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Day 10 – Cuzco

(Saturday August 31st)

Temple of the Sun

An 8:30 pick-up took us back to the Temple of the Sun. This is an Inca site, which has been built over the top of by a Roman Catholic monastery. It’s quite a mixture! One thing that struck me was just how smooth and precisely fitted the stones were. Apparently these inca walls survive earthquakes much better than their European-influenced equivalents.

To prove this, in one earthquake one part of the Inca walls fell down. They were restored by taking careful note of the shapes of the stones then putting them together like a huge jigsaw. It was discovered that there was an alcove in the curved end of the wall that had been ‘built out’ by the Spanish, by moving the stones about. It was the alcove that would have held the gold statue of the Sun God.

The Cathedral

The cathedral is on one side of Plaza de Armas, and is actually two churches and a cathedral in the middle.

And in typical Peruvian style, it is totally OTT on gold leaf, glass, mirrors, paint and statues. What I found even more surreal is that it doesn’t have statues in the form that I think of them – every niche and alcove held a lavishly dressed doll. These were even on the back wall behind the altar. They are produced by carving a mannequin, giving it plaster head and hands then dressing it in clothes. A type of resin is then poured over the cloth and left to dry. What is left is slightly spooky – it reminded me of the film Halloween.

As you can gather, although impressive, this was not my cup of tea.

Saqsayhuaman

This is a drive out of town and up into the hills. The elevation is about 3,800 meters, so we were getting into training for Lake Titicaca. This is another Inca site, with large walls made in places with huge stones. It’s a pleasant location, and best for me were the alpacas that were wandering around. There was one beautiful black Suri that I could quite happily have packed in my suitcase!

Kenko

This is a small site, which has a badly damaged temple on it. What makes it so important is that it is thought that it used to have the three animals associated with life – the mountain lion on level 3, one I can’t remember on level 2, and a deep ditch that is believed was a snake underground. There is an entrance through a couple of rocks that takes you into the heart of the temple.

Not a huge attraction – I’m not sure I’d recommend it except to enthusiasts.

Lunch at Pacha Papa

This restaurant is just off Plazoleta Plaza San Blas, and is worth every sol. If there’s one thing Juan knows, it’s his food! This restaurant is in a rustic courtyard with large sun umbrellas, wood burning stoves in the middle, and a harpist playing at the weekends.

guinea pig

They serve everything from alpaca to guinea pigs to half shoulders of lamb to pizza. There will be something on the menu to tempt you. I plucked up courage and tried alpaca. It was lovely! But I felt so guilty I won’t be doing it again…..

Squares

After lunch, we had three hours to spare. Our hotel was a bit of a walk away, and we needed to be back in the centre for 5:30. So we decided to take it easy and explore the squares.

Cuzco has a number of pretty green squares, each one of which seems to have its own character. We were in Cuzco on a Saturday, so the locals were out to play too.

We found that a really relaxing thing to do was to start at one square, then work our way through each, sitting for a while to observe the locals. Plaza San Francisco

This feels very much like a local’s square – and on a Saturday there were market stalls, music and ice cream vendors. We found a park bench in the shade, and sat and watched.

Plaza San Francisco

I also used it as an opportunity to buy some of the souvenirs we wanted to take back – wool hats for my son and girlfriend, and tiny knitted alpacas for my team at work.

Now beware – nothing is priced and they will attempt to get as much out of you as possible. So bargain. Many things seemed to start at 10 sols (5 NZD) – including the tiny alpacas. I eventually got the 2 hats for 8 sols each (which I was happy with) and bargained the alpacas down to 3 for 10 sol.

There was, of course, the Inglesia San Francisco on the square, but we were all churched out.

When we got bored, we moved on to the next square.

Plaza Regocijo

Plaza Regocijo

This is a smaller square, with a fountain in the middle. On one side is the Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo – but we weren’t tempted. As the sun was getting lower, we found a bench in the sun and fended off the multiple street vendors that tried to sell us their wares…. When the sun went behind the roof we moved on to the

Plaza de Armas

Yes, another one! I think there is a square of this name in every town we’ve been in. This is the biggest square in the city, and seems to be where everyone congregates for a good old chinwag at sunset. I spent a delightful 15 minutes watching three cocker spaniels having a wonderful time! One was obviously a young dog and full of the joys of spring, one was older but still bouncing with health, and the last was an obviously older dog in her own coat, who rolled and rolled and rolled in the sun, occasionally putting up with the pounces of the younger dog. They were all obviously well loved, and a delight to see. La Catedral is on one side of this square – see the morning’s activities.

Plaza de Armas

Plazaleta Nazarenas

Plazaleta Nazarenas

This was our final destination, as we were going to tea at the Monastery Hotel at 5:30.

To get to this tiny square you walk up the steps that run to the left hand side of the monastery, then take a very slight right to continue on up. It’s a very pretty little square, but you do get accosted by street vendors still. There’s a ‘Sol’ shop here which sells fine quality alpaca clothing. It’s not cheap! But we can always dream…. Monastery Hotel

As you can guess, this is an old monastery that’s been changed into a five star hotel. It has its own chapel attached, and cloisters. When we were there, it was being used for a wedding. The Roman Catholic ceremony can be held in the chapel, and then the reception (or just champagne and canapés) can be held in the courtyard of the cloisters. What a lovely location!

I’m afraid I’m not a fond advocate of Peruvian church decoration – it’s a bit OTT for me. There were more dolls dressed in clothes, and lots of gold leaf. But it is very impressive.

Even more impressive was tea. We were sat around a table set with gorgeous linen and silverware in front of a large open fire. First came a glass of a juice of your choice, then tea, coffee or chocolate. Plates of sandwiches, little pasties (meat and vegetarian), cakes and scones were put on a side table. You could each as much as you wanted, and they’d keep on replenishing it. So it was a bit of a shame that we were still stuffed from lunch!

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