Ten days in Peru (Diez días en Perú)

I’d wanted to go to Peru for years. From a young age my imagination had been fired by articles and books about “lost cities” and other great ruins, but I’d always thought that visiting these places was something that happened to other people. Early in September, however, it happened to me. I spent ten glorious days in this beautiful country, and here are my thoughts and photos…

Place names do vary – Cuzco/Cusco for example – so I’ve used whatever spelling was prevalent. Most measurements will be in metric because that’s what they use in Peru, although I tend to think in imperial so there’ll be a mix. Links to external sites or to enlarge photos will open in a separate tab/window. If you have any questions or insights you can contact me here.


Prologue

The winding path climbed ever higher, but now the sun was rising, and the view across the mist-shrouded mountains was enchanting. We continued to climb, sometimes passing others and sometimes being passed as we took short breaks to get our breath back.

My heart was pounding and my leg muscles were burning. We’d take pills to counteract the effects of the altitude, but it seemed an age before they began to work. It felt like we had been walking for hours, and the summit still seemed a long way off.

Eventually a murmur reached us from above. Our destination was close, but hidden from our view by the trees that dominated the mountain. A few more minutes, however, and we had arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu. It was time to take a breather!


Wednesday 7th / Thursday 8th September 2016

British Airways now offer a direct flight (a mere twelve-and-a-half hours) from Gatwick to Lima. On arrival I breezed through customs and was greeted by Vanessa. We then got a ride to our hotel (I’d booked a suite in the five star Thunderbird Hotels J Pardo, and I make no apologies for that) where I unpacked and then crashed out. I’ve decided I’m not a fan of long haul.

The hotel is situated in the Miraflores district and is a short walk from Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca mud brick ceremonial and administrative centre built by the Lima culture in around 500 AD. It’s also home to a rather impressive pyramid. As we started our tour of the site I gazed at the grey cloud-covered sky and was reminded of England. It took some convincing by Vanessa to persuade me that we didn’t need to go and buy umbrellas. There’s a good reason why 70% of the structure is original – the city gets so little rainfall that the whole site is remarkably well preserved (Lima is the world’s second-largest desert city, after Cairo, and gets roughly half an inch of rain per year).

Huaca Pucllana is several city blocks in size but wasn’t discovered until the 19th century. The pyramid itself was only uncovered in the mid-20th century, and major excavations didn’t take place until the 1980s. Until it was known what was here the site was popular with off road motorcyclists!

(There’s also a site called Huaca Huallamarca in the San Isidro district, although sadly we didn’t have time to visit. Lima was once home to around 40 pyramids, but as the city grew most were simply demolished or built over.)

Huaca Pucllana, in the Miraflores district

Huaca Pucllana, in the Miraflores district

We then took a walk to the Parque John F Kennedy, where lots of stray cats hang out, after which we took the first of many bus rides. It’s recommended to have a good grasp of Spanish if you’re going to take the bus, so I’m glad Vanessa was with me – my vocabulary doesn’t stretch much beyond ¡Hola! and ¿Me estás jodiendo?

Our destination was the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú, which is the largest and oldest museum in Peru. Next was a taxi ride to the Museo Larco, which is housed in an 18th-century vice-royal building constructed over a 7th-century pyramid. The Museo Larco has a fascinating and substantial collection – pottery, weapons, clothing, etc. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of pots of all designs, including many “erotic” ones (these people were sex mad). Afterwards we ate at the Museo Larco Café/Restaurant where I had a lasagne and a gorgeous mango pisco sour. At this point it was only 5:10pm but I was dead on my feet. I think the previous day’s exertions had caught up with me, so we headed back to the hotel.

Some of the Museo Larco's substantial collection (click to enlarge)

Some of the Museo Larco’s substantial collection (click to enlarge)


Friday 9th September 2016

We returned to the airport to fly to Cusco. While high over the Andes I had my first drink of Inca Kola, and I loved it. It’s bright yellow, bubblegum flavoured, and contains tartrazine (that’s a blast from the past).

Once out of the airport in Cusco we hailed a cab to take us to Ollantaytambo. On the plane we’d taken pills to ward off any altitude sickness – Cusco is over eleven thousand feet above sea level. However it wasn’t until we were in Ollantaytambo (which is “only” nine thousand feet above sea level) that I noticed that even getting up from a chair left me feeling light headed. Any strenuous activity left me needing to stop often to take deep breaths. Thankfully that would be the only altitude-related effect I would experience during the trip.

Once settled in (we stayed at the Munay Punku B&B, and I recommend it highly – the owners are lovely) we walked to the square to get some food. The old part of the town is home to one of a few surviving examples of the Inca grid system. The irrigation channels and stone doorways continue to function as they have done for over 700 years.

Munay Punku B&B - a delightful abode in a gorgeous town.

Munay Punku B&B – a delightful abode in a gorgeous town

Some restaurants offered delights such as alpaca ravioli and fried guinea pig – I’ll spare you the photo of the latter. We ended up at El Telgotto where, as we enjoyed pizza and mojitos and cuba libres, a guy with guitar and panpipes entertained the diners. One song was Guantanamera. As a Tottenham Hotspur fan I wanted to join in with “One Harry Kane, there’s only one Harry Kane” but I didn’t think it would go down well.


Saturday 10th September 2016

Ollantaytambo was home to a battle after the fall of Cusco, and in the morning we explored the ruins from which Manco Inca mounted a defence against the Spanish (he was briefly victorious, but eventually had to retreat to Vilcabamba). You’ll need to buy a ticket to enter the site – if you’re going to visit various sites in Peru I’d recommend the Boleto Turístico which grants you entrance to a number of places and is valid for ten days (link at the bottom).

Approaching the ruins at Ollantaytambo.

Approaching the ruins at Ollantaytambo

The terracing is impressive and climbing it is exhausting! From up high we observed someone approach a llama from behind and try to stroke it. The llama reacted by spitting at them. I may have laughed, sorry. I got my first close-up look at the impressive Inca stonework – giant stones slotted together without mortar and fitted so perfectly that, as everybody just has to mention and why should I be any different, you can’t fit a knife blade/sheet of paper/thin object of your choice between them:

Inca architecture (click to enlarge)

Inca architecture (click to enlarge)

The ruins are known as the ‘Fortress’, but it’s believed they were part of a religious complex. In the remains of the temple is a section known as the Wall of the Six Monoliths, which consists of six giant stones weighing around 50 tons each. Traces of relief carving can be seen but the stones were defaced by the Spanish invaders and have suffered from erosion over the centuries. The stones come from near the summit of a mountain on the other side of the valley some six kilometres away. The Inca weren’t known for using the wheel, so they had to drag these things into place. A mammoth undertaking!

The Wall of the Six Monoliths (click to enlarge)

The Wall of the Six Monoliths (click to enlarge)

From the top of the ruins we had a fine view of Pinkuylluna mountain (my guide book calls it Pinkuylluna Hill, but that’s like no hill I’ve ever seen), which is home to some mighty storehouses that I hoped we’d be able to explore at some point:

From the ruins looking at Pinkuylluna and the storehouses (click to enlarge)

From the ruins looking at Pinkuylluna and the storehouses (click to enlarge)

After the ruins we contracted a taxi driver to take us to a couple of interesting places. First up were the salt ponds of Maras, which are situated in a very beautiful location:

The view from the salt ponds of Maras (click to enlarge)

The view from the salt ponds of Maras (click to enlarge)

This site has been in use since pre-Inca times and consists of hundreds of ponds which, thanks to a series of channels, are fed by the ultra-salty water which flows from deep underground. Whenever the salt has crystalised in a pond, the water is drained and the salt collected. The pond is then refilled and the process begins again. It’s a remarkable landscape. If you put a finger in the water and let it air dry, a thin film of salt is left behind!

Sadly there was no fish and chips concession… (click to enlarge)

Sadly there was no fish and chips concession… (click to enlarge)

After exploring the ponds, and buying some pink salt, we were driven to Moray. It’s an extensive site of agricultural terraces, three of which are circular in design. The lower terraces have their own micro climates – the temperature at the bottom is apparently fifteen degrees celsius warmer than the top – so the Inca could grow a variety of crops. As we walked around we were both struggling for breath – then we came upon a sign stating that we were 3510 metres above sea level. That’s higher than Cusco!

One of the terraces at Moray (click to enlarge)

One of the terraces at Moray (click to enlarge)

There were plenty of giant succulents everywhere we went, and most had names scratched into them:

Well, it beats writing "YOGURT" on various surfaces in Brighton I guess...

Well, it beats writing “YOGURT” on various surfaces in Brighton I guess…

The roads to and from these sites were mostly unpaved and therefore very bumpy. On a narrow cliff road the driver had to reverse to let an oncoming car pass. I’m not one for prayer but looking out of the window at a sheer drop certainly made me hope for divine intervention if necessary. The countryside we drove through was stunning, with magnificent views in every direction:

The views more than make up for the bumpy roads (click to enlarge)

The views more than make up for the bumpy roads (click to enlarge)

Back in the Plaza de Armas (the name for the main square in many Latin American cities) in Ollantaytambo we stopped in Inti Killa for a pisco sour each before heading back to the B&B for a rest. In the evening we went to the Kiswar cafe for burritos. ¡Muy rico! While we were eating, three English backpackers turned up. They asked us which town they were in, and were rude to the proprietor – one of them slamming his payment down when a beer was brought to him. They also complained about the supposedly slow service – even stating the proprietor was “on Peruvian time”.

The guidebook I’d read back in England, and I’d have thought this was just good common sense anyway, had mentioned that the locals may know more English than you think, and even if they don’t they can interpret your tone. We left them to talk about spliffs and moan about not being allowed to smoke indoors. It had been a long day. We were worn out, dusty, and red from the sun. Tomorrow, we figured, would be a quiet day – chilling in the morning before catching the train to Aguas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu.


Sunday 11th September 2016

So much for taking it easy! Our train wasn’t due until 3pm but we were up early to pack (we were taking the bare minimum to Aguas Calientes and leaving the rest at the B&B). While looking up info on Ollantaytambo to see what else we could do there I discovered that it was free to visit the storehouses on Pinkuyllana that we had seen from the ruins yesterday. In the plaza we checked with a policeman if we were heading in the right direction. At first he said it wasn’t possible to go up, then said he didn’t actually know, and so off we went anyway. The route isn’t well advertised but it’s not hard to find. From the plaza if you head east up Calle Principal and then take a left onto Calle Lares you shouldn’t be able to miss the entrance.

For a free site it’s epic. It’s lung bursting and treacherous – but so worth it! There are steps, but the trek does involve some climbing. Be careful where you put your hands though – some of the grasses are very sharp (which my fingers learned early on)! You get a wonderful view over the town and ruins, and the storehouses are a majestic sight. The path gets rather vague after this, so we had to turn around and head back without getting to see the face of Wiracocha in the rock (no problem – it’s easily visible from the town).

The Plaza de Armas viewed from Pinkuylluna (click to enlarge)

The Plaza de Armas viewed from Pinkuylluna (click to enlarge)

A panorama from Pinkuylluna (click to enlarge)

A panorama from Pinkuylluna (click to enlarge)

Standing in one of the storehouses

Standing in one of the storehouses

Wiracocha and the storehouses (click to enlarge)

Wiracocha and the storehouses (click to enlarge)

We chilled with mojitos before heading to the station. I have to say I fell deeply in love with this town. It has a great relaxed vibe.

The train ride was 43 kilometres of wonderful, very luxurious with drinks and snacks served. A whole new world compared to my daily commute back home. Inca terraces were everywhere, and as for the mountains… Every time the train went around a corner there was a mountain higher than the one before. I was in awe! The closer we got to Aguas Calientes the more trees dominated the surroundings. Back at Ollantaytambo the mountains had been relatively bare, but when we reached our destination they were pretty much completely covered in green.

After checking into our Aguas Calientes B&B we took a walk to the entrance bridge to Machu Picchu in order to gauge how much time we’d need to allow in the morning (from the Plaza de Armas it’s about 30 minutes by foot if you’re interested). On the way back it was pitch black and countless fireflies entranced us from all directions. At one point a creature ran across the path in front of us. We may have walked a bit faster after that! We went for dinner at the Sacred Rocks restaurant (a delight – free beer with every pizza, Mexican soaps on the TV, crop circle pictures on the walls), and then it was off for an early night because our alarm was set for 3:30am.


Monday 12th September 2016

Machu Picchu was built around 1450 and abandoned a century later after the Conquest. The Spanish never found this remarkable city, so it wasn’t plundered or vandalised unlike other sites throughout Peru. Although Hiram Bingham was generally credited with discovering this “lost city” in 1911, it’s clear that the local inhabitants had always known it was there – indeed two locals were using it as farmland when Bingham and his team arrived.

Bingham and co certainly deserve the credit, though, for clearing the site to reveal just how big and important it actually was, and for introducing it to the world. Without his work we wouldn’t have been dragging ourselves out of bed at such an unholy hour after getting very little sleep (Aguas Calientes can be a rather noisy town).

The gate for those of us walking up to Machu Picchu was scheduled to open at 5am, hence the early start. Our tickets also allowed access to Wayna Picchu mountain between 7 and 8am, so we didn’t want to get caught up in any rush. The B&B had laid out breakfast so we had a quick bite to eat before heading off. We reached the gate at ten to five, and there was already a rather long queue.

So you decided to walk...

So you decided to walk…

Eventually we were on our way! There’s a winding road to the top for those taking a bus. For the walkers a steep 1.35km climb up 1900 steps was waiting. An hour into this climb, just over halfway up, we stopped to take pills because we were breathless. My pulse at this point was 156 bpm. It was a case of ten steps, rest, ten steps, rest until the pills took effect. Eventually, approaching 7am, we were at the top. It had been a brutal climb, but the views on the way up had been worth the pain.

"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves" - Sir Edmund Hillary (click to enlarge)

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary (click to enlarge)

We walked straight over to the entrance to Wayna Picchu. The path leads away from the main city, so you can climb the mountain and come back to the entrance without spoiling that iconic and beautiful view (you can most certainly have your cake and eat it here).

Although the sun was up it hadn’t yet crested the surrounding mountains, but by the time we had made it to the sign in point for the Wayna Picchu ascent we had been bathed in a spectacular burst of rays and felt energised for the climb ahead. The ascent began mildly enough, but soon the steps were approaching vertical in places.

Well, that escalated quickly.

Well, that escalated quickly…

The views more than compensated for the frankly knackering climb. They were exhilarating beyond belief. After about ninety minutes we were finally at the summit.

A view of Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu. The winding road is the route the bus takes (click to enlarge)

A view of Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu. The winding road is the route the bus takes (click to enlarge)

The descent was obviously a piece of cake compared to the climb up, although we did have to negotiate a very tiny cave first (I’m 6’3, and one lady asked how on earth I’d made it through). After signing out we headed back to the main entrance, ready to explore the city itself. It’s a view I’ve seen countless times in photographs, but to be there in person and gaze upon this majestic city was one of the greatest moments of my life. I was speechless, utterly verklempt at this incredible scene:

Machu Picchu (click to enlarge)

Machu Picchu (click to enlarge)

I took a walk to see the Inca Bridge, a mountainside-hugging alternative entrance to Machu Picchu that is strictly off limits to visitors (you can only go so far but then a gate blocks your path). As with Wayna Picchu you have to sign in and out. The bridge offered easy defence against invaders – if the wooden logs spanning the 20-foot gap were removed, anybody wishing to cross would have to risk climbing down with the threat of a 2000-foot drop awaiting a wrong step. The path continues off into the distance, disappearing into obscurity as your eyes follow it.

The Inca bridge. Even if it was open to the public I think I'd pass... (click to enlarge)

The Inca bridge. Even if it was open to the public I think I’d pass… (click to enlarge)

On my return we explored the city proper. My pulse at this point was down to a more respectable 90 bpm.

I love how the city fits its surroundings (click to enlarge)

I love how the city fits its surroundings (click to enlarge)

Machu Picchu panorama shot with Putucusi (Happy Mountain in Quechua) in the middle (click to enlarge)

Machu Picchu panorama shot with Putucusi (Happy Mountain in Quechua) in the middle (click to enlarge)

Eventually, exhausted and out of water, we decided to leave. During the descent some people were running down the steps, but we opted for a more leisurely pace. We arrived back in Aguas Calientes almost eleven hours after setting off. Some stats: the climb from Aguas Calientes to the top of Wayna Picchu was 2,230 feet, and the round trip was about 8 miles. The number of steps we climbed (up and down) is around 6600 (I’ll try and count them next time. There will be a next time won’t there?). We went straight to Sacred Rocks to refuel on pizza, then went to the plaza for a burrito, before catching the train back to Ollantaytambo.

The plan was to collect our luggage from Munay Punku and then get a ride to Cusco where we would be spending a few days. Unfortunately there were local protests that meant roads into Cusco were closed by roadblocks.

Our choices were limited. Option one was to stay in town for one more night and get to Cusco late the next evening after the protest was fully over. This, obviously, didn’t appeal to me as I wasn’t keen on losing a full day of sightseeing. If I could turn back time I would gladly have taken that option. But I’m an impatient sod and eventually we found a guy willing to drive us. The B&B owner even negotiated a $10 discount on our fare. If I’d known what was to come I would have happily paid double.

The drive began in an uneventful manner and I was soon nodding off, only to be jolted wide awake again when the driver applied the brakes sharply. We had encountered the first of many roadblocks. The majority consisted of a few rocks or bags of rubbish, and only blocked one lane. It was almost fun, if that’s the right way to describe wide-eyed terror as the driver skilfully negotiated the blocks. It didn’t help that the road was forever winding. It certainly didn’t help that every oncoming driver had the very annoying habit of putting their full beams on as they approached, blinding us until they had passed.

Eventually we had to slow to a crawl. Ahead lay a substantial roadblock, with just enough space for a car to pass through. Beside it were two youths. One was adding rubble to the blockage, while the other was weighing up a sizable rock in his hand. He beckoned us on menacingly, and I think it’s fair to say we were all prepared for a shattered windscreen and whatever injuries would result from that.

Suddenly the guy dropped the rock and happily waved us through. It turned out he was on good terms with the driver!

Fear was replaced with relief and, as the roadblocks thinned out the closer we got to Cusco, we were able to pick up speed. The brakes were called into action one more time when a donkey ran across the road. Finally, with frosted windows (at that altitude a clear night is a cold night!), we arrived at our Cusco hotel. It was almost midnight, we’d been awake for 20 hours, and we were exhausted. The drive had taken perhaps two hours, but it had seemed like an eternity. Thank you, blessed taxi driver, thank you!


Tuesday 13th September 2016

In Cusco we stayed at the gorgeous Casa Real, and I’d like to plug it here. I’ve read online reviews saying it’s too far from the city centre, but I don’t agree. It’s one block from the Avenida El Sol which leads right to the Plaza de Armas – a total walking time of around ten minutes. If you’re in Cusco you’re probably planning on walking a fair bit, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Plus the hotel is just around the corner from the bus depot for trips to Pisac. Incidentally the Avenida El Sol features my favourite crossing lights in the world – even better than Berlin’s Ampelmann. The green man in Cusco is animated!

We were up and ready to go out before 10am, which was a miracle considering the previous day’s exertions. Our destination: Sacsayhuaman. I tried chewing a handful of coca leaves but they weren’t particularly nice – the taste wasn’t disagreeable but they were very bitty. I couldn’t come all this way and not partake though.

The night had been cold but it was another hot day. After wandering around for a while we ended up in a café with a balcony view over the city. Then it was off to Sacsayhuaman. It’s a mind-boggling site. As a guide/taxi driver laughingly said, “we know how they built Machu Picchu, but this must have been made by aliens”! There are three levels of zig-zagging walls which run for 360 metres. The stones are so huge – weighing up to 130 tons – and so perfectly placed that it’s hard to comprehend the amount of effort that went into constructing this place.

Sacsayhuaman view showing the scale of the rocks (click to enlarge)

Sacsayhuaman view showing the scale of the rocks (click to enlarge)

Originally thought to be a fortress, it’s now suggested the site was a temple to the sun. Opposite is a natural rock formation from which you can get a good wide view of the Sacsayhuaman walls. Carved into the rock are chicha grooves, channels down which maize beer possibly flowed during festivals. On the far side of this outcrop is the Slide of Death – a ridiculously smooth and slippery section of rock that people like to ride down. There are tyres at the base to absorb the impact, and we both had a go, but I found it terrifying! Never again!

The "Slide of Death"!

The “Slide of Death”!

You also get a marvellous panorama of the walls, city and the nearby Cristo Blanco from these rocks. A gift from refugees after World War II, Cristo Blanco is an eight metre tall statue of Jesus Christ that can be seen from across the city.

Sacsayhuaman panorama with Cristo Blanco on the left (click to enlarge)

Sacsayhuaman panorama with Cristo Blanco on the left (click to enlarge)

We wandered over to a circular area and explored a small cave (apologies to the tour group we interrupted by entering through the exit, forcing them to back up so we could pass) before making friends with some llamas.

"You want to take my photo? No prob-llama!"

“You want to take my photo? No prob-llama!”

We returned to the centre of town and looked for the Cross Keys – an English pub that was mentioned in all the guide books. Sadly it seems that it had recently closed down. Instead we went to Paddy’s. At 11,156 feet above sea level it’s the highest Irish pub in the world! We settled in for pizza, passion fruit pisco sours, and Barcelona knocking in seven against Celtic on the TV.

In the evening we went to La Cabra (The Goat) for dinner. While reggae blasted from the speakers we had burritos (served with bowls of mayo, chilli sauce, and ketchup – they all worked well) and the inevitable pisco sours.


Wednesday, 14th September 2016

Another early morning, but first breakfast. You can order from the hotel menu or serve yourself from the buffet. I don’t normally eat breakfast but this morning I had olives, cheese, crackers, croissants, coffee, chocolate milk, passion fruit juice and more coffee. I needed the energy – we were going to do a lot more walking today.

Eventually we made it to the bus depot, bought two tickets to Pisac (3 soles – about 75 pence – each), and climbed aboard and waited. And waited a bit more. It turned out that these buses don’t leave until they’ve sold enough tickets to make it worth their while. It wasn’t that long a wait, really, until they’d corralled enough passengers and then we were off!

It was a rather interesting 35km journey (but at just over 2 pence per kilometre would you expect anything less?). There were many stops on the way to drop off and pick up passengers (anywhere is a bus stop). The road, in the main, was high on the mountainside. There were spectacular views and equally spectacular drops, though on the out journey the bus mostly hugged the inner lane. We weren’t necessarily safe here – there’s always the threat of rock falls. Eventually we arrived in the town of Pisac.

The town is famous for its market, but it is also home to some extensive ruins. It also has a multitude of terraces – at one point I counted over 70 descending one slope.

More terraces than you can shake a stick at (click to enlarge)

More terraces than you can shake a stick at (click to enlarge)

The ruins lay 7 kilometres from the town and so we shared a taxi with a lovely Canadian couple to the entrance. After exploring the site for a couple of hours we considered returning to the entrance and getting a cab to visit the market. However, the consensus among other visitors was that if we continued walking the path would lead us back into town. We didn’t know how long it would take but we liked the idea of making a full circuit back into town and so off we set.

Terraces and steps (click to enlarge)

Terraces and steps (click to enlarge)

After a while we were faced with a path leading, seemingly, back to the ruins. Below us we could see another path leading, hopefully, to the still-out-of-sight town, and so we made our own exceptionally hazardous shortcut down the mountainside. Halfway down we heard the Canadian couple calling, asking us if the shortcut was okay. We advised them that it wasn’t particularly fun and that they’d be better off keeping to their path, wherever it may lead. When we finally made it to the path below they were ahead of us! Note to self: sometimes the path less travelled is less travelled for a reason! After a lot more walking, during which I realised I had seen enough terraces to last a lifetime, we got to the market.

The ruins at Pisac - your boots had better be made for walking (click to enlarge)

The ruins at Pisac – your boots had better be made for walking (click to enlarge)

We boarded a bus heading back to Cusco and on the way alighted at Tambomachay. It’s a rather beautiful place. It was possibly used as a spa for the elite – water from an underground spring flows through a number of channels into “baths”. It’s fascinating to see this fully operational site up close, and at 3777 metres above sea level Tambomachay wins the trophy for the highest place we visited.

Tambomachay baths (click to enlarge)

Tambomachay baths (click to enlarge)

Close up of the baths

Close up of the baths

A short walk away was another set of ruins at Puka Pukara, which means “Red Fortress” in the Quechua language. From its name it’s clear this site had a military function – perhaps as an outpost to keep an eye out for invaders heading for Cusco. It could possibly have been used in conjunction with Tambomachay as a resting place for soldiers. The skies and views at both sites were oh so very gorgeous.

Approaching Puka Pukara, "The Red Fortress" (click to enlarge)

Approaching Puka Pukara, “The Red Fortress” (click to enlarge)

It had been another incredible day, but oh the walking… So much walking! When we finally got back into Cusco the bus dropped us off in completely the wrong place and we had to walk for ages to get back to the hotel. We then headed to Paddy’s again for much pizza and pisco.


Thursday, 15 September 2016

We went to Q’enqo (apparently Quechua for “zig-zag”!), one of the largest wak’as, or holy places, in the Cusco region. Based around an outcrop of rock it features a man-made cave that leads to an altar. Outside there’s a plaza that was probably used for worship of some kind. It may also have served as an astronomical observatory.

We then took a very long walk to another rocky site known, apparently, as the Temple of the Moon. We were told it wasn’t open to the public but because the guy in charge wasn’t around we could explore freely. On top a man playing a flute told us about various carved pictures but we never found them. He said I could take his picture for a couple of soles, so I did:

"Aqualung!"

“Aqualung!”

Below this moon temple were the remnants of walls belonging to the “Temple of the Sun”. From here we could see where stones had been quarried from the moon temple. Many interesting shapes were cut into the rock. (I’ve since discovered in my guide book that this site is known as Laqo, and that eight mummified children were found here. If only we’d known this at the time!)

After another long walk we caught the bus back into Cusco, had a coffee, picked up our luggage and got a taxi to the airport. Farewell Cusco, hello again Lima!

We arrived during rush hour and the journey back to the hotel was a long one. At one point we were in eight lanes of traffic, although the road markings only indicated four lanes – in Lima rush hour the rules don’t apply! Hell, one guy was eating Pringles as he drove. The flight from Cusco to Lima had taken one hour. The drive from the airport to the hotel in Miraflores (yes, I’d booked the same hotel for our final night) took almost two. After checking in we decided to head out for a final dinner. Close by was a Beatles-themed restaurant, but everything was meat based so instead we went to the Ristorante Fratello for pasta and sangria.


Friday, 16 September 2016

The final day… We went to the Convento de San Francisco to visit the famous catacombs. An estimated 30,000 people were buried here, and the monks have arranged the bones by type (and in some cases into interesting patterns). We joined a tour with an English-speaking guide (no wandering around on your own here). She was a very sweet lady, but she did make us feel like naughty schoolchildren, asking “who’s missing?” if any of us lagged behind! We were told not to take photos, but some of us did sneak a few snaps – the bone arrangements in the catacombs were incredible, as were the ancient manuscripts (some predating the conquest) in the library. There was also a large painting of The Last Supper with Jesus and the disciples eating cuy (guinea pig) and other Peruvian foods.

Forbidden pics from the catacombs and the library.

Forbidden pics from the catacombs and the library

Afterwards we went to a beachfront mall and had paninis and pisco chilcanos, and then it was time to head to the airport. Before boarding I made sure to stock up on Inca Kola and pisco.

I’ll miss the ubiquitous Toyota Yarises and the proliferation of original VW Beetles. I’ll miss the friendly people. I’ll miss the stunning landscapes and the monumental ruins. I’ll miss the pisco sours! Peru is a wonderful country and I can’t wait to go back!


Links

The majority of the above is taken from my notes. Some of the more specific details come from the 5th edition of the Footprint Travel Guides book Cuzco & the Inca Heartland, while various people we met also gave out helpful information. Any remaining gaps in my knowledge have been filled by the following sites:


An interactive map

I’ve made a custom Google map to show the places we visited. Click the arrow to the left of the title (“Ten days in Peru”) to see a list of all the locations.




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