Cusco, the heart of the Inca Empire!

(You may click on any photograph to pull up a much larger version of the image.)

Cusco is as much a reason to come to Peru as any I can imagine!  Amazing, serene and beautiful!  We arrived in Cusco from Lima on a flight over the Andes on TACA Airlines.  You won’t find TACA on Orbitz, they are a nationally subsidized airline that offers air travel for half the price of LAN Airlines in Peru!  The descent into Cusco was stunning, the clouds and bright sun casting alternating shadows and bright deep green vistas below us…the red and brown clay tile roofs of the city spreading out from the valley center up the steep hillsides  framing this cradle of ancient civilization.

Dropping into Cusco

Arriving at the Monasterio Hotel proved that Davison had made another fine selection for our accommodations!  This hotel is an Orient Express hotel, like the Miraflores Park Hotel in Lima.  Its right in the center of Cusco, in the “old quarter” and was built as a monastery by the Spaniards on the foundations of an old Incan palace in the 16th Century!  Soft Gregorian Chants and Midaevel music waft through the halls and stone arched rooms on the sound system. The walls are about three feet thick, and the narrow streets outside cobblestone!  Everywhere we walk, and walking is the only way to see Cusco, we see Incan stone walls along the streets. One street near the hotel is called “Siete Culebras” (Seven Snakes) for the seven images of snakes carved on the ancient Incan blocks!  The image of the snake is common on their pottery and stonework, as they attribute great knowledge and wisdom to that creature.

Two of the seven culebras on a street called "Siete Culebras"

Hotel Monasterio at Plazoleto de Nazarenas

Davison checking out the hotel....

Courtyard at the Hotel Monasterio

At the main square, the Plaza de Armas, we visited both the Cusco Basilica Cathedral and the Templo de la Compania de Jesus, both products of Spanish supervision and Inca labor, with stunning altars covered in gold and silver.  As with all major structures in Cusco, the present buildings were constructed on the foundations of much more ancient Incan palaces.

Multhauf at the Plaza de Armas (Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus in the background)

INHL Directors Davison and Multhauf in front of the Iglesia de La Compania De Jesus ...the "company" of Spanish Conquistadors who conquered Cusco in the early 16th Century

Ornate altar, carved from cedar and overlaid with gold and silver, inside the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus

...a quiet moment of contemplation and prayer for the journey ahead!

The Cathedral Basilica of Cusco

After all that, remember we’re at 10,800 feet elevation, a rest and a bit of lunch in a good restaurant overlooking the Plaza de Armas was in order!

Davison pondering the wonder and texture of the llama brochettes

Now, for a walk through the beautiful narrow streets of Cusco, to absorb the complexity and history of this place…which has been an important seat of government and trade since at least the 12th Century. We set off, pacing ourselves in the rarified atmosphere, to explore and discover!

Inca stones...a continuing theme for the expedition

Etzold and Multhauf with native children and their llamas

Multhauf and Davison at Inca wall above Cusco

The sound of drums and music wafting down the cobbled, narrow streets leads to…the discovery of a church congregation festival high above Cusco!

Passing thunderstorms won't dampen the festival...

…and we discover the purpose of the niches found in many of the ancient Inca walls!

Etzold in Inca rain shelter!

...a bit of "local flavor", note the name of the Bar!

Multhauf examining fine stonework, around the corner from our hotel

Davison and Etzold with the famous 12-sided stone on Hatunrumiyoc Street

…and so, the adventure continues.  Another day tomorrow, exploring Saqsaywaman…an Inca fortress overlooking  Cusco…and more incredible sights at high altitude.  It will, also, be a good pre-trek hike to check out our condition before we head into the Sacred Valley.

~ by Dave Etzold on January 19, 2010.

One Response to “Cusco, the heart of the Inca Empire!”

  1. You guys look great! How’s the blood circulating at 10,000 ft? Looks like an incredible place, I’ll put it on my list.

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