Our last day of the Cusco trip was spent in Cusco! Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire. Just a note to bring some light on how big the Incan empire was: The Incan trail (35,000 miles) is second to the Roman Empire’s road system (50,000 miles) and the empire at its peak touched 6 of what are now South American countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile). It went from settlements to an empire under the rule of Pachacuti. You can read more about this online!
Anyways, Cusco is located in the Andes, and when the conquistadores from Spain came, they either completely tore down Incan buildings or simply built right on top of them. Many buildings have Incan-cut stones for the base, and white washed walls where the Spanish built. See my pictures, its crazy! ***
While there, I had to try the infamous Cui or Cuy, which is Guinea Pig. I had mine roasted, and it came with teeth, claws, and the intestines still in its belly. I was able to get some bites down, but I didn’t like the taste of the meat. And I also felt a little bad, haha. Apparently, it is made other ways which are better, but for this experience I just didn't care for the meat.
Also, I spent some of the day horse back riding. It was hilarious, and I will attempt to explain why through a light hearted and dramatized contrast of USA ways and Peruvian ways:
- In the USA, we are time obsessive and organization freaks, for the most part; at least its a cultural pressure and value. Peru, and most of the world, does not particularly value time management. Nor is it as organized in some parts, either due to development and infrastructure issues or simply because it is not a value over other values.
- If I were to horse back ride in the USA, there would be a designated guide with a designated trail, and everything would be explained before hand so that there is communication and understanding. An American value is communication. It would be straightforward and uneventful as far as following the time allowed and the path taken. In Peru, it is somewhat a gamble on what will exactly happen, and don’t expect to be told where you’re going or what you are doing. The value is on enjoying the ride. Also, there was no specific guide, but many children horse keepers trying to keep the horses together while running on foot. We helped one with his English homework.
- In the USA, if there is a time to get off the horse, the guide will instruct when and where. In Peru, the horse decides when the rider is going to keep riding or get off. It let’s you know by leaving the path and heading to the river for a drink. Don’t think your special, if your horse goes, all the horses will go, so enjoy exploring the area by foot for a while.
- Finally, my favorite part, if I was going horseback riding to see some ruins, there would be officials and entrance workers to let me in upon arrival (like a museum). There would be signs set up, and parts in which I could and could not touch. In Peru, it is different (there are SO many ruins that just sit on the side of the road). We went to an old ruin site that was marked off by a single blue ribbon. The guide simply removed it and let us into the cave, which we thought was a little different but followed. We were walking all over sculptures and a ceremonial table, and I wondered why we could do it. It turns out we weren’t supposed too, because a man dressed in an official uniform appeared towards the end and asked us what we were doing. The guide just did it. We then returned home after convincing our guide that we didn’t have time to see the other ruins because it was getting dark and cold (note the time management perspective).
I hope that gave a mental picture to the horseback riding trip. It was so much fun!
Cusco is really pretty at night. Everyone is out walking at night: young people, tourists, and old couples! There is a beautiful plaza in the middle of the city and while we were walking around there was fireworks and two weddings going on!
I got up early the next morning to walk around and take pictures. Three friends joined me, and we checked out a 7am mass, just to observe it. It was in the grand cathedral of the central plaza. The insides were very elaborate with scenes from the Bible made out of gold.
A quick note: the picture of the dogs shows how many stray dogs there are in the Andean towns and in the poor parts of Lima. It breaks my heart every time I see a lonely hungry dog, it really is a problem in certain parts. I miss my Jetta!
Someday, I would like to return to Cusco (without the altitude sickness). It is a very interesting city.