Boots, Birds, and Binocs... Peru 2011
 
June 3rd

            We woke up this morning at 5:00 to catch our hour long flight to Cuzco from Lima.  Cuzco is a beautiful city and the Incan presence is unmistakable. Many of the people still speak Qechua and Incan stones still line walls all around the city.  When we arrived, we walked around the city, which is littered with plazas and squares with magnificent Spanish cathedrals.  Just walking around the city, I am feeling the effects of the drastic change in altitude.  At around 13,000 feet above sea level, I feel out of breath with minimal exertion.  I stopped with a few other people to get some lunch.  We strolled into a small, run-down restaurant with no one else inside.  At first, it seemed like that was a bad sign but after receiving our delicious meal for 5 soles, free soda, and free tea, I quickly changed my mind.  We then headed for a brief stroll around a market and looked at the various clothing and food that people had to offer.  After that, we started hiking up one of the big hills that has a summit that is littered with Incan ruins (It was quite the hike because first, it is steep, and second, the altitude literally takes your breath away).  We rented some horses to ride through some absolutely beautiful countryside with streams and amazing views of the city of Cuzco and the surrounding mountains.  The first ruin that I rode my horse, Perceo, to what was an Incan worship site and temple to the water Gods.  They still have running water taps that continuously pour out water and experts still do not know exactly from where the water flows. 

            About ¼ of a mile away from that was another fort that was apparently used for storage and then as a military base during battles.  Underneath it, and all throughout the countryside, there was an extremely complex labyrinth of tunnels that were used during war and for communication purposes.  (Fun Fact #1: The Incans never had a written language.  They used different types of ropes and knot patterns on the ropes to convey messages.  It is truly amazing that such an incredibly advanced and successful empire could prosper without a written language.  Fun Fact #2: No one actually speaks pure Qechua anymore.  Although it is mostly pure, some Spanish words and phrases have been integrated.  Also, only one school in all of Cuzco teaches Qechua and the younger generation is typically embarrassed to speak and learn Qechua, which could lead to a decline in its use, which is very sad).

            We then rode our horses to another ruin that was an underground site that was carved beneath a HUGE rock.  It had alters where they sacrificed lambs and mummified bodies and placed corn offerings to the gods.  We then went to the final ruin, which was a gigantic military fortress called Saqsayhuamán (say it a few times over until you get the joke).  The rocks that the Incans used to make this fortress were sometimes 20+ feet tall, 10+ feet wide, and 10+ feet deep.  Experts to this day do not know how the Incans managed to move these monstrous rocks into position.  It truly is incredible.

            Today defined the term “awe-inspiring”.  It was an absolutely amazing experience.  We finished the day watching a documentary on Oil extraction in the Amazon and ate a great meal (I had aji de gallina).  During dinner, the restaurant got in trouble for selling alcohol within three days of the presidential election (that provided just a little extra excitement to our day).  In short, it was an amazing day and we set off for Machu Picchu tomorrow! –Chris Bobbitt




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