Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cusco & The Sacred Valley

Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire (1200s-1532). The Quechua (Indian) name, Qosqo, means 'belly button' because the ancient Incas considered the city to be the center of the world. Upon the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the Quechua name ("Qosqo") was transliterated into Spanish as "Cusco."

Looking out over the city of Cusco--the mountain in the distance says, 'VIVA EL PERU'. (Amy's sunglasses broke awhile ago so she got this new pair at a market in Lima.)

Today the city is full of tourists from around the world. It has narrow streets and sidewalks made of stones. Many believe the city was planned to be shaped like a puma.

Cusco is full of Spanish colonial architecture that in many places is built on top of ancient Inca structures, giving us a glimpse of into its history. The Spanish undertook the construction of a new city on the foundations of the old Inca city, replacing temples with churches and palaces with mansions for the conquerors.

Spanish church built on top of Inca foundation:

The cathedral and fountain in the Plaza de Armas (center of town):

A view from behind the cathedral in the Plaza de Armas after sunset:

We happened on this festival in the Plaza de Armas one night:

The indigenous ladies sell their crafts to tourists on the streets of Cusco. Truth be told, they also sit here with a llama because they charge gringos for pictures... can't blame them. Tourists would take their picture all day anyway.

This is a market far from the Plaza de Armas where only the locals shop (notice the hanging chickens). No tourists here; we just passed by in a taxi or we would never have known about it.

travel tip: If you ever visit Cusco and are interested in the culture, stop by the children's museum. It's not on any of the tourist info and nobody talks about it, but it's by far the best museum in town. It's called Irq' I Yachay (which means 'wisdom of the children'). It's not a museum for children; it's a nonprofit organization that features art by Andean children from the 'forgotten' rural villages in the mountains of Peru. It's fascinating and totally free: 344 Teatro Street in Cusco (short walk from the main plaza), Phone 24-1416. Open Mon-Fri 10am-5pm.

We visited the the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley) in the Andes mountain range and stopped in a few ancient Inca villages that are still inhabited today. The irrigation systems still work, and the Incas still grow their own crops, including hundreds of varieties of potatoes and corn that each have a name.

This table is full of only different types of potatoes.... and a little raw meat:

These are some of the favorite people, places and llamas we visited in the Sacred Valley:

The profile of an old man's face in the mountain below was believed to be their creator, looking down on them and their city. On his 'back' are their storehouses where they kept dried vegetables and meats. This city was built in the shape of corn in a husk.

The same mountain below:

The Incas lived high in the mountains on these terraces until 1532 when the Spanish invaded and forced them down:

The stone used to make the wall below was dragged 7 km (more than 4 miles) from the mountain you see in the distance. They tied it with ropes, and hundreds of people would pull together to get it up the ramps to this designated location.

Some other ruins along the way:

In this market, we snacked on hot choclo (not hot chocolate--Peruvian corn with kernels almost the size of dimes) and a chunk of queso fresco tucked in the husk.... all for one 'sol'--about 35 cents.

We found out how the cactus pears grow that we ate in Chile (see pic under Valparaiso). In Spanish, the fruit is called 'tuna':

Back in Cusco, Amy matched the decor at the famous Inka Grill restaurant:

The food was amazing. I really, truly can't stop thinking about these homemade yellow-potato gnocchis:

We also tried some grilled alpaca:

More pics:


honus and Cameron said...


veronicajanes said...

The photos of the cholitas with their llamas reminds me of the movie "Los Tres Caballeros" (a Disney cartoon movie).

The corn reminds me of my grandma... we used to play Canasta and Lobo (Loba?) and gamble for big ol' corn kernels (:

Simply beautiful, my friend.

Ashby Family said...

Amazing. Amazing. I love these pictures. I bet you never want to come back...I wouldn't!:)
Love ya! And be safe!:)