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Peru- Day 2 : Cusco, Saqsayhuaman and Qenqo

Day 2 of the Peru trip started off at 3:30 AM. We had to get ready as the car was going to pick us up at 4:30 AM. There was no breakfast open at the time, but the restaurant was nice enough to box us cute little cheese sandwiches (just mini buns with Cheese), some fruits and milk at 4AM. The driver showed up promptly and took us to the airport and we said our byes. He did not know at that time we would meet again! 

We were flying into Cusco. After a one hour flight delay we reached Cusco around 10PM. There was another 45 minute drive from airport to the hotel. We stayed at Mamasara, a cute place on the edge of the mountains but walking distance from the Cusco historic Plaza. We were told to get ready in an hour for the tour!

The hotel was beautiful. Full of cute things..

By now we were only in day 2 but the kids had had enough of this waking up at ungodly hours, skipping meals because the "tour was going to start" and this waiting on a bus for "all parties to show up" etc. 

We calmed them down, thanks to leftover idlis and chappatis, curry which had been packed. We ate whatever survived the heat thus far and went on the tour.

We were not disappointed. We got to go first to the Plaza and see the Basilica.

It was in three parts. Every painting was a gem and the altar piece was just spectacular, not to mention that everything was gilded in gold. There was no photography allowed inside which was unfortunate as I did have a camera that could take photos without a flash. . . they couldn't police it, so they banned cameras altogether. 

After walking through the churches we walked to the temple of the sun! We also got some interesting perspective on these buildings. The base is always Inca. The top is Spanish style. They literally built the Churches on top of the open Inca temples.

However, they were not winning the people over. So the Jesus is wearing local clothes, the last supper has a guinea pig in the center, Mother Mary is in the shape of a triangle (mountain - Inca god) and Jesus and Mary have Sun and Moon behind them everywhere.. the Inca gods were fused into Christianity to get "customers". 

We also saw a cleverly done painting of a Madonna. If you walk across a 100 foot line, she looks at you no matter where you are on the line. This optical trick was used to convince the natives, that they had "sinned". 

There were a zillion mirrors in the basilica. They are not usual in european churches. They were put in to attract the Inca people to come as they had no mirrors and seeing themselves in the mirror was an amazing experience. 

Then we walked along the plaza streets to go visit more cute places.. streets and street signs were welcoming!

We took a short break at a small grocery store to buy water and snacks. We found "fryums" Peru style and loved it. It was made of some soy bean type flour and local spices. There was lot of Gatorade. Given how much we were walking in the hot weather (yes, it is summer in the southern hemisphere in December, although there was no direct sun, it was quite warm), we decided to stock up on gatorade. 

After a brief wait we got a larger bus to take us to our next stop.. Saqsayhuaman (they say it like Sexy Woman). For a few minutes I was like "why does he keep saying we will go to see sexy woman?!" are we on the right tour?! maybe not a family friendly tour?!.. then we saw the sign board and all was revealed.. 

This is one amazing place. They set up a city on the mountain top with stones that are not from the mountain. Some of these stones are 200 tons. They had a tiered city with priestly folks, city dwellers and farmers with terraces built into the mountain side for farming. They had elaborate systems to get bath water and sewage into separate streams, a nice drain system for water to go to public baths, etc. etc. They didn't destroy this and build a Church on top, thanks to Jesus.. instead there was a separte giant Jesus statue built on the adjoining hill overlooking Cusco. You can see it in the far left in the picture below. Our tour did not take us to that statue. It reminds you of the statue in Brazil. Given we don't know when we will go to Brazil, I wanted to go see the White Jesus (they call it Christo de Blanco) up close and personal.. tour guide said "no time". 

We were given 30 minutes to roam around Saqsayhuaman including hike to the top of the bath area to get pictures (one above was taken there). Kept clicking..... processed them over time. Here are some HDR shots which bring out the detail and the depth.. no photographs can do justice to the experience of walking by those walls. 

It was worth the rushed hike up to the bath area because we got an amazing view of Cusco from Saqsayhuaman! 

Then we walked back to the bus. Somehow word had gotten out that the buses had come I guess.. there was a sudden increase in number of vendors selling stuff to the tourists! Women in colorful local clothing were wandering around with alpacas and llamas to take pictures with the tourists. You had to pay them a Sol each to pose (3.2 Sols to a USD). They gladly pose for a Sol as do the animals! 

 Some of the vendors just let you take their picture. We did buy some trinkets for the kids.. all three of them. 

I wanted to buy some colorful things and was promptly vetoed. I did get a nice cap the next day which is banned in the house now.

From this place we went to another place called Qenqo! That was a priestly sacrificial site on an adjacent mountain where the weather gods were literally present. One minute it is warm, next minute the clouds roll in so fast and we had a hail storm. It was surreal! Most of this site was unfortunately desecrated. There was a 50 foot stone Jaguar that was beheaded. It was one thing for the spaniards to kill the Jaguars, did they have to do this?! 

You also had an amazing view of Cusco from Qenqo! 

A video of the hail storm...

Finally it was time to go back to the hotel. We had a pit stop at a place that sold Alpaca sweaters and there was a small demo on how the stuff was made starting with how to get the wool and process it. There was free Coca and Mint tea for getting rid of altitude sickness and stomach cramps. It was a local Eucalyptus added to mint tea. Would have failed every drug test with all that coca tea. However it did help me cope a little bit. The eucalyptus made me throw up later that night though. 

We found the place to be very expensive, so we went back to the bus and to Cusco Plaza. By then I had a pounding head ache and skipped dinner. The wife and kids decided to eat at the only Indian restaurant in the Plaza. The food was disappointing according to them. We went back to the hotel and dozed off.. as it was going to be another wake up early day.. 

The kids were inconsolable when the driver told us "we will pick you up at 6AM. we have a lot to cover". The little one said "you call this a vacation? I would have happily just stayed home. All we see is a bunch of giant stones piled on top of each other on mountain tops.. we have to wake up at 5 to go see this over and over again?!"

Everyone has a perspective!

Jr. suddenly started siding with her sister, which has not happened in the history of time! We were worried that there was a mutiny on our hands. San did her little lecture thing about how many kids don't get to see anything and how fortunate they are etc. etc. and we hit the bed... 

Day 3 post tomorrow.. (I am reasonably sure becasue I finished editing the pictures!)