Monday, 3 October 2016

Cusco Spanish language course & sightseeing – Days 14 to 19

The statue of Pachacutec high on the hill above Cusco

Apparently it's my turn again as there are so many photos to go through!

School has been great, not easy, but fun. Two hours with Mimi doing grammar followed by two hours with Marie doing practice. They are both lovely, the whole atmosphere is welcoming and friendly, hugs and kisses hello and goodbye from all and sundry. 

Making the ice cream on the freezer plate
Tuesday we went on a bit of a walk to a monument on the hill on our way to school, then realised we were walking round town with Marie. We went to the market, so lots of useful vocabulary, not to mention useful words on the way there. She then took us to an amazing ice cream shop, just as well, as I was about to fall over, the hoped for packed lunches never appearing, and knowing we were going out, I thought I'd be able to buy a sandwich en route! The ice cream was worth waiting for though, pick your base, pick your fresh fruit and on big cold pans in front of you ice cream is created! Yum.

With Marie and the ice creams ready to eat
At this point rather than rush back to the homestay we decided to go to the Cusco Inca museum, we had been recommended it on our free tour and tried on Sunday, but it was shut. It was interesting, particularly the scene with the mummies, all buried in the foetal position as death is only a preparation for the next birth!

Cooking class. Owner John is seated at the far end, Fanny his wife is next to Jackie
Cooking class at the school on Tuesday's so had to give that a go, we didn't do so much cooking, but did do lots of chopping, peeling and mashing. Dish of the day was papas rellenas, mashed potato formed into balls round fried minced meat, carrots, onion, garlic, peanuts, sultanas, and egg before being floured, egged and fried. Very tasty and all prepared with lots of chatting, with each other and the teachers. 

Bowie the cat at the school with odd coloured eyes
Wednesday we didn't go walk about as Marie had a Skype lesson straight after us, as this is another string to the schools bow, which seems to be going from strength to strength, so if you want to learn Spanish from the comfort of your own armchair (Abi) is the place to go.

The Inca site in the middle of Cusco with Marie
Thursday's walk about took us to a big Catholic Church and an Inca site right in the middle of Cusco, free, but completely empty, despite the fact you can peer through windows in the brick walls into the open space, no one seems to know it's there! The joys of being with a local! 

Me n 'er amongst the Inca ruins
Friday school was a shock, a third of the way through already? Must work harder, haven't opened a book since 4pm Friday, revise before school tomorrow perhaps? Home for dinner and then back to the school for salsa lesson. Turns out it was just us, fab, private dance lesson for an hour and a half! As if our brains hadn't had enough to cope with!

Cake and hot chocolate with Marie on one of our afternoon walks and Spanish lesson
Jackie finds a little kitten!
I had been feeling slightly disappointed with the homestay, the kids and Meribel are gone to school/work early, so we stay out of the way before breakfast, and Meribel doesn't get in from work till 20.00 or later which leaves us with Nelly and Nico, who are both lovely though Nico is so deaf he doesn't really talk to anybody, and Nelly has no English at all. 

Jackie with little Maffie
With dinner just us, and Nelly and no conversation to listen to it's been a bit quiet. Breakfasts are the best as we have baby Maffi then mummy Katia popping in before going to work and Norma helping with everything, so at least there is conversation to listen to. To walk in to breakfast on Thursday and be greeted by Maffi pouting to kiss me and then holding her arms up to me to get down and go play was lovely. Nico then sat and treated all three of us the same with the baby animal books!

The food ready for the halloween theme of Estoban's birthday party
The clown entertainer getting everyone in the mood
Thursday was Estoban's 11th birthday, though not much was made of it mid week, only family popping in. This was until yesterday when the fiesta was planned! We got back from our day out just in time to shower and make some spiders from Oreo biscuits and octopi from pieces of hot dog sausage with raw spaghetti shoved through them. When boiled ....... Octopi. About 8 assorted children with various parents who all stayed descended and madness and mayhem ensued. 

And little Maffie won a dancing prize (with a bit of help from mum Katya)
The party theme was Halloween, so the cakes and jellies were amazing as were the decorations. The clown turned up and had everyone taking part, everyone, whether they wanted to or not, and the sugar overload was shocking. We had a really good time, though weren't quite sure what was going on all the time!

The Pisac bus
Apart from that our weekend has been full of walking and culture. On Saturday we went to a local bus station to pay our 3 soles (just less than a pound) to get the bus towards Pisac, intending to get off at Tambo Machay an old Incan baths. Slightly unsure about where to get off we needn't have worried, half the bus got off. An interesting site we did blunder through the undergrowth to find the grotto, not really sure whether we found it or not! We then started on the 11km walk back to town, all down hill taking in 4 other sites on the way, would have been 5 but we couldn't find the third!

The Inca baths at Tambo Machay
Jackie trying to befriend some Alpaccas (or are they Llamas?)
The second, Puca Pucara, was visible from Tambo Machay, so that was easy, in theory an old hunting lodge, small but interesting enough. Then started the long road walk to Qenko, an important 'huaca' with hitching posts of the sun and other ceremonial areas. Not really sure what we were looking at, it was interesting to wander around nonetheless.

The ruins of the Inca hunting lodge at Puka Pukara
At the entrance to a cave at Puka Pukara
Carrying on down the road we arrived at the Christo Blanco, pretty much what it sounds like, a big white Christ figure on the hill. Smaller when we got there than it appeared to be as it is visible from a long way away, but worth a quick look before the major site of the day. Saqsaywaman, a big walled complex that in theory forms the head of Cusco's Puma shape. It was the site of a bloody battle between the Inca and the Spanish in 1536 when Juan Pizarro, Francisco Pizzaro's son was killed. 

Jackie gets another cat experience on the road down from Puka Pukara
Our Rough Guide tells al sorts about the defensive zig zag walls, but this was all poo poohed by a guide I briefly questioned, who said our book was wrong and it was all a temple, with the zig zag walls being the teeth of the puma! We were pretty tired by this time but still think we saw most bits before descending back to the Plaza de Armas where we treated ourselves to a beer, well it had been a week since our last one, or alcohol of any sort! It may have helped Estoban's party go with a swing!

Quenko and the rock that is supposed to look a bit like a frog
A well used Inca seat in one of the tunnels at Quenko
Today we went to the same bus station to catch the same bus, but this time to go all the way to Pisac. Interestingly the Sunday girl charging 3 soles for the whole hour long journey that the Saturday man had said would cost 5 soles and that only cost us 3 soles on the way back too!

The three crosses on the hill above Cusco next to the Cristo Blanco statue
The Cristo Blanco statue
Pisac is the site of a huge citadel and a Sunday market. Fortunately I had read the book differently to Brian so agreed to a shared taxi on arrival. He thought this was only going to take us through the town to the start of the 1 1/2 hour walk, I thought it was going to miss out the walk! I was right, though the drive was a windy 7km! For the same price we paid for our expensive empanadas on Saturday it was well worth the £3.50!

It really is a huge complex, we just kept walking and coming upon different areas which will be best described by the photos. We did continue to do the walk back down to the town which was steep enough, meeting a few hardy souls treating the trek up as training for Machu Picchu. Really pleased we did it our way round as I know if we'd stomped up and thought we had to stomp down again too we wouldn't have got much past the Templo del Sol.

The view down over Cusco from the Cristo Blanco statue
The triple tooth like walls of the Saqsaywaman citadel
Down in time to walk through the market I bought my (first) Peru ring before a juice and snack and the bus home. Standing room only initially fortunately people got off!

We got back to the house to find we have a new homestay mate, Tina, newly arrived this morning from the UK very chatty, despite looking slightly phased, here for five weeks before cycling through Patagonia!
The circular ring of stones you can see here was originally a 20m high tower and was the final Inca defence in the battle of Saqsaywaman that cost Juan Pizzaro his life. When Inca defeat was inevitable the senior Inca nobleman in charge threw himself from the top of this tower to his death to avoid capture.
Highly polished rocks at Saqsaywaman used as slides. Originally created by glacial erosion
Long haired Alpaccas (or Llamas) graze the grass in the ruins of Saqsaywaman
A tired Jackie rests on a rock in front of the walls at Saqsaywaman at the end of a long day
After the final walk back down into Cusco beer refreshment was at hand!
Walking back through Cusco we saw this artist painting the view. Although a bit overexposed in my photo due to the bright sunlight you can see how close his painting reflects the actual scene
The Citadel at Pisac today, standing at 3500m
Two photos not quite stitched together perfectly, but showing the panorama from near the top of the citadel and how impregnable it was. Note the terraces used for growing food to make it self sufficient
The long walk up and through a tunnel to the Temple of the Sun
It was a long walk, but the views were fabulous
Finally the temple came into view on the right, with some other ruins lower on the left
The Temple of the Sun, a very sacred site for the Incas. The actual temple was built round a volcanic plug, you can just see it in the centre
Water canals constructed by the Incas, still working today 600 years later!
And here's the temple from the other side, taken from the top of the hill in the previous but one photo. You might be just able to make out the path we walked along, the hill beyond contains the main ruins
On the end of the hill looking down into the town of Pisac below. That hairpin bendy road was the road we came in on the bus
Another not great photo stiching to create a panorama. This is the lovely Sacred Valley with the Rio Urubamba leading (to the right) to Ollantaytambo and eventually onto Machu Picchu
The long walk down old stone steps and then a path back to Pisac
Back down into Pisac town square for a cool drink
And a look back up to where we'd been from the comfort of our cafe. You might just be able to see the lookout on the top and the stone steps leading down from it

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