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|
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.
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.
Flat slanted walls were once covered with panels of silver.
|Slanted wall once covered with silver|
|Wall with niches|
|Brynne is a mummy idol|
|"Puma" to the right|
|Brynne walks by altar|
|View towards Cusco|
|More Inca walls|
|Well-fit together stone wall|
|Precisely fitted edges|
|Less refined fitting of stones|
|Peru Coat of Arms|
|Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega/Stadium|
|Tall eucalyptus trees|
We passed an alpaca ranch on the road down to Sacsayhuaman.
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.
|Large base stones|
|Brynne with base stones|
|Brynne under door lintel|
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|
|Salla Marca ruins|
|Cusco's main plaza|
|Panorama of Cusco|
|Brynne above Cusco|
|El Cristo Blanco|
Men tended to carry their bundles in a large plastic burlap-type bag.
|Man with plastic burlap bag|
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|
|Plaxa de Armas fountain|
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|
There is also the Cusco flag in rainbow colors, one stripe different than the more well-known gay pride flag.
|Flag of Cusco|
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 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|
Iglesia Jesus y Maria (Church of Jesus and Mary, 1733 Baroque)
|Iglesia Jesus y Maria|
|Iglesia Jesus y Maria door|
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.
|Crests above doorway|
|Looking back at Plaza de Armas|
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|
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.