My fight to Cusco was at 5:30 am so I needed to be at the airport at 2:30 am. I just stayed up, worked on the blog, and drank a lot of great coffee at the airport. It really is phenomenal in this part of the world. I didn’t sleep much on the way to Cusco so I took a four-hour nap when I arrived. I made sure to drink some of the coca leaf tea to prevent the onset of altitude sickness. It is not intense and I had no problem falling asleep after being up all night.
For a change, I booked a package tour to make things a lot easier on myself. I saved $150 off the U.S. cost and was afforded a 3-star hotel instead of the 2-star I would have had with the stateside agency. Machu Picchu is the most visited site in South America and can get a bit tricky. It should be fantastic. The weather has turned out a lot better than it was supposed to be. It’s not the high season which is good, but there is a better chance for rain. I’ve been pretty lucky thus far, but rain or no I’m sure it will be a profound juncture in my journey. In fact, Peru is my 70th. country visited in my lifetime, leaving only thirty more until I have earned the privilege to settle in France.
After my four hour recharge, I hit TripAdvisor to find myself a nice place to eat. Cusco is like San Francisco when it comes to the overwhelming volume of good restaurants. I decided on the Morena Peruvian Kitchen which is #2 on the list. Oh, the pumpkin soup was heavenly, and the ceviché succulent and beautifully garnished. Then my waitress approached acting a bit concerned, so I thought that they had run out of the dish I had chosen for my main course. As it turns out, the restaurant was on fire so I picked up my ceviché and went outside. Hell, I wasn’t leaving that tasty dish behind! As I noshed on the sidewalk they added another hose to their contingency plan, but the smoke was showing no signs of abating by the time I finished my dish. By the way, the Peruvians invented ceviché. I gave the plate back to my waitress, canceled the main course, and requested the check. She laughed and sent me on my way with her best wishes. Actually, you’re supposed to eat light on your first day anyway in order to get adjusted to the altitude.
MORENA PERUVIAN KITCHEN – That is one of four propane tanks they removed from the site to prevent explosions. Not your average, regular, boring dining experience.
PLAZA DE ARMAS – The main square of Cusco just 150 meters from my burning restaurant.
CATHEDRAL OF CUSCO
CLASSIC INCAN WALL – This was part of a palace, and now serves as a foundation for a contemporary structure. The Incans built the first truly effective earthquake-resistant structures. The were angled inward ever so slightly and in this case, you can see there is no mortar, but instead, they fit together perfectly as indicated by the seams.
Our guide elaborates upon the ingenuity of Incan builders
This is one of the last Incan streets to be found on Cusco. They were always quite narrow. Also, note how the walls slope inward.
Here is a large monastary that emphasizes the superiority of Incan design over their Spanish oppressors.
Note the foundation stones are Incan, and the Spanish merely built on top of them.
THE INNER COURTYARD – All that you see save for the Incan foundation stone walls was destroyed twice by earthquakes. So much for Spanish ingenuity. They considered the Incas to be pagan savages, but history gave them their comeuppance.
Inner Foundational Walls with classical niches used for ornamentation or statuary. This chamber was probably part of an Incan Temple complex.
Close up of those amazing seams. Even the broken area is toit as a toiger.
Saqsayhuaman was an Incan citadel overlooking the city of Cusco.
These vast grounds were created by quarrying the stone for the structures which created a flat area where large ceremonies could be held.
VIEW OF CUSCO
Looking down on the complex with Cusco just behind me.
Another view of the Saqsayhuaman citadel
This site is filled with aqueducts, canals, and waterfalls. Its actual purpose is unknown as is the case with many Incan structures. It is speculated to be a spa resort for political elites as well as a military outpost for Cusco.
Peruvian woman spinning yarn next to a contented llama. Seriously, check out the look on his face. It’s the best part of the picture. He’s saying, “She’s not all that”.
This mound was a sacred spot for the Incas. It had a special cave where rituals were observed. The Spanish buried it so it wouldn’t interfere with Christian conversions.
ADRIEL – Guiding tours for 26 years.
VICUNA – The animal producing the most valued and rarest local fiber.
ANOTHER STICKLESS SELFIE – I have renamed those repellent accessories, Narcissticks.
Containing military, religious, and agricultural structures the site clearly served three purposes. The agricultural terraces are even in use to this day. When they built the terraces, they brought richer topsoil from the bottom of the valley to be utilized in the higher terraces.
INCAN STONE STEPS
VIEW FROM THE TOP
These structures would have supported thatched roofs.
SWEET OLD LADY – Outside a jewelry store where I picked up a nice silver ring with Incan symbols.
Vicuna grazing outside the restaurant where we had a buffet lunch.
DELICIOUS PLATE – Clockwise from the bottom – Llama carpaccio, chicken leg, pasta salad, three pieces of trout paté. That was just the beginning.
ADRIEL – This is his hometown where he grew up.
CANAL – STILL IN USE
FIRST GLIMPSE OF MACHU PICCHU
In high season this area would be jammed.
Discovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Me standing proudly in front of Machu Picchu with plastic bag affixed to the back of my hat to prevent sunburn on the back of my neck. I looked like a douche but it worked.
Hiram Bingham was looking for the Lost City of the Incas and was crestfallen when all he got was this! Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, man. Of course, it was covered in four hundred years of overgrowth. He just wasn’t able to see the potential in a fixer-upper.
Seriously, Bingham, you were disappointed, well there’s no pleasing you.
This space was left empty on purpose because the Incas knew there was a fault line running through it.
All of the terracing you have seen in these pictures of Machu Picchu was built before any of the buildings were constructed. The Incas wanted to insure their stability first. It is because of this method of construction, integrating the use of terraces, that we find Machu Picchu in such good condition today. Without them, much would have been compromised or lost to erosion.