Angela's Andean Adventures.
Peru and Bolivia 2001 - Part 12.
Cusco and Saysaywaman Again.
The journey was a long one getting there though, especially the long bus journey to Arequipa. I had a window seat at the front so was able to enjoy the warm sunshine, but five and a half hours on a bus was tedious beyond words. It seemed to take forever just to get to Moquegua and once there one knew it was another four hours to go. We both slept for a while to pass the time and I was glad to have my music player with me as a combination of music and dozing in the warm sunshine relieved some of the tedium of the bus journey. Only the few stops on route, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, gave the odd diversion, each time hordes of sellers boarding the bus selling all kinds of things.
It was just getting dark when we arrived at Arequipa so I couldn't see much of the city as we drove to the bus terminal. Once there we were pleased to see that Hugo Jesus had come to meet us and help us with our luggage and in no time we were in a taxi and on our way to the house where he lives in termtime. The house belongs to a long-standing friend of Elva and has an annex, which is where Hugo Jesus lives. We were given a lovely welcome at the house and sat down to tea just after arriving. In Peru they have afternoon tea in between lunch and evening meal, and everyone, one by one, has expressed surprise that we don't serve afternoon tea these days in England as they all think it is an English custom! We enjoyed a selection of different bread rolls, cheeses, ham and of course tea. Afterwards in the lounge we put music on - my two Proyeccion CDs, which everyone is mad on wherever I go - and even danced a little bit. Elva's friend served us up a large rum and coke each and her son Jorge played a couple of tunes first on his kena and then on his zamponas. A short while later Elva's friends daughters fiance arrived - who works all over the world and speaks perfect English. He too was thrilled to listen to the Proyeccion CDs and produced enough blank tapes to record them twice, once for himself and once for Elva. We had something to eat about 8.30 and when Elva and I retired for the night a bit later we took the second CD to record in our room, each one being over an hour in length. Elva and I slept in Hugo Jesus room and he slept in the house. We ended up falling asleep to Proyeccion music and when we woke up at 4 am, and realised we had another hour before it was time to get up Elva wanted to hear the CD again and it was great to just relax and listen until it came to an end.
Then we got up and had time for a nice leisurely breakfast with the family before leaving - more lovely bread rolls - I love the bread in Peru, there are so many different varieties of it - freshly blended papaya juice, cheese, tea etc, and we set off in a taxi at 6.15 which got us to the airport within half an hour. My plane was due to leave at 8 am but because of its late arrival from Cusco, we could not board the plane until 8.40 and it didn't leave until 9 am. I was really lucky that both Elva and Hugo Jesus waited all that time with me at the airport. We explored all the shops in the airport and I bought about 12 postcards - mostly of Arequipa, including the Colca Canyons, and then in the jewellry shop, which sold only silver items, I went a bit mad and bought a necklace adorned with small tumis. It was so essentially Peruvian and I could pay for it by visa and just couldn't resist it.
Once on board the plane, the journey was short. Another smooth take off - its an interesting view there as the runway is parallel with the snow peaked volcanos - El Misti being the largest. Then half an hour of flying across the Andes - I loved that, seeing them from the air, and it seemed in no time at all we were descending for another excellent landing at Cusco. For once it was a swift walk and no passport control so straight to collect baggage and whilst waiting for that enjoying the lovely musical welcome which a 7-piece Andean band always give to new plane arrivals.
Then outside only to find no Alfredo! I didn't hang about long, thinking he had probably given up and gone home with my hour late arrival so accepted one of the taxi offers. This being my third arrival in Cusco I knew exactly where to go. Even though I knew the fare was only 2 soles I agreed to pay the 5 soles he asked for and then the cheeky so and so only gave me 3.5 soles change from a 10-sol note. I couldnt help but laugh, they are so cheeky where foreigners are concerned!
On arrival in Marca Valle I rang the bell and was relieved when Alfredo answered the door! He hadn't been to the Internet cafe for a couple of days so had not got my message stating arrival times. He helped me carry all my things upstairs (you could hardly move in the room for suitcases, posters, other bags, etc etc! It was going to be a jigsaw puzzle fitting what I could into the two large cases by 29 July, with the rest left till my next Peru visit). We enjoyed a large mate de coca (tea made with coca leaves), this being the best thing to help cope with the altitude as I supposed I would have to get used to it all over again. After half an hours rest, we set off for Cusco centre and I treated Alfredo to a nice lunch.
We then went to buy my Boleto Turistico (a 10 dollar pass which covers entrance to a number of museums, (Arte Religioso, San Blas, Museo Palacio Municipal, Museo de Sitio Qorijkancha, Museo Historico Regional, Chinchero and the Cathedral. Also Sacsaywaman fortress and national park, ruins at Qenko, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Ollantaytambo, Pikillaqta, Tipon, and Parque Archeologico de Pisac). Definitely well worth paying 10 dollars for as the individual entrance fees to all those places added up to more than 25 dollars. It was valid until 27 July so I would have ten days to try and see all the places shown on it.
We planned to go to Sacsaywaman the next day and I could hardly wait to get there again, this time spending as much time as possible in the fortress itself. All the time Id been in Peru I had been reading an excellent book given to me last Christmas all about Cusco and the Inca Trail and this would accompany me as well as there were lots of interesting aspects of Sacsaywaman that I might have missed had I not read that book first. Apparently there are even catacombs leading from beneath the fortress down as far as San Cristobel church - these used to be open to the public until some people got lost in there and after that they were closed.
We traveled by bus - two buses, the second one taking us even higher than Sacsaywaman to visit Qenko first. And thank goodness we did go there first, because although Alfredo had the right to visit all the touristic places without having to pay because he is a resident of Cusco, the guide at Qenko would not allow us to go in together. All the arguing in the world made no difference and in the end the guide called the police. Alfredo told me to go in alone and he would wait for me. However, although it was possible to go inside the rocks of these ruins there was no way I was going to walk through the narrow inlet to get inside on my own, especially having read in the guide book that people sometimes get raped or attacked. So I just did a quick 10 to 15 minute look around the outside and then rejoined Alfredo, who was still busy telling the guide and police how ridiculous it was that a guest in his home could not be accompanied to the various sites by a Cusqueñan.
Although I had protested earlier that I would rather go straight to Sacsaywaman and spend all our available time there (because Alfredo had to be back at the house by 1.30 to be there for Danielo's return from school), I was glad afterwards that we had gone to Qenko first. At least this prewarned us not to attempt to go into Sacsaywaman together. We walked back down the hill and into the Sacsaywaman national park. I walked on ahead of Alfredo, walking quickly, to get to the kiosk to show my ticket and get into the fortress area in advance of Alfredo. I must have walked too fast because it turned out later that Alfredo could not find me. He was looking for me on the wrong side. Whereas I headed straight for the fortress, the side from which the Inkas appeared at Inti Raymi as I was dying to explore every part of it, Alfredo mistakenly thought I would visit the other (nearest) side first. I went through one of the portals and up steep stone steps and I gradually climbed higher and the view was great and eventually I stopped for a rest. In the distance I could hear someone playing panpipes and then a couple of young lads appeared over a hill, one playing the kena and one the zamponas and they came straight over and played a few tunes for me. It was quite funny as one of them was still obviously learning to play these instruments and he was horrendously out of tune. They took it in turns with their instruments and played quite a few tunes and being there in the sunshine with them was lovely. And for once these lads didn't ask for any money (most do!) but when they produced some postcards for sale I bought enough of them to have made it worth their while spending 20 minutes with me.
The Incan Seismic Circle
I then climbed higher, always being careful to remain in view of those in the plaza area below - it possibly being risky to get waylaid there as well (according to my guide book on Cusco and the Inca Trail). I was really impressed when I got to the huge circle - this being built by the Incas to predict seismic activity. This area was roped off and a lot of archaeological excavation and remedial works going on. I walked all round the outside of the excavation area, the path right on the edge of a steep drop in places, and the view was unbelievable over Cusco below - I took several photographs.
When I came to the lower area I could hear someone calling me and it was Alfredo making his way across the plaza area - he had been looking for me on the other side (where we sat to watch Inti Raymi back in June). Once he caught up with me we climbed again to the stone circle and took photos there. We asked permission and were allowed to go inside the roped area a bit closer to the circle just long enough to take a few more pictures and we persuaded one worker to take a picture of the two of us as well. I really enjoyed being in such a lovely place. It was an incredibly hot day and not that many people wandering around, one could just wander at will and absorb the feeling of absolute peace being in such a magical place exudes. The Incan architecture was unbelievable. In places some areas of the walls had been filled in and there was no way nowadays that the incredible Incan skills with stone could possibly be reproduced.
Originally above this fortress of three levels were massive structures, each of the three having a different function. And from there the whole of Cusco was watched at all times against invasion. Unfortunately the castle was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores - a real tragedy. Eventually we had explored every bit of the fortress area, crossed the plaza to the other side and began the stiff climb up the rocks to find the spot where we watched Inti Raymi on 24 June. We found it too and took a couple of photos there as well. By this time we had been at Sacsaywaman for almost three hours so decided to make our way back down the hill as we would have time for a quick bite to eat, or a beer, at one of the restaurants that we passed on the way up.
Me on a Horse
Before we exited the national park we decided to take a shortcut to the entrance by cutting through the farm where horses were for hire. Somehow I allowed myself to be convinced to get on a horse, which was led by a young lad for about quarter of a mile. I really enjoyed the ride and didn't feel afraid. Alfredo walked alongside and took a few photos. The boy asked if I wanted the horse to run for a bit but I politely declined, not feeling 100% confident of my ability to stay in the saddle at anything faster than a walking
pace! I got off the horse at a lovely lagoon with a trout restaurant - a beautiful peaceful spot but quite expensive looking so we decided to stick to the original plan and visit one of the restaurants on the way back down the hill. Alfredo said it was too far to walk in the time and as we reached the entrance to the park we could see a bus coming and just made it there in time to get on.
Me with Alfredo
Descending the hill, we actually passed the restaurant that had caught my eye on the way up and luckily the bus didn't mind stopping and we went in. The menu board outside looked really interesting with my favourite soups, cazuelas, lechon, and lots of other great things. The restaurant was called Casuron de Los Incas and had a terrace restaurant as well as the indoor one, a fantastically beautiful setting, part of it under glass and part in the open air. I made a beeline for a table in the outdoor patio area with a fantastic view across Cusco and in full sunshine. Alfredo was only staying long enough for a big bowl of soup and told me I could easily make my own way back down to Cusco on one of the many buses that ran every 10 minutes or so.