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PERU | Wednesday, 31 May 2017 | Views [401]

Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire, and there is still plenty of evidence such as walls, streets, buildings and drainage channels throughout the city.  It was conquered and plundered by the Spanish in the 1500s.

My guide during my stay in Cusco was Freddie, a delightful young man, and we got on like a house on fire.  He lives in Cusco, so knows all the sights and history of the area.

He took me to the church built by the Spaniards on the site of the Inca Sun Temple, where there are still some walls standing which show the amazing craftsmanship of the builders.  One large block of stone has 14 corners which fit perfectly into the surrounding stones, without the use of mortar.  Incredible work.

Originally, the whole of the Sun Temple was covered in 22-24 carat gold, but the Spaniards took it all away and used some in the churches they built in the city, and the rest went back to Spain. We went into the cathedral and saw where it had been used in altars, fittings, and altar pieces.  What an overwhelming sight - all that pure gold glistening under the lights.  No photographs are allowed in the cathedral, so you'll have to go and see for yourself.

We also sat in the plaza for a while, watching the school children perform their dancing - a mixture of Peruvian and Incan - in preparation for the festivities around the winter solstice.  That's a very big deal in Peru, and we got caught up a couple of times when villages were having very colourful and noisy parades through the streets.

Freddie took me through the markets to see an amazing array of food, hand made goods, and all sorts of other things.  We stopped for a juice and I tasted lucuma, a Peruvian fruit much like a mango.  Delicious!  We also bought a snack (forgotten the name) which was made up of roasted Peruvian corn, bite sized bits of roasted pork, and crackling.  It was handed to us in a small piece of paper, and we nibbled on it as we walked.

Later in the day, we went into the mountains to see more Inca ruins.  It rained for about 10 minutes while we were up there, and I was able to get a photo of a rainbow going from the top of the mountains straight down into the centre of Cusco.  Freddie had never seen that before, and got really excited, sending photos to his friends.

The next morning we set off for Ollantaytambo, through the Sacred Valley (named by the Spaniards, not the Incas).  This is a large, fertile, flat valley with a river running through it, about 100kms long, where all kinds of produce are grown except citrus fruits.  Freddie says they are grown up north.  Peru has dozens of different types of potatoes and of corn, and they are all grown here, as well as lots of other things.

It's a stunning sight to come over the mountain and have a first view of the valley down below.

Along the road is a "blink and you miss it" town called Lamay, which is famous for its roasted guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru. Well, I couldn't go past that, could I?  We stopped at a roadside stall with an open fire and a girl about 12 years old doing her weekend job of turning a guinea pig, complete with head and tiny gnawing teeth, on a long stick over the open fire.  We ordered and were served the guinea pig along with potatoes.  I must admit, I couldn't come at the head, so Freddie jumped at the opportunity, broke it in pieces, and scooped out the brains with a finger and, yummm.  I don't think I'm ready for that yet!!  It's a bit like quail in that there are a lot of little bones and not much meat, which means a lot of work for little reward, but it is very tasty, especially the crispy skin.

At the end of the 100kms, the valley tapers and becomes very narrow and this is where Ollantaytambo is located.  The road stops there, and further travel is by train.  It is another Inca site, with terraces and buildings in the side of the mountain, and the ruins of a town on the flats.

Freddie said climbing the terraces was practice for Macchu Picchu tomorrow, but it was nowhere as big as Macchu Picchu.

After looking around and investigating the site, I said goodbye to Freddie and boarded the train for the ride to Macchu Picchu town.


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