May 2, 2018 – Cusco, Peru
This was a free day. I don’t know what the others did, but I slept in a little and then repacked my suitcase. Cheo had loaned us duffel bags for the trip to Machu Picchu, and I had to get that stuff back in my suitcase so I might just as well repack so that I was utilizing the suitcase space to the maximum. I’ve bought some souvenirs and Christmas gifts so some rearranging was needed to get those things into the case.
As I was going out to get a bottle of water, I met Wally and Donna who were looking for a bank so I tagged along with them for a short walk to the central square. We decided that we were dressed too warmly for the day so we came back and changed before the group set off for an optional tour of Saxxywaman (one of the many spellings for this place and pronounced like saxy woman). It may be the most interesting of the places we have visited. The size of the boulders which built this fortress are enormous. One of the biggest ones has been estimated at 800 tons. They made the estimate by using new technology which I don’t understand. This site had a tower which was probably 10 stories tall. Between the Spanish, who destroyed anything Incan, and the townspeople, who carried many of the stones away to build their own houses, it is only guesswork as to the height of the tower. This place served as a fortress – hence the watchtower – as well as an astronomical observatory.
There was a natural outcropping of rock by the fortress which was not used in the building of the fortress. There is often this kind of outcropping near Inca towns. No one really knows why. This particular outcropping is used today as a slide by local people and visitors. Cheo said that he used to slide down it and then was in trouble with his mother because he wore out the seat of his pants. We watched some kids slide down before Wally decided that he would give it a go. He managed to get up the slide area although it was very slick. He got about half way up before turning around and sliding down.
We rode up to the site in a van. Coming own was interesting. It was a very steep decline on a ramp which was made of sandstone and basalt. Needless to say the basalt was very slippery. Cheo had said that everyone who had trekking poles should bring them. I don’t know about Rob and Donna, but I know I would never have made it down without them.
On the way down, we passed the high school which Cheo attended.
When we returned to the main square, we had lunch in a small restaurant which was excellent. I had the chicken and rice, and it was really good. Again, there was way too much food. If I could have had doggy bags to bring back home for all the food, I wasn’t able to eat, I wouldn’t have to cook for a month.
After lunch, I walked back with Richard and Susan. We stopped at a shop where they had bought some t-shirts. I have been looking for a sweatshirt but haven’t found any so I bought a V-necked t-shirt instead.
We all thought that we had acclimatized when we were at Machu Picchu, but since it is lower, we didn’t huff and puff there. However, back here in Cusco, we were once again huffing and puffing. It will be interesting to see what happens at Puno/Lake Titicaca which is where we go tomorrow and which is about 1,000’ higher than here.
This evening we went to the Cusco Planetarium which is a private one. It is owned and operated by a family whose grandfather was an astronomer. The rest of the family, thus, became well versed in astronomy and have opened this planetarium. We did not get to use the telescopes to see the actual constellations in the sky because it was cloudy. However, the presentation in the planetarium was really great. It showed the southern sky and the portion of the northern sky which can been seen at 13 degrees south of the equator. I guess I have no imagination, but I never see the figures which you’re supposed to see. It just looks like a bunch of stars to me. However, they showed Sagittarius as a figure with the stars indicated so that I could somewhat see why you might call that group of stars Sagittarius, the archer. They did this for all the constellations. Then, they showed the Inca figures which are in the Milky Way. There was a black llama, a white llama, serpent, toad, tinamou (partridge like bird) and the fox. Here’s a site which explains each of them. https://www.thoughtco.com/inca-star-worship-and-constellations-2136315
I found my sweat shirt tonight at the planetarium. It is a really nice one, and I’m going to enjoy wearing it.
When we got back to the hotel, Cheo told us that we will leave at 8 tomorrow morning and that we should wear cold weather clothes. Finally those gloves, hat, sweat shirt and hand warmers I brought may be put to use. We had to dress warmly tonight for the planetarium which is the 1st time I’ve worn the sweatshirt and jacket which I had brought with me. I’ve got 20 sets of the hand warmers because I was expecting almost all of this trip to be in cold temperatures. Whatever, we don’t use in Puno are going home with Richard and Susan to Calgary because I’m not taking them home with me. Since they ski and do lots of other outdoor activities, they will be able to use the hand warmers.
Since I had such a big lunch, I elected to come back to the room and have some of my snack food for supper. I’m going to make an early night of it. The visit to Saxxywaman in this high altitude wore me out, and I’m ready for bed.
Built by the pre-industrial Incans, the three-tiered walls of the Sacsayhuamán complex are a marvel of engineering with some of the biggest blocks ever found in Incan construction fitted together so tightly, mortar was not necessary.
While the site is thought to be the remains of a much larger fortress complex that once stood atop it, the remaining walls of the structure are an impressive reminder of the Incans’ almost unbelievable engineering skills. Over the three stepped sections of the remaining walls, huge stones of all sizes are stacked together like a Herculean game of Tetris. The stones are all carved into roughly square and rectangular shapes, but there is little consistency in their exact dimensions. It seems as though each piece was custom carved to fit in a given space as though the wall was just planned and created as they went along which seems almost impossible given the grand scale of the project.
Whatever towers, walls, or battlements used to sit atop the remaining walls were cannibalized by the Spanish when they took over the nearby city of Cusco and began remaking it in their image. It is likely that the huge stones of the lower walls were simply too large to move and thus the impressive walls of Sacsayhuamán were saved. Whatever the reason, the precision construction on display is one of the more impressive displays of Incan ingenuity that we still have.