En route the ancient “City in the Sky” known as Machu Picchu, one’s travels would take them to the ancient capital of Peru’s Inca Empire, Cuzco (spelled Cusco in English). After a brief flight from Lima, Peru, Cuzco would be the jump of point to head to Machu Picchu.
View Cuzco, Peru in a larger map
The one thing to note about Cuzco is it’s elevation. At around 11,200 ft. above sea-level, the air is quite thin. I had to take some pills which would help me with the high altitude before I left Lima and I took them at periodic times while there.
My tour operator for the whole trip arranged picked me up from the airport. My main contact, Carlos, spoke relatively good English and was briefed me on my next few days’ events.
I was dropped off at my hotel for the next 2 nights. The Orquidea Real Hostel. Based on the description, this is supposed to be a backpacker’s hostel. So I wasn’t really expecting much. Situated just a block from Cuzco’s main square, it had a great location.
When I entered the hotel, it was actually quite quaint. I was brought to my room, and it totally did not strike me as a backpacker’s hotel… at least to my standards. It was actually quite cute. My room had two beds, cable TV, a portable heater, and a private bath.
It was also conveniently located next to the dining area which was also quite quaint with a nice view of the city.
Carlos prepared for me some Coco Tea which would help me with any high altitude sickness.
After resting around half an hour, I decided to take a walk… at least to the town square and have myself some lunch.
The streets of Cuzco reminded me a little but of an old Baguio. How Baguio looked like before SM. What also struck me is that the streets were very clean. Devoid of trash and intentional litter.
The street below looked like a street in Vigan, placed in Baguio.
I made my way to the town square known as The Plaza de Armas of Cuzco.
Plaza de Armas
One one side of the Plaza is a Jesuit Church, la Compañia. (La Ignesia de la Compañia de Jesus)
And on another side, the Cuzco Cathedral
The Basilica is beautiful I would return later in the afternoon for the tour. The sad thing about the church tour though is that… you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside. More on this later.
As I walked back to my hotel a little boy and a Llama were following me. I gave him a dollar to let me take his picture.
In the afternoon I had a city tour of Cuzco. My first stop was back to the Cathedral. Our tour guide Jose explained a lot about the history of Cuzco before and after the arrival of the Spaniards in 1535. The Cathedral had several stunning artwork and excellent examples of craftsmanship on woodwork. But alas… the signs below were everywhere. And as the good little tourist that I was, I didn’t bother trying to steal shots.
The first explanation I heard about this rule was that flash photography would harm the pigment on the paintings. While a somewhat acceptable answer, I asked what about if no flash was used. Well, apparently the real reason why no cameras are allowed is because the Church has copyright… and wants to make money of selling postcards and photo books of everything you see in the church.
From the church, we walked around the streets of Cuzco where Jose made a special mention that many of the foundations of the city are still from the original Incan buildings which stood on the same sites.
These walls, as one would see all over the city are blocks laid one on top of the other without any mortar. Just tightly fitting and precise.
We walked quite a distance to our next venue…
We made our way to the Dominican Cathedral or the “Convento de Santo Domingo”
Inside the buildings, once again one could not take pictures. But outdoors is another matter.
Inside, once again are great examples of Incan stone work and engineering.
Inside an Incan house.
A view of the Dominican Convent from the street.
We then boarded a bus to another site just outside the city. Our destination…. SAQSAYWAMAN. Which, when pronounced sounds like “Sexy Woman”
This site was spectacular. A huge set of structures with massive stones from quarry’s outside the area. How were they built? My vote is aliens.
At the other end of the Saqsaywaman. I could not resist having my “National Geographic Moment” with the locals and their llamas.
We then proceeded to an ancient, yet still operational aqueduct.
Finally… we visited a set of ancient ruins known as the Temple of the Sun.
That big stone on the right used to be some statue or figure. None of the ancient sculptures are intact as they were all destroyed by the Spanish.
That’s our guide Jose, explaining the history behind the Temple of the Sun.
The stunning view with Cuzco in the background.
That’s it for my first day in Cuzco. Tomorrow… MACHU PICCHU!