Saturday, 15 June
Our flight from Lima arrived into Cusco about 2:30 PM and we took a cab to the hotel.
The hotel, Hotel San Pedro Plaza, is new, opening about 3 months, and is located on the upper floors of a building with shops and restaurants on the lower floors. The sign announcing the hotel is very, very small and often overlooked by taxi drivers and tour operators and pretty much everyone else. Fortunately our driver was aware of it’s location. Our rooms were on the top floor and featured no windows, as it was built into the attic, slopping ceiling and all. The room were comfortable and clean and the location was great.
However June is the month that Cusco celebrates all things Cusco. We were lucky to get to enjoy this, but the music and bands played throughout the night. With our hotel being a block from one of the main squares, our windowless room heard it all.
Pat and I walked around the area, including the Plaza De Armas (or Plaza Mayor del Cusco) where preparations for the evenings concert were progressing.
This was the beginning of the all night music and celebration we experienced every night.
Sunday, 16 June
Later this morning, David and Justin will be joining us. Before their arrival, we went off to explore a bit more. One objective was to find the offices of the agency handling our 2-day tour to Machu Picchu – Inkayni Peru Tours (we had booked the tour through Expedia). After locating their office, we wandered, eventually back to the Plaza De Armas.
When we arrived at the Plaza, the day’s festivities had just begun with an opening ceremony to raise the flags. After that we were treated to a parade of various groups and bands.
It was then time to meet David and Justin outside our hotel. Unfortunately, because of the chaos created by the parades, their driver dropped them off blocks from the hotel. They eventually made it to the hotel and checked in. After an over-night flight, they were both tired and hungry, so we went in search of a restaurant serving chicken. The place we finally decided on was not on any maps and not a single person in the restaurant spoke any English and, of course, our Spanish was non-existent. We eventually had 4 identical meals – not sure whether it was pork or chicken and the potatoes were strange (we often heard that Peru had over 3000 varieties of potatoes – see one of many articles). All the food we ate was very tasty. The next day, when we pointed out this restaurant to our walking tour guide, he was incredulous that we had gone there, although he never explained why!
After lunch we headed back to the square to see some of the parades and colorful native clothes.
There was a rest period, back at the hotel, before we went to dinner.
Monday, 17 June
At 9:00 AM, our Cusco walking tour guide, Wilfredo Cardenas Torres, a.k.a. “Willow”, met us at the hotel. Our first stop was to be the Mercado Central de San Pedro, the “place in the center of Cusco where most of the locals go for their groceries”. Local markets are one of our favorite places in the countries we visit. This market did not disappoint.
The next major stop on the tour was the “Temple of the Sun”, Qorikancha, much of which was destroyed by the Spanish, who built their Church of Santo Domingo over Qorikancha.
After dinner, David, Justin and I went for a late evening walk, including several shop areas, where Justin bought a pair of hand-made shoes.
Tuesday, 18 June
Today we are visiting 3 archeological sites as a day trip outside of Cusco. The tour, Tipón, Pikillacta & Andahuaylillas Archaeological Tour, was booked through Expedia. As with most of the tours we do, this one is a private tour with just our group.
We were picked up at our hotel. Our first destination was Andahuaylillas where we were to see San Pedro Apóstol, a 16th-century church built by the Jesuits over a pre-Columbian ceremonial site. The church is known for the painting inside and the ornate fixtures. The interior has been undergoing restoration for many years. Unfortunately, the interior does not allow photographs, see the above link.
Leaving the church, we back-tracked toward Cusco to visit the ruins of the pre-Incan site known as Pikillacta. The people that built this complex were known as the Wari. This is a very large site that is still being uncovered – an active archeological site. Of all the sites we visited on our trip to Peru, this one was the least interesting to me.
The final site we visited was Tipon, located above a town by the same name. This site is a series of terraces, irrigated with well designed channels carrying water from a spring at the top of the terraces. It is thought the Incan used this site, not only for agriculture, but for religious and ceremonial purposes. Tipon covers about 590 acres. Although this is not one of the highly visited Incan sites, we enjoyed it a lot, not only because it wasn’t crowded, but because it is so beautiful.
Before we visited these last ruins, we had stopped in town to order lunch. We all wanted to try guinea pig, a national dish in Peru. Tipon is famous for guinea pig – Cuy. As our guide explained, when there is a big wedding in Peru, many guinea pigs are prepared for the wedding feast. We invited our guide and driver to join us. The guide had ordered 3 cuy for our lunch, so we each got a half. The meal included potatoes (of which Peruvians claim to have over 3000 varieties). The skin was crispy. The meat tender and unremarkable, but good. A guinea pig has very little meat on it.
For the next 2 days, we will be heading to Machu Picchu, with some archeological stops along the way. Watch for the next post from this blog…