Peru Travel Blog

Cusco

June 19, 2006

Plaza D'Armas Parade

After the Cusco city tour, we went back to the hotel and had some free time. We walked from the hotel to the main square, the Plaza D'Armas. On the way there, we passed several llamas on the side of the street. There was a parade in progress, mostly school children in traditional Andean dress. This week is a big week for Cusco as it several days it will be the festival of the sun, Inti Raymi. The parade is part of the lead up to the holiday.

We took some photos around the square, it is a very beautiful place.

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Cusco City Tour - Sacsayhuaman

After checking in to our hotel, the first order of business was to have some Cocoa tea, that the hotel has in the courtyard.

The second order or business was a city tour. I assumed this would be a walking tour, but we boarded a small bus instead. We drove through the city as a local guide -- a professor at Cusco University -- explained some of the sites. Strictly speaking, it was really a "city tour" but rather a tour of the Sacsayhuaman Inca site (pronounced by some as "sexy-woman") and related sites. Sacsayhuaman is several hundred metres above the heart of Cusco, which actually lies in a valley (the bottom of the valley is at 3400 m elevation).

Sacsayhuaman is a very cool site. The Inca stonework is amazing. The detail is striking, yet it curious that this civilization that lived here in the 1500s -- thousands of years after the pyramids of Egypt, never developed language, and their stonework is simply stones, no carvings, writings, or inscriptions. It was calming sitting on the grass, high in the Andes, looking the Inca stonework against the cool blue afternoon mountain sky. Hours later, we seemed to be a world way from the humid Amazon Jungle, yet the flight was less than an hour.

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Tupac Yupanqui Palace Hotel, Cusco

We checked in to our hotel, the Tupac Yupanqui Palace Hotel in Cusco. The hotel is very nice, just a short walk to the main square, the Plaza D'Armas. The Tupac Yupanqui has a nice courtyard in the middle, typical of the hotels in Cusco. It is called "Palace" because it used to be one, in the days of the Incas. Like many building in Cusco, the hotel was built upon the ruins of former Inca structures. At the base of the hotel, you can see the Inca stonework, and then the more modern construction on top. So we are staying in an Inca palace -- that's alright.

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Chewing Cocoa Leaves in Cusco

The flight from Puerto Moldanado to Cusco took about 55 minutes. Cusco is at an elevation of 3,400 m (11,000 feet). Upon arriving, our guide explained that one way to avoid altitude sickness is to chew cocoa leaves. Yes, these are the same leaves that are used in the production of cocaine. Apparently, the plant has several useful purposes and it is important for the Andean people. Chewing or eating the plant has not narcotic effect -- it takes a very complex and scientic process to convert cocoa leaves into the drug. Even still, we were advised not to try to take any leaves with us out of the country, just in case. Cocoa tea is very common here as well, and it is quite tasty. I launched right in, chewing the leaf and drinking the tea.

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