Thur 8th to Sun 11th December
Cusco, the busiest tourist city in Peru. Probably around 50% of the people reading this blog have been here and visited the nearby Inka ruins. Bear with us whilst we do the tourist bit. Both Roger and Bob have already been here so they've seen it all before too.
Cusco is the historic capital of the Inca empire and was declared a World Heritage site in 1987. Some 2 million visitors come here every year on the Pilgrimage to Machupicchu and other historical sites in the area, so we weren't alone!
Old centre of Cusco showing the main square
Church of the society of Jesus in the Square.
Whenever anyone talks about the Incas it is invariably about their stonework. This image of the 12 sided stone shows how each stone fits perfectly with the adjacent ones. No mortar and no gaps between the blocks. As you can see in a couple of other shots, some of these blocks are massive. There are plenty of theories about how they did it but no one knows for sure.
Bob and I ruining the lines of the Inca stonework in The Convent of Santa Domingo.
There is on average at least one protest every day in the square in Cusco. This one was something to do with not wanting a disco which would apparently encourage the young to drink alcohol.
Thursday - We visited the ruins of Sacsayhuaman that overlook Cusco. The site was believed to be both a fortress and place for ritual activities for the Inca nation.
Some of the largest stones used by the Inca's were used to build these massive terrace walls. After the Spanish defeated the Inca's and took control, most of Sacsayhuaman was dismantled and the blocks used to build municipal buildings and churches in Cusco. Only the larger blocks remain as the Spanish considered them too difficult to move!
For those already bored to tears over a load of old stones. Mum and baby grazing on the Plaza at Sacsayhuaman.........
..... they're certainly more attractive and photogenic than us
.... as is this young lady who spends all of her time
....... weaving intricate patterns to produce shawls, table runners and wall hangings. She's not using a pattern and a 3 ft table runner takes about a month to complete. When you realise how much work goes into these things, it makes you think twice before trying to knock them down to tuppence.
Friday - We have booked our train tickets to Machupicchu. Terry and I had contemplated doing the four day Inca trail to Machupicchu but in the end decided to take the easy option and let the train take the strain. We left Cusco and rode the fifty miles or so to the sacred valley and Ollantaytambo.
Village/town festivals seem a regular feature on calendars over here. We came across this one on the way to Ollantaytambo. Lots of elaborately dressed revellers were dancing through the streets for no good reason that we could find out..........
........ other than perhaps having a little fun and livening the place up.
Dropping down into the sacred valley.
Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of the Inca Emperor Pachacuti and one of the last strongholds of the Inca resistance after the Spanish conquest. These days it is a tourist attraction in its own right and also one of the main starting points for the Inca trail. For us it is where we are going to catch the train to Machupicchu early tomorrow morning.
A little decadence, cream teas before going off to explore some more Inca ruins. We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw this on the menu at a local cafe and just had to have some. This was in memory of Colin.
The main Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo. At an altitude of just under 10,000ft, it was lots of puffing and panting going up and down all those steps.
Roger, Terry & me on the terrace.
These ladies were sitting at the entrance, dressed a little over the top, hoping to earn a couple of Sol by having their picture taken. For once we didn't disappoint them.
Local lad earning his pocket money.
Colourful masks at the local Inca market.
One of the old Inca streets in Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo village and the northern end of the 'Sacred Valley'
It was up at 5.30 to catch the train we had booked with Inca Rail which left from Ollantaytambo. We were expecting a large train having booked executive class. It turned out to be one carriage and one class.
View from the train.
Roger and I enjoying the ride.
The Sun Gate
When we arrived at Machupicchu the first thing we did was walk up to the 'Sun Gate' (about a 40 min uphill trek), hoping to get a good view of the city below........
.... unfortunately this is what we got.
Back down to a lower level for a look around and better visibility.
Having a history lesson at an early age.
Locals almost equalled the number of foreign visitors at Machupicchu today and a far cry from when Roger was here last. Then it was almost totally the preserve of the foreign tourist. An indication perhaps that Peru is becoming a wealthier and more educated nation.
Terry making his way down to the Inca bridge. It is a very narrow passageway, probably no more than a metre wide, that winds its way around the back of the mountain and was used as a secret entrance/exit.
Sunday - We set off back to Cusco riding through the 'Secret Valley to Pisac where there were some more Inca ruins to explore.
The road up to the ruins.
Overlooking the valley
There were at least three main parts to the Inca settlement at Pisac, agricultural where they built large areas of terracing for the growing of crops that are still used today.......
........ Military where a fortress was built to defend the Southern end of the 'Sacred Valley' and the usual religious temples and structures.
Selection of dolls at the local market.
Having just about been ruined out, we rode back to Cusco for the night and an early start in the morning to head South to Puno and the 'reed islands'.
One last place in Cusco needs a mention, Jack's Cafe. It was the one place Roger wanted to go back to after visiting here a number of years ago and for the rest of us it wasn't a disappointment. The food and coffee was superb and if you come this way 'Jack's' shouldn't be missed.