Cusco - The center of the Inca Empire


The first thing we noticed is that Cusco, which sits about 3.400 meters high, is situated in a valley with houses stretched high up the hills around it.  A long time ago this was a bottom of a lake.  But due to the effects of the Plate tectonics the South American plate and the Nazca plate have moved together and therefore lifted up the land.  Along with volcanic activity this has resulted in the rise of previous lakes becoming high mountain ranges.

Our hotel was in a short walking distance from the Main Square, Plaza de Armas, and small narrow streets of the downtown.  The hotel looked very nice and clean but it turned out that the Peruvians have a different idea about the necessity to sleep.  We were situated beside a very busy road and even though we were on the 10th floor we could very well hear the traffic as all the windows have only single glass.  At first impression it looked like Kristjan and Ditta were very lucky with a room to the back but it turned out they had to change to the road side as there was a loud disco playing every night in the back.  Something that the hotel staff was totally “surprised” was really happening.

On our first day we jumped on a “hop on hop off” bus that helped us very much to orient ourselves and get a feeling of the city.  Originally the city was built in the shape of a puma, with all the streets inside the puma body and the head was a very special place that we would later visit, called Saksaywaman or “sexy woman” as the local guides would teach us.  Later we would learn about the importance of the puma in the Inca mythology.

We left Cusco for two whole days to see the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu.  We will write about those days in separate blogs.

Tuesday night we were back and Wednesday was a relaxing day (with some internet time) and in the afternoon we had signed up for a Chocolate workshop.  This was a recommendation from the Chile group we had met at our hotel in Lima.  It took place at a Chocolate museum and our workshop was called “from beans to bars”.  We learned all about where the different cocoa beans are coming from, how they are harvested and treated and then we roasted them ourselves, learned about the whole process by participating in it.  At the end we walked away with our own-created and very different flavored chocolate.

One time when we went down town Cusco, we witnessed a demonstration that made some of us feel very unease.  People (mainly men) where gathering in the main square and screaming into loud speakers.  Our understanding is that they wanted to get rid of the current government and this was most likely part of a nation vide demonstration and strikes that have been taking place all over the country.  To our surprise they even carried both dolls and rats with peoples photos on them and then lit them on fire.

This ended though as a peaceful demonstration but we felt for a while like anything could happen and we could also see by the numerous law enforcement officers that they were prepared for everything.

We did complete the Sacred Valley journey by taking a local tour near Cusco, starting by going through the Cathedral and then to the Temple of the Sun or Konikancha.  Then just outside the city we visited several Inca sites, including the impressive Fortress of Saksaywaman, famous for its enormous carved stones standing over 9 meters high and weighing over 350 tons.  Truly an amazing story of the Incas and their culture.