, but otherwise the altitude medications were staving off dizziness and headaches.
Q’enko/Q’enqo is an Inca temple (thought to be for agricultural rites) and amphitheater site 4 km/2.5 miles north of Cusco with one of the finest examples of Inca stone carving in situ. The Inca revered rocky outcrops. The Q’enko name means "Zigzag" in Quechuan, and may refer to the zigzag channels carved into an altar-like rock. An overheard guide referred to the area as a labyrinth and she also called Q’enko the “Temple to Toads” as this was an area where toads would “announce” the coming of rains (water is considered sacred). It is speculated that the site was a ceremonial place to drink chicha (maize beer) or a place that was used to sacrifice animals such as llamas. Channels in altar-like rocks are usually thought to allow flow of chicha or blood, but it is really not known what their purpose is.
Flat slanted walls were once covered with panels of silver.
Slanted wall once covered with silver
In one wall are 19 trapezoidal niches for housing idols, or mummies. The site also has tunnels going under it.
Wall with niches
Brynne is a mummy idol
A 6 m/20-foot tall monolith represents a puma.
"Puma" to the right
We entered a natural cave,
where the rock was carved into an altar,
Brynne walks by altar
and steps.
We had a view down on the city of Cusco,
View towards Cusco
and right below us was another Inca wall.
More Inca walls
The Incas were able to cut and fit together large stones with multiple sides and corners, like a jigsaw puzzle.
Well-fit together stone wall
The cutting was so precise that it is said that a sheet of paper/credit card cannot be slipped between the stones.
Precisely fitted edges
Sometimes the edges of the stones were beveled.
Beveled stones
Lower class buildings had less well-fitted stones and used mud mortar.
Less refined fitting of stones
Across the valley we could see the impression (cleared land?) of the Peru Coat of Arms. On the crest is a Holm (or Holly) Oak Civic Crown, which could not be seen on the mountainside. You could see the shield with the Vicuña (representing the Animal Kingdom; a vicuña is related to the alpaca), the Chinchona or quinine tree (Plant Kingdom), and the Cornucopia (Mineral Kingdom). On the left is a laurel branch and on the right an olive branch.
Peru Coat of Arms
Viva Peru!
Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega/Stadium
We walked through the eucalyptus grove of our first bird sighting: a Chiguanco Thrush (Turdus chiguanco), which Rob promised would be a common bird to see.
Eucalyptus trees
Tall eucalyptus trees
The Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globus) tree is a native of Australia (and Tasmania), and was imported to the Americas to produce a fast-growing and inexpensive source of fuelwood. It is also used for straight, uniform poles for construction and for paper production. Unfortunately, eucalyptus is an invasive species taking water and nutrients from other plants, and allowing nothing else to grow where its toxic leaves have fallen. It has few natural enemies and threatens to overtake native plants and thus the habitats of native animals and birds. Conservation groups recommend reforesting with native trees, but are countered by the government giving away free eucalyptus seeds to residents.
We passed an alpaca ranch on the road down to Sacsayhuaman.
Alpaca ranch
We crossed the road for a close-up peek at alpacas.
First view of Sachsayhuaman...
Finally reached the gatepost of Sacsayhuaman to have our tourist tickets punched. There wasn’t any shade to sit in, but we had to stop a couple times to drink water as we climbed to the top of the Inca ruins. Here we had a great view of the city of Cusco.

Sacsayhuaman is Quechuan for “Satisfied Falcon”. A megalith overlooking Cusco, it has some of the Inca’s most extraordinary architecture and monumental stonework. Massive rocks of diorite, Yucay limestone, and andasite, weighing up to 130 tons are fitted together.
There are three walls (limestone) that run parallel for 360 m/1181 feet, with 21-22 bastions that zigzag like the teeth of a puma. The walls are 20 m/66 feet high.
Zigzag walls
The base stones are up to 3.7 m/12 feet high, and one weighs 300 tons.
Large base stones
Brynne with base stones
Brynne under door lintel
The Cusco city walls were laid out in the shape of a puma, with Sacsayhuaman as the head and teeth.
"Puma-shaped" city
Huacaputu (now the Plaza de Armas) was the heart of the puma, Koricancha the loins, and Pumacchupan (now Garcilaso Street) the tail. A very stylized puma! Presently only ¼ of the original Sacsayhuaman complex remains. Once thought to be a fortress, evidence now shows it was more of a religious sanctuary with a Temple to the Sun. Built by the Inca Pachacutec in 1440, Sacsayhuaman had three towers.
The tower of Muyu Marca was round and made of three concentric circles of wall more than 30 m/98 feet high. The outer circle had a diameter of 7.3 m/24 feet. Thought to be an imperial residence, or storage for water. Subterranean channels brought in fresh water.
Muyu Marca ruins
Across an open square is the rectangular foundation of the tower Salla Marca with a 20 m/66-foot base.
Salla Marca ruins
There was also a third tower, Pauca Marca, likely used for storage of provisions and water. All the towers were painted in vivid colors, had thatched roofs, and were interconnected with underground passages. Below the terrace of the towers, remnants of the Temple of the Sun could be seen. Back on the other side of the zigzag ramparts, there is a large flat plain where the annual winter solstice festival of Inti Raymi is celebrated every June 24th. On the other side of the “parade ground” is a rocky hill, the Rodadero, once used as a quarry and now as a rock (diorite) slide!
Under the hilltop are water-carved channels which were modified by the Incas. When Pizarro arrived in 1533, he had a puppet Inca, Manco Inca, installed at Sacsayhuaman. In 1536, Manco Inca led a rebellion which caught the Spaniards off guard. However, Manco Inca failed to hold Sacsayhuaman, and fled to Ollantaytambo. The Inca dead were left to be carried off by condors, and they are memorialized by 8 condors in the Cusco coat of arms. The Spaniards then carted off most of the manageable stone blocks to build in Cusco.
Odd-shaped stones
Our goal: the main plaza...
Cusco's main plaza
After fending off a postcard vendor, we headed to another high point to view the city of Cusco below,
Panorama of Cusco
Brynne above Cusco
Looking eastward
and to look across the canyon at El Cristo Blanco, a large white statue of Christ which was a gift of Palestinians who immigrated to Cusco.
El Cristo Blanco
Then we followed “goat paths” towards the entrance of Sacsayhuaman and somehow ended up behind the caution-do-not-enter tape strung around the Inca walls.
Goat paths
We saw a herd of alpacas and llamas go galloping towards a group of costumed women. They all swarmed up towards us and I tried to sneakily take photos, but they caught me!
So I doled out dollar bills as the women and girls posed with alpacas and babies.
One girl came back to us saying there was a problem with her dollar (it was torn and taped). So I had to give her a dollar bill in better condition!
We continued down the slippery stone steps and pathway in the canyon towards the Cusco town center. Came to the edge of the city with stone and adobe buildings in various states of construction. Bank loans are hard to come by, so the people save up a bit of money, do some work on the house, then save up a bit more, etc. Also, if they never apply the finishing plaster to the walls, the house is never complete and they don’t have to pay higher taxes. People and dogs were everywhere, with many of the women in traditional dress. If not in traditional dress, then they at least carried their babies or bundles in a colorful blanket tied across their backs.
Men tended to carry their bundles in a large plastic burlap-type bag.
Man with plastic burlap bag
Depending on their specific indigenous backgrounds, the women wore hats of different designs. Married women wore what looked like men’s bowler hats with a ribbon around the brim. Others wore flat round or rectangular black hats with colorful embroidered designs.
Even at the edge of the city, men were trying to get us to come to their restaurants for lunch. But they didn’t have ice cream.
Saw a llama with tassels on its ears.
Llama with tassels
Turned onto a narrow cobbled street heading straight downhill.
Eventually we found a shop with ice cream, and also bought postage stamps. We took our ice cream into the main square, the Plaza de Armas, to sit in the shade of the fountain.
Plaxa de Armas fountain
Uniformed police blew whistles to keep people in line, such as the toddler who ran onto the grass.
Kids fed and chased the pigeons, which are correctly called Rock Doves (Columba livia)!

Plaza de Armas: In Inca days, the heart of Cusco was Huacaypata (the place of tears) and Cusipata (the place of happiness) divided by a channel of the Rio Saphi. Now Huacaypata is Plaza de Armas, which is half the size of the original Inca square. A civic square then and now, the soil of conquered territories was brought here to mingle with the soil of Huacaypata. Ceremonies and executions took place here, including the executions of the last Inca Tupaq Amaru, the rebel conquistador Diego de Amalgro the Younger, and indigenous leader Tupaq Amaru II. In the mid 1990’s, the mayor had all the native trees removed because they impeded the view. They have since been replaced by plants and flowerbeds.
Plaza de Armas
Spanish colonial architecture predominates with arcades and 2nd-floor wooden balconies.
There is also the Cusco flag in rainbow colors, one stripe different than the more well-known gay pride flag.
Flag of Cusco
The Cusco flag is based on the Inca Empire flag of the same colors, but it is square in shape.
We first toured the Cathedral complex, entering the first church, sitting to read our notes, then walking around. Then into the Cathedral, sitting to read notes, walking around. Finally into the third chapel, sitting again to read notes, then walking around. Sitting in the cool dark churches was a relief!

La Catedral (1669 Renaissance) is not the most ornate church on the Plaza de Armas. That distinction belongs to the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus (below) built by the Jesuits.
Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus
The bishop requested the intervention of Pope Paul III as the Jesuit church would overshadow the cathedral, but he was too late.
The cathedral was begun in 1559 on the site of Inca Viracocha’s palace. The cathedral was built with blocks from Sacsayhuaman and took nearly 100 years using the labor of the Quecha people. The architect was Juan Miguel de Veramendi.
Cathedral bell tower
Legend has it that a captured Inca prince is bricked up in the bell tower and his only means of escape is for the tower to fall, at which point he will reclaim his people and land. Hopes were raised when the tower was severely damaged in the 1950 earthquake, but the tower did not fall. The bell tower holds the largest bell in the city, weighing 5980 kg/6593 tons. There were two failed attempts to cast the bell. On the third try, a freed slave girl, Afro-Peruvian Maria Angola, threw gold into the smelting pot and the bell was successfully cast. The bell was thus named the Maria Angola. It was damaged during the 1950 earthquake and is only heard on special occasions.

Iglesia Jesus y Maria (Church of Jesus and Mary, 1733 Baroque)
Iglesia Jesus y Maria
is the entrance to the cathedral complex and has a newly renovated gilded main altar. There are colorful restored murals and two gaudy mirror-encrusted altars towards the front.
Iglesia Jesus y Maria door
La Catedral
Walking through into the cathedral, there are magnificently carved choir stalls done by a 17th century priest with representations of 80 saints and virgins. The pulpit is intricately carved in Plateresque-style (15th -16th century Spanish art form meaning “in the manner of a silversmith”). The neoclassical high altar was covered in embossed solid silver, using 400 kg/882 pounds of silver from Potasi, Bolivia. Behind the altar is the original retablo/altar decoration, covering the whole wall. It is a masterpiece of wood carving by famous Quechuan Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupaq. To the right of the altar is a local painting of the “Last Supper” by Cusco School artist Marcos Zapata, which has Jesus ready to eat a plump juicy roast cuy (guinea pig), and the apostles are drinking chicha (maize beer).
From the 15th to 16th centuries, the Escuela Cuzquena, the Cusco School of Painting, developed through an evolution of indigenous elements being added to Spanish styles, showing the influence first of Bishop Mollineola, and then Quecha and mestizo artists.
The Sacristy contains 400 canvases of Cusco School artwork from the 16th-18th centuries, featuring all the Cusco bishops and archbishops including Vicente de Valverde, the Dominican friar who accompanied Francisco Pizarro and was instrumental in the death of Inca Atahualpa. Valverde was bishop until his death in 1541. A Crucifixion painting is attributed to Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck, or to the Spanish artist Alonso Cano.
There are 10 chapels around the nave of the cathedral. In the Chapel of El Senor de los Temblores (The Lord of Earthquakes), Christ is displayed on a 26-foot cross made of solid gold and embedded with precious stones. His crown is solid gold and his hands and feet are pierced with solid gold, jewel-encrusted nails. It seems this one is a copy and the original cross is kept safely locked away, and may be brought out for special occasions. It is much venerated and considered a guardian against earthquakes. Christ appears to be Quechuan with darkened skin, but that is the effect of years of candle smoke.
The original altar in the chapel was destroyed by fire and replaced with a plaster one covered with silver. In the Chapel of St. James the Greater, there is a statue of the saint on horseback as he is killing indigenous people. Another chapel has the oldest surviving painting in Cusco done by Alonso Cortes de Monroy. It depicts the 1650 earthquake showing the townspeople parading around the Plaza with El Senor de los Temblores as fire rages through colonial red-tiled roofed buildings. The earthquake stopped… in response to this procession. And in yet another chapel, there is a painting of Pope John Paul II when he visited Sacsayhuaman in 1985.

Capilla del Triunfo (Chapel of Triumph, 1536) is the last church in the cathedral complex. It was built on the site of Inca Suntar Huasi (Round House). It was the first Christian church in Cusco. The name Triumph comes from the Spanish victory over the indigenous rebellion of 1536. The Spanish hid in this chapel and claimed they were visited by the Virgin of the Descent who helped put out the flames of thatched roofs. Later, they claimed, St. James the Greater came on horseback and killed many of the rebels. The chapel has a fine carved granite altar with a statue of the Virgin of Descent. On the right wall was the wooden “Cross of Conquest” brought from Spain by Vicente de Valverde, which looked like it was made of sapling trunks. In the catacombs below the chapel is a coffer containing half the ashes of the Cuzqueno chronicler/historian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, born of a Spanish father and Inca princess mother in 1539. The ashes were sent back from Spain in 1978.

We decided to try one museum, the closest being the Museo Inka. Oops, not on the tourist ticket, so we paid 10 Soles each.
Museo Inka is located in the Palacio del Almirante (Palace of the Admiral), one of Cusco’s most impressive colonial houses, built on the site of the Inca Huaypar Palace.
Museo Inka
High on the corner balcony over the door is a pillar carved in such a way to show a naked woman from the outside and a bearded man from the inside. The façade is Plateresque (a “silversmith-like” style of Spanish architecture) with an ornate portal.
Carved pillar
Above the doorway are two crests, one for the Admiral and one for Pedro Peralta de los Rio, Count of Laguna, who rebuilt the palace.
Crests above doorway
The courtyard is a studio for weavers. The museum is run by the Universidad San Antonio Abad and the exhibits on two floors feature the development of culture. A few items in each display and some simple dioramas, but the museum went on and on with textiles, ceramics, metal and jewelry work, architecture and technology, traditional dress of each of the different cultures and tribes of Peru. There is a collection of miniature turquoise figures and other objects made as offerings to the gods, and the world’s largest collection of 450 drinking vessels called queros, made of painted carved wood. One display had trepanned skulls - skulls with holes drilled or cut in them for medicinal purposes. There was a full-size tomb with mummies placed in a fetal position, and a display on the coca leaf, the sacred leaf of Inca. At the end was the grand staircase guarded by statues of mythical creatures.
Looking back at Plaza de Armas
Peru is the third largest country in South America, about 5/6 the size of Alaska. It is made up of three distinct regions: Costa – the coast (a thin strip of desert along the Pacific Ocean); Sierra – the highlands made up of the Andes Mountains in several ranges; and Selva – the jungle or Amazon Basin rainforest which makes up 2/3 of the country. The Amazon Basin in South America produces 20% of the earth’s oxygen. The tallest mountain is Huascaran at 6768 m/22,205 feet, the fifth highest in the Andes. The deepest canyon is Cañon del Cotahuasi at 3343m/11,587 feet, which is the deepest in the world (other than ocean canyons). The people comprise of 45% Campesinos (indigenous), 37% Mestizos (indigenous and Spanish mix), 15% Caucasian, and 3% African and Asian.

We were exhausted and barely made our way to the side of the Plaza closest to our destination. I asked a woman police officer about getting a taxi, having been warned not to be taken by a rogue taxi in Peru. She just pointed out all the taxis roaring past, so I put up my hand and one stopped in the middle of the street. Hurried to get in and were told the expected 3 Soles fare to Santa Monica.
We sat back in the taxi and looked at each other as the taxi sped off, passing, squeezing between cars and buses, darting in front of vehicles, with sudden starts and stops, the outside rearview mirror centimeters from the sides of buses. Brynne estimates we nearly collided with 30 cars and we were close to being sandwiched between bigger vehicles. The drivers will drive on the wrong side of the road if it is less riddled with potholes, and swerve around speed bumps and any other kind of bump. Our driver had to ask directions to find our specific street. What a crazy ride!
Jan and Kirby had arrived, but were napping. We napped as well after I sent an e-mail to Kent to let him know we arrived safely. At 6:30 PM we were all up for a briefing with our guide Percy about the Manu portion of our trip.
Then Brynne and I accompanied Kirby and Rob to the grocery store, La Canasta.
Kirby and Brynne
Different produce (fava beans and several types of potatoes),
more choices of rice and packaged milks,
strange snacks, and not so fresh-looking meats.
Finally Jan, Kirby and Brynne were sent in one taxi, and Rob and I in another to go to dinner at Incanto Bar & Restaurant just off the Plaza de Armas. Whoa! Cosmopolitan! The Italian-themed restaurant had an original Inca wall with trapezoidal niches. Rob treated us for dinner, which was very generous of him. Back at Casa de Anahi, we re-packed in order to get everything into one suitcase for the Manu trip. We were able to leave one suitcase behind, while Jan and Kirby left two of their four behind.
To bed at 10:30 PM.
Next: Day 3 Paucartambo.

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