Monday, December 24, 2012

The sights around Cusco

Not even grass growing between the stones, after all the centuries

The first Inca site we visit is Sacsayhuaman (pronounced « sexy woman », a very large complex of terraces and angles made of stonework so perfectly fitted that little has changed in the centuries since its construction. The work is incredible. You won't find anything like it today. Niether time nor wind and rain have reduced the walls to rubble, though earthquakes have taken a toll and the thatched roofs are gone.


The closest we came to a group photo

Looking down from Sacsayhuaman at the main square of Cusco

The other sites, Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, and Qenqo, are all different and all fascinating. Puca Pucara is a bare lookout hill with a perfect view in all directions, at the point where the roads from the four quarters of the ancient empire came together. Paths, really, not roads, since without heavy pack animals or wheels, they travelled on foot, often single file, along these long distance paths.

The captured spring at Tambomachay

Tambomachay is just across the modern road and a short ways up a canyon: a spring where the paths to the south and west come together. The astonishing Inca stonework makes the spring area look as if it was built just recently. Most of the walls just held up the earth for the nice level terraces - they were never any higher than that.

Unpronouncable (even to our guide!) Qenqo is a maze through a jagged mass of rocks jutting up like fangs from the ground, used for mysterious ceremonies. On the solstice, the shadow of one rock on another makes a sacred puma silhouette. You'd never know just by looking at it today; it's just one rock in front of another.

We have a wonderful visit, and an excellent guide. At times it's a bit ridiculous, though – the people in 'traditional' dress gathered at tourist spots when nobody seems to dress that way anywhere else. The alpacas and llamas paraded around the same photo-op spots when there are only cattle and sheep to be seen on the neighboring farms. 

At the hotel in the evening the group is divided between those who prefer to turn right around and go out for dinner, and those who prefer to wait just a little because 7 just isn't « dinnertime ». So the Scandanavians go in one group, and the rest of us (all 3 of whom live in France, although only one is French) take a longer break first. It's unlikely we'd find a table for 13 anyway.
Before Xana ('shana', short for Alexandra), JB and I go out, it starts to rain, and rain pretty good. I've finished my shower and am having a quick nap (jetlag!) when I hear dripping and other noise in my bathroom. The ceiling leaks in there, and the plaster just above the sink is coming down in sodden chunks. I ask if I can change rooms, and tonight the hotel is full, but tomorrow they'll move me. I'm not the only one to move – Inge comes back from dinner to find a leak over her bed has made things rather uncomfortable as well. In fact, the whole idea of water-tight building appears not terribly important here, with leaks all around.

No comments: