Cusco…Saqsaywaman Hike

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

CUSCO, PERU – We are now getting more accustomed to the high altitude in Cusco (10,920 ft at our hotel) and the course of Diamox (taken two days before, and two days after reaching altitude) is now over.  The effects of the Diamox treatment weren’t necessarily pleasant: we each had heavy dehydration, tingling in the fingers, and an unusual reaction to carbonated beverages (especially beer)…a sip would explode into a foam of effervescence when it hits the tongue!  The effect is startling at first, and after time gets very old.  I am pleased to report that with the Diamox exiting our systems the consuption of carbonated beverages is becoming more pleasant, and we are feeling more highly tuned to this altitude.

Since tomorrow we leave on the Inca Trail Trek, today we wanted to test our acclimation and explore some area ruins.  Everything in Cusco from the center of town is “up”, what better way to test our condition than to take a hike up the hill behind our hotel?  So, following an ancient street called Pumacurso, a right turn as we exit the hotel, up to the famous Inca fortress of Saqsaywaman (pronounced “sexywoman”…yes, that’s right!) where the Spaniards and Inca had a series of decisive battles in the mid-1500’s.  When the Spaniards eventually won, they dismantled the fortress and used the upper ramparts and battlements for construction of their cathedrals and palaces around Cusco.  What remains today, though, is a remarkable example of Incan stonework, as you will see:

Davison on the road up to Saqsaywaman

It’s about a half hour walk uphill to an altitude of approximately 11,300 feet,  and it affords the visitor a fine view of Cusco as well as the beautiful remnant of the Incan fortress system that protected this Sacred Valley.  As I said, the path leads us straight uphill from the front door of our hotel, along a street called Pumacurco, and takes us right to the beginning of the trail up to the ancient fortress, next to a running stream.

Davison and Multhauf entering Saqsaywaman


Etzold appreciating the rounded convex outside corners and the corresponding concave interior corner structure of the fortress ramparts


Beautiful doorways and staircase allignment

Davison in a fine doorway

The INHL Team poses at Saqsaywaman high above Cusco

High Quality Panorama of Cuzco (click to enlarge)

The scale of the giant stoneworks is illustrated by Etzold

Native Peruvian family touring the ruins…

Multhauf, Davison and Etzold overlooking Saqsaywaman

Glacier-smoothed rock surfaces, further sculpted by Inca craftsmen!

“King” James on his throne!

Davison at the base of one of the largest blocks in the complex

Multhauf helping capture some of the images for INHL archives

The return down the hill later in the afternoon was marked by the usual mixture of merchants and hawkers, but we found that if you were kind, tried to speak Spanish and smiled…and, well, provided them with a small “propino”, you could coax a wonderful photographic subject into just the right shot.

Davison working on coaxing just the “right shot”….

One of those “just right” shots…a “National Geographic” moment…this by Etzold, Multhauf is in the background.

On the way back to town, Etzold and Multhauf enjoy a favorite local snack: corn on the cob with cheese!

…and later, a good lunch at the Inka Cafe on the Plaza de Armas before heading back to the hotel

…the beautiful fruits of the Earth, Peruvian earth!

One more post, related to the departure tomorrow morning on the Inca Trail Trek with Llama Path, and then I have to take a break from the blog for four or five days…until we return to Cusco on Saturday the 23rd.  I’m fired up…and so is the rest of the INHL Team!

~ by Dave Etzold on January 20, 2010.

One Response to “Cusco…Saqsaywaman Hike”

  1. Cusco is beautiful. The fortress is so fabulously built, what brillant artisans they were. I wonder could you slide a piece of paper between the stones, I doubt it. Love ya,

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