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Cusco, Cuzco, Qosq'o

Written on: Thursday November 1st, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Cusco, Peru

Author: Julie


We?ve arrived in one of my dream cities, Cusco (or Qosq?o in Quechua). The longest inhabited city in South America and the capital of the Inca empire, steeped in archaeological history. It is known world-wide for its proximity to the foremost Inca ruin of Machu Picchu, as well as Saqsaywamán, Tambomachay, Q?enqo, and Pisac. We've come to Cusco to see all of these and to do the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu.

Much of its history is based on myths since the Incas did not write down their history. Legend says that it was built in the 12th century after the first Inca king, Manco Capác, had a vision from their sun god to find Qosq?o: the navel of the earth. In the fertile valley of Cusco he found such a place and the city was built. The empire reached its zenith in the 15th century under the reign of Pachacutec, the 9th Inca. A neighboring tribe, the Chankas, invaded the Cusco valley in the early 1400s and the Viracocha Inca (the 8th Inca and father of Pachacutec) fled believing the city was lost. However, his son rallied the Inca army and defeated the invaders. After this win, he was crown Inca and his dreams of expanding the Incan empire began. Over 25 years, the Incan empire was expanded from northern Chile to southern Colombia, including the construction of many trails linking the empire from end to end. One of these trails leads from Ingapirca, the ruin we had visited in southern Ecuador to Cusco, another more famous trail is the aforementioned Inca trail. He also proved to be an excellent urban developer; designing Cusco in the shape of a puma and diverting rivers to cross the city.

Upon waking from our mid-afternoon nap, we walked around the hostel to discover a large building with an always-active bar, a large room with panoramic windows overlooking the Cusco valley, free internet, and two grassy courtyards to lay out in the sun. We wanted to see more of this famous city so we walked out the hostel and down the gasp-inducing stairs we had climbed earlier that day. We found a city full of plazas, colonial buildings, and churches on every corner. Being a UNESCO world heritate site, all the buildings were well-preserved and we had the impression that we could have been walking the same streets 200 years earlier.

We walked down towards Plaza de Armas where the most beautiful buildings with ornate porches, the Cathedral, and the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus were located. It was the largest main square and one of the prettiest we had seen since the start of our trip. Cusqueños were enjoying the beautiful sunshine; sitting by the fountain, on benches, and on the steps of the cathedral.

The next day, knowing we had plenty of time ot visit the city, we spent the afternoon sitting in the bar, meeting new people, checking emails, writing more of the blog, and just lazing around. In the evening, we met up with some friends at the hostel bar. One thing led to another, one beer led to another, and next thing we knew we were at a one of the dance clubs near the main square, dancing like fools. At 4 AM, we decided to put away the dance shoes and call it a night. The walk back to our hostel took twice as long as we staggered back to our room.

The next day I woke up late in the afternoon with one of the worse hangovers in my life. Lesson learned again: don?t drink cheap rum and don?t drink at high altitudes. I only started feeling better close to 9 PM when the Halloween party was in full swing. I had decided to spend the evening in bed since I didn?t think I would have the energy to party it up one more night. Kevin and our friend Jenn convinced me otherwise. I put together a really bad costume and joined the festivities. The costumes were amazing! Some people had brought theirs from home, everyone was dressed up. The winners of the best costume contests were dressed as corpses with the words ?I did NOT survive the world?s most dangerous road?, second place was someone dressed as Marylin Manson and third place was a couple of guys from Thunder Bay who had brought Batman and Robin costumes from home. We had a great time and we finally crashed at 2 AM. Travelling is so hard!

On the 4th day, feeling the pressure to finally visit Cusco as true tourists, we ventured out with our friend Jenn from Minnesota. She was in Peru for a short time and wanted to visit all there was to see in Cusco. We walked slowly to the Plaza des Armas, passing by the Santa Catalina Gate. We were getting hungry so we decided to get a quick bite and to do some people watching at one of the 2nd floor restaurants overlooking the square. Jenn ordered an amazing chicken and avocado sandwich while Kevin and I shared a delicious plate of chicken, beef, and veggie brochettes cooked to mouth-watering perfection. Our hunger satiated, we walked passed the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus along the alleyway of Loreto to see the oldest walls in Cusco. They used to be part of the Acllahuasi (House of the Chosen Women) and the Amaruqancha (Courtyard of the Serpents). The stone blocks all fit together like lego-blocks. Ambling our way down, we were passed by a little boy, no older than 4-5 years old, pushing a full-sized wheelbarrow towards an open doorway. Kevin helped him bring it over the doorframe then down the stairs which led to large grassy field. The little guy was really strong and took most the weight on his own. Wanting to play, Kevin told him to get into the wheelbarrow and ran around with him all over the field. The little guy was having so much fun and Jenn and I couldn?t stop laughing. It was such an honest moment. After Kevin was sufficiently exhausted from running around, we continued to walk down the alley. An old woman was sitting on a door stoop selling small pieces of silver. She had such an amazing face, old, worn, with deep wrinkles. She had severe cataracts and had difficulty seeing anything. Kevin bought two tiny, but very heavy silver figures of a man and woman while I bought a silver bookmark with the head of a llama. We didn?t want to negotiate with her, feeling the few dollars we would save would not dent our budget but could definitely help this woman, so we paid the asked price of 25 soles for our three little treasures.

Next, we walked up Triunfo street to see the famous 12-sided rock: Hatunrumiyoc. It was anti-climatic, since we passed by a couple of times before finding it. It was slightly bigger than the others and it did have 12-sides but nothing more impressive than that. It used to be part of the palace of the 6th Inca, Roca.

The hour was growing late and we had to head back to the main plaza for our briefing with our Inca Trail company: SAS. We arrived in time to meet our 8 new friends that we would be spending the next 3 night and 4 days, as well as our guide Orlando, our assistant guide Raoul, and our trek coordinator Lucho. We were informed that our pick-up time the next morning would be 6 AM! I knew it was going to be early but that?s almost the middle-of-the-night for me. We also should expect cold nights and wet days since we were now at the start of the rain season. After running through the route we would be taking, the amount of porters we would have, the equipment required, we bid good-night to everyone. Kevin and I walked up Gringo Alley, a narrow-alley of restaurants, not-so-secret drug dealers, and trekking equipment stores. We needed to rent hiking poles for both of us and a waterproof daypack for me. We found a decent place with decent prices and rented the necessary equipment. We also decided to buy large rubberized ponchos since they provided the best protection against the heavy rains we could encounter during the trek. Fully geared-up we walked back to our hostel to do an early check-out, pack, and get as much sleep as we could.