I woke during the night at 0300 and 0500. Pretty much getting used to that by now. The good thing was that my camera battery had charged overnight. The bad thing was that my socks had not dried. At least my top and boxers had dried. Breakfast was delicious – green and red melon, kiwi fruit, banana drizzled with chocolate and sesame seeds, papaya and a glass of fresh orange juice. The papaya looked like mango but was not as sweet and tasty. We would be spending the morning with Silvia touring some sites, then receive her pre-trek briefing, before having the afternoon and evening free for ourselves. That last bit turned out to be our downfall.
We left the hotel by mini-bus at 0900 and arrived at Tambomachay at 0935, at a height of 3765m.
This is a religious site, and we had soon come to know that religious sites could be recognised by the higher quality of construction. A basic lesson in Inca construction – if there is no mortar between the stones it is an important place. The fascinating fact about this site is that it has water running through it, but they still do not know the source of the water. Back in the mini-bus and a quick stop to really just take a look at Pukapukara from a distance.
So much to do and so little time available to do it in. The next site is Q’enqo, which is a sundial. No, it is nothing like an English sundial. It is great big rocks, and one in particular which was used to cast a shadow on June 21 and December 21. The Incas had two seasons – wet and dry – and it was vital they knew when each started so they could make the best use of it.
And this sundial helped them to do that. There is more to the site than just that, and we see a burial chamber behind the sundial. But we must move on because the biggest site of the day is still to come – Saqsayhuaman.
Once believed to have been a fortress, they now consider it to have been a religious place. They clearly did not look at the mortar (or rather the lack of it) closely enough. Actually, being serious, it does seem like every time they make a new discovery in Peru they have to reevaluate everything they have considered as fact before that – it really is an evolving history. Saqsayhuaman was stunning on so many levels. It covers a vast area and contains some massive blocks of stone.
It also gives us a breathtaking view of Cusco below, and across the valley we can see Jesus. I can also a see a festival in aid of animal welfare, which does not appear to be very well attended.
We leave at 1210, and it has been a very full 3 hours. Then by 1225 we are back down in Cusco and at Qorikancha, Convento De Santo Domingo Del Cusco, The Temple Of The Sun. Originally an Inca temple, the Dominicans came in and destroyed most of it and built their own church around it.
Some of the original Inca architecture was only discovered after an earthquake knocked down everything around it – and we were shown the shock-absorbing effects the Incas built into their structures. Very effective and very clever. Better than anything those Dominicans came up with.
We went back to the hotel and Silvia gave us her pre-trek briefing. I can’t help thinking she thinks we know what we’re doing. She tells us we will need to carry 3 litres of water with us. I do not have a problem with that, but I am slightly annoyed that the kit list had only indicated the need to bring one water bottle. I had brought two anyway, but if we had been told to bring three I would not now be thinking I needed to go and buy another… Silvia said that our day packs should include our waterproof, first aid kit, snacks, torch, suncream, insect repellant, hat and sunglasses – I have all those. Taking some toilet roll with us would be useful as well. And then Silvia made her only mistake of the whole time we were with her…she let us roam free. She did recommend somewhere for lunch on the main square, but we knew better. Going off the main square would be cheaper. And more authentic. And just…better. Never go off the main square. Never ignore the person who actually lives in the city. We found a place, and the place next door tried valiantly to steal our custom as we looked at the menu outside. Maybe they were trying to warn us. We sat down and selected from the menu and ordered. And then the staff disappeared for the best part of an hour. An hour in which every street seller in Cusco passed by our table, and refused to pass on until every single one of us had said no to their wares. Our drinks eventually arrived. Sometimes at the third attempt as they brought the wrong ones. Russ had gone off to call home, and so was spared this ordeal. In fact, when he returned he ordered some food and it came at the same time as ours. I do not have a note of what I ate, and suspect I am trying to forget forever. It may well have been an over salted pesto pasta. And probably a fruit juice.
Enough of that. We went shopping for supplies. I got something to carry a water bottle, even though I already had that side of things sorted with my carabinas. And then I ended up getting a red Machu Picchu 100 Years water bottle which came with its own carrier anyway – not sure how long that stitching will last. The bottle came with a screw-on top, which had a mini carabina attached. Katherine was checking one before buying it, and with the top off was concerned that the one she was holding did not have a rattle…that pretty much made up for lunch ! We went back to the hotel to pack, and we worked out that the tip money from each of us for the various porters, cooks and horsemen who would be accompanying us was 165 nuevo sol. We took no chances for our evening meal and headed off to the place Silvia had recommended for lunch – The Crown. It was excellent, a great ambience and really good food and drinks. I had some mango juice and a vegetarian pizza (mushroom, olives, onion and peppers). We had to be ready to leave the next morning at 0730, so it did not become a late night. I did have a strange dream, though, and I think I will blame the altitude for it. I was asked to be one of the presenters at the Classic Rock Society annual awards, but when it came to it I had never heard of any of the bands on the cue cards, and could not pronounce any of their names. I guess Tinyfish were not nominated for Best New Band for a third time then.
You can see more photographs from the day here.