Monday, 26 September 2016

Cusco – Days 10 to 13

The famous 12 sided Inca stone in the Hathun Rumiyoq

Sleep is still evading us in the amounts we'd like, but not too bad overall. B has been waking with headaches and so waking me, but it is getting better. I went without earplugs last night....

Woke early on Friday morning, but we had gone to sleep at 20.00 had a shower which was hot, despite the many reviews I'd read for Cusco guesthouses, good breakfast on the fourth floor overlooking the rooftops and the comings and goings of a number of cats, (we had their life stories plotted out by the end of our stay) of cereal, yogurt and bread and jam and I was ready to start the day. B was feeling like he'd got a bad hangover, which is not a pretty sight as many of you can vouch!

The guide on our free city walking tour pointing out the stone that is supposed to represent the genitals of the puma. I think we both had some difficulty in seeing the images made by the stones
This is what you're supposed to see apparently
Eventually we set off towards the school, all downhill in this direction, not for the way back! Found our way quite easily after a gentle half hour and went in. John was on site a congenial man, I can't remember if he's Belgian or Dutch but has lived in both for a long time. He introduced us to Fanny, his Peruvian wife and educational power house behind the school, she was fab, I almost understood most of what she said, but then you realise how slowly and clearly she spoke and how much face language and miming she did. If only the man in the street could behave like that! She did at least say to us at the party that it was good that we had come with some vocabulary and grammar, which made me feel happy. We don't know what she made of our assessment though but Mimi her sister our grammar teacher will no doubt know where to start us! We met the cat, paid some money and headed back up hill toward the Plaza de Armas, the centre of it all.

The Plaza de Armas seen from above by the church of San Cristobal
The Sunday parade in the Plaza de Armas
Drifted around a bit more, it has a very laid back vibe, before squeezing in somewhere local for a bite of lunch and a glass of chicha morada a drink made from purple maize that Fanny had recommended for acclimatising. We had an empanada, bit like a pastie, and were about to leave when B wanted some of the cake everyone seemed to be eating. Looked like three layer cake but had slices of hard boiled egg and olive on the top! Think we'll save causa for another day! Having just looked it up, what looked like cake was probably mashed potato, perhaps we will try It! 

Even the little primary school children were marching to the band
Some dressed up in costume....
More pottering, snoozing etc before convincing ourselves we should go to the party, it would have been so easy not to, but decided it would keep us awake a bit longer! Met a few of our fellow students, all much younger than us and female, bar one slightly eccentric American lady from Texas who has been here since June, with her dog, and a guy from NZ here with his partner. We chatted, primarily to an 18 year old from the US here on her own, played with Bowie the cat (one blue eye, one green) and ate an interesting spaghetti bolognese before admitting defeat and heading off to bed. Taking a taxi home rather than the half hour walk. Yes there are official taxis but any car appears to be a taxi too, so stand, someone stops, negotiate and away you go!

...And some on stilts
Up Saturday morning and decided to do the free walking tour, only us and a Swiss couple. Interesting, though biased towards the shops run by his friends, but what do you expect. Made it up to the church for a scenic view over Cusco that I'd pointed out to B at breakfast we'd be going up. Don't be ridiculous he said, that's far too high a walk. I was right!

The statue of Manco Capac in the Plaza de Armas, said to be gesturing to the image of Christ on the hilltop as a sign of the joining of the two religions
First cat event
Had a good cat afternoon, went back to the twelve sided stone in the wall that we had seen in the am and been unable to get close to due to everyone else photographing themselves by it, saw a cute tabby, who with one word trotted over and climbed onto my leg and into my arms, what with the cat by the hostal who had gone from running away to rolling over and head butting and then the cat in the supermarket (yes, actually in, along with it's pregnant partner) who also wanted good snuggles, might not be such a bad place after all!

Second cat event
Decided on a proper dinner, and even a beer, I had an alpaca steak which was very tender, but very strongly flavoured. We have yet to try cuy, or guinea pig which seems quite expensive, though we did see some cooked at a food fair yesterday! All set to leave when the heavens opened so decided to sit a little longer chatting to the Argentinian waiter and chef! Eventually got back to the hostal to find a heater had been put in our room to take the chill off, very sweet, hadn't got rid of the slight smell of damp though. On the whole very pleased with the Hatun Quilla, friendly people, but not much English, good price, hot water, quiet street but close to all the action. (Going to try and name the hostals we stay in this trip as we have found it useful when we've read other people's blogs and helpful to us if asked where we can recommend) 

Third cat event, in a supermarket! She carried it round while we shopped for a bottle of water
Just the two of us by the church of San Cristobal
Found ourselves in the Plaza de Armas on Sunday morning for the weekly parade, don't know what it was all about, but very entertaining none the less, though wish I'd put suntan lotion on as the sun when out is very hot. B thinks this might be part of his headache problem, not just altitude but a bit of extra sun on his head from Friday!

The highest Irish bar in the world?
Found ourselves having lunch in the worlds highest Irish Bar, pizza, but still felt very homely, before returning one last time to the hostal to be collected by John and delivered to our homestay. We arrived to discover Maribel was not expecting us, but was very welcoming nonetheless so we sat with John while she and her daughter Alexandra and son Escoban got our room ready, just to meet her mother and father Nelly and Nico then. It's a big room, but two single beds. Good to be able to unpack though. If I look out of the window I can see across an open shaft into the kitchen of the apartment we are in, across the lounge and out of the big picture window to watch the airplanes revving up to take off down the runway! No night flights fortunately!

Attempting to play a native Inca instrument.
Met the whole family at dinner time, Nelly and Nico and Maribel's sister, husband and 13 month old baby. It's going to be hard work, but they are all very friendly and welcoming. Baby seems to be here everyday, as this morning was a cleaner/play lady? First flight was at 06.00 and with Maribel and kids going off to work/school we may be continuing with early to bed and early to rise. Dinner last night was tasty, but two potatoes and two pieces of fried cheese followed by fresh fruit salad may not be enough to sustain us, along with the standard breakfast of bread and jam. We are meant to be getting three meals a day here, but as we are at school 12.00 - 16.00 not sure how that is going to work! There was spaghetti being cooked at breakfast so perhaps we'll be given a pack up!

Sleeping dogs on a side street in Cusco
Anyway, an hour till we are collected to be shown our route for the first day of school so who knows what the rest of the day will bring!

This guy was a famous artist in Peru. The scene on the left depicts Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and on the right the three wise men, but they all have long necks. It's a South American slant apparently and the long necks refer to the local Alpaccas
This is the local delicacy here. It's Cuy,or as we know it: roast guinea pig. It is expensive by local standards, but at 60 Sol (about £15) its worth trying sometime. It's apparently high in protein and very low in cholesterol. I think one will do between both of us!

This is believed to be the remains of an Inca storehouse. All Inca walls slop inwards slightly and the recesses and doorways are always slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom. This is because they had not discovered the arch and support at the top was easier if it is not so wide. Other things the Incas had not discovered: the wheel and they had no written words, only pictures

The remains of the wall of an Inca palace, reduced to this level by the Spanish who used the stone to build their churches and cathederals. The Plaza de Armas was originally encircled by fabulous Inca palaces all built with this precision cut stone. Many of the foundations and walls up to about head height remain, but the Spanish built over the top and added covered archways to give it a more Spanish feel. The cathederal and church in the Plaza were built on the most impressive palaces, all the old stone used to build them

Old Cusco is shown in brown and is in the shape of a Puma, a sacred animal to the Incas. Note the Inca spelling of Cusco: Qosqo

Cusco was the capital and centre of the Inca empire and the Plaza de Armas was its heart. The empire, which stretched from modern Colombia down to Chile was divided into four sections, all radiating out from the Plaza

The map on the left shows the extent of the Inca empire at its height and the four districts, all radiating from the Plaza de Armas

Our journey so far in Cusco. At the top left is our first 3 day hostel stay at the Hatun Quilla. It is very close to the historical centre and the Plaza de Armas. Further down the Avenida de Sol just left of centre is the language school FairService that we start today and then further down by the orange marker is our homestay, right by Cusco airport. We can watch the planes take off from our window!

This is a satellite image of the Cusco area. Cusco is bottom right and our current location marked with the blue circle. Up and to the right you may be able to make out the town of Pisac which is the start of the Sacred Valley which runs left and up through the towns of Calca, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Up in the top left hand corner is the town of Aguas Calientes, which is at the foot of the famous Machu Picchu. Next weekend we intend catching a local bus up to Pisac to see the old Inca fortress there and we may catch local busses up the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo and then back to Cusco. We will visit Machu Picchu, but not via the Inca Trail (which starts just after Ollantaytambo and is fully booked for about the next 6 months). Instead we'll probably do a two day trip which involves a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, where the road finishes, then catch a train that snakes up through the narrow valley to Aguas Calientes where we'll stay overnight. Up early the next day to get up to Machu Picchu for sunrise and then back by train and bus. All very exciting!  


  1. We do hope Brian will be feeling much Better soon!
    Don't eat the guinnies, just don't! Or the doggies!

  2. Looks like you are beginning to settle in and Cusco looks a marvellous place! Hope the headaches settle down soon.x