Saturday, September 17, 2016

Peru, Day 2: Explore Cusco

Today was the beginning of Peru impressing the shit out of me.

First up was a trek up the hill to Sacsayhuaman, an Incan religious site and fortress. Together with Cusco and some of the city's other structures, Sacsayhuaman was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. Apparently it is the second most important Incan ruin, after Machu Picchu itself. (And if you say the name really fast, it sounds like "sexy woman." Sigh.)

We walked up the hill around 7 a.m. to get there when it opened, because we had a really full day planned. We got our pass and walked up the hill, which was good practice for our planned Andean trek.

I really didn't know what to expect - just kind of a pile of stones with some nice views of the city of Cusco, I think. What I saw waiting for me at the top of the hill made my jaw drop.

The stone fortress was originally a religious area used to worship the lightning god, or so the signs told me. Later it was used as a fortress of last stand against the Spanish. The zig-zag ramparts were perfect for defense, but eventually the fortress fell. Many of the stones were taken away and used to build things like the Cusco Catedral (see yesterday's post) and only about a fifth of the original stones remain. Still, they are large and in charge.

Overlook of Sacsayhuaman wall remnants with little stone stack
This is also the site where I was introduced to my favorite thing about Incan ruins - their doors. I don't know what it is, but I utterly fell in love with these doors while I was on this trip. Later, I'll have to do a post just with the doors.

None of my photos, posted here or to my Facebook page, really do the fortress justice, so you should do a Google image search, or just check this photo out! Really cool place.

After the visit to Sacsayhuaman, we had to head back down the hill to our trek headquarters, Andean Treks, where we were going to receive a briefing from our tour guide, as well as the duffel bags to fill that night before the trek began.

We met our lovely guide, Disnarda, and our fellow trekker, Lindsay. A lot of what Disnarda told us made me feel better, like prepping us mentally for our most difficult hiking days. I think this trek was the biggest "unknown" thing we had ever booked on a vacation, and I mostly booked it assuming that we were physically up to the challenge from all my running and triathlon stuff this year. I was hoping I was not wrong.

For lunch, we hit a cute spot, Quinta Eulalia, which was recommended by our tour company. Apparently Cusco is full of these little open air lunch spots, which all serve Cusqueña beer and have chalkboard menus. I got a trout, which is a commonly served fish in the Andes, and Dave got the infamous delicacy cuy - roast guinea pig. (Click this image at your own peril.) To Dave's credit, he dug in. Not bad - tasted like dark meat chicken.

In the afternoon, we hit a few more touristy spots, mainly Qorikancha and its associated museum. 

This site was the main Incan temple in Cusco, before being stripped of gold by the Spanish, who then built a church and monastery on top of it. The juxtaposition here is so obvious and interesting that people flock to it, although honestly Dave and I were both a little underwhelmed by the museum and site. (Maybe my book, Fodor's, had overhyped it a bit.)

Dinner was a tasty pizza at Chez Maggy, a tiny little shop. Peruvians really love their fusion food, and they really love their pizza. 

At night, we packed our stuff into our duffel bags if we were taking it on our five-day hike to Machu Picchu, or left it in the suitcase if not. I also started the knitting project that I planned to bring with on the hike, which you have seen if you follow my Instagram.

On to the Andes!

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