July 1, 2008
Today we had a walking tour of Cusco in the morning, followed by lunch and afternoon on our own. On the walking tour, we saw many of examples of original walls built by the Incas centuries ago. These walls are all over town.
We first went to the Qoricancha, which means enclosure (cancha) of gold (qori). However, it was originally the Temple of the sun god, and was named Inticancha. Apparently the Spanish found so much gold here that the place came to be known as the Qoricancha. The Inca used a lot of gold here for their ceremonies to worship the creator god, Viracocha and the sun god, Inti.
When the Spanish came, they attempted to destroy the Inca religion by knocking down religious and sacred sites and building churches on top of them. That’s what they did at the Qoricancha, building the church of Santo Domingo on top. The Inca exterior walls are still intact and what remains of the interior Inca structures are now preserved.
The capital of Cusco conceptualized in the form of a puma, the Qoricancha, as well as other Inca monuments including Machu Picchu, were part of a grand design by the most important Inca leader, Pachacutec. You can really see this when you realize that most of the Inca sites found scattered throughout this part of Peru were built very purposefully in certain spots, all interconnected through the Solstice and mountains the Incas considered sacred.
Modern Cusco is a mixture of Inca, colonial Spanish, and modern Western/mestizo culture. The center of town is charming with its many plazas, Spanish balconies and arches, and Inca stone walls lining many narrow streets.
Cusco is hilly too, adding to its charm, but making me huff and puff as I climb streets at 11,000 feet above sea level. There are cute shops, colorful people – women dressed in native costumes, schoolchildren dressed in uniforms, business people, teenagers and children, and of course hordes of tourists – and noisy traffic that tends not to respect tourists.
People hang out and relax in the plazas, particularly Plaza de Armas with its beautifully manicured flower gardens, central fountain, and pigeons wandering around and suddenly flying up in front of your face! Lining the plaza on all sides are upscale restaurants and shops with colonial architecture, two colonial churches, and narrow streets climbing upward and away from the square, inviting one to explore them.
We’re accosted by people selling things, who automatically address us in their rudimentary English: “Madam, please, you buy…only five soles, madam.” This still bothers me, but I’m getting used to ignoring them.
The only negative is that I have a bad cold! It started in Ollantaytambo and a day later, I got a sore throat, then the runny nose and cough started. It wasn’t bad in Machu Picchu, but it’s gotten worse here! I’ve used up all my Advil Cold and Sinus so I stopped at Inka Farma and got cough medicine. Thinking that wouldn’t be enough (it wasn’t), I’ve also gladly accepted a fellow group member’s Tylenol Cold Day & Night.
By mid afternoon, I was feeling tired but relaxed and finding it easier to make conversation with people. Somehow purchasing cough syrup at the pharmacy boosted my confidence, as I explained to the pharmacist what I needed and even said things that weren’t strictly necessary! I also helped Dale and Jayme buy a number of things. They depend on me because neither of them speaks Spanish. My Spanish is pretty good, yet I still feel shy about speaking freely at first. I tend to say what is necessary and spend more time listening. Once I’m relaxed and not feeling embarrassed, I feel more at ease talking with people.
Anyway, walking down Avenida El Sol toward our hotel after a gratifying day of exploring this fascinating and historical city, mingling with the crowds of average people on their way home from work, I thought how much I really like this city! And now that I’m really enjoying it, we’re leaving tomorrow! I wish we could stay a few more days here. In fact, I could see myself coming here to study or work, and stay several months.