Hello friends and family!
Today our team had a full day exploring historic and cultural sites around Cusco. Our fantastic local guide, Carla, picked us up at the El Mercado hotel and we walked up cobblestone streets to the San Pedro market where we got a taste of local life. Outside the market the roads are full of street vendors selling popcorn, nuts, and corn con queso as well as clothing and textiles. Inside the vendors are selling fresh juice, fruit, vegetables, cheeses and meats, clothing and offerings of candles, incense and confetti; the colors and smells were captivating and those of us with cameras couldn’t stop taking photos!
After walking through the market we headed to the Coricancha, or the Sun Temple, which was the most sacred Inca temple. In the local Quechua language it means ‘gold enclosure’ and served as a religious center for worshipping the gods of the sun, water, moon and more. The architecture and masonry skills of the Inca are beyond incredible and we learned a lot about how they constructed, shaped and transported the massive stones making up these beautiful walls that they then covered in gold and silver. When the Spanish came and seized Cusco they built a colonial church on top of the Inca walls and melted down all the gold and silver. The earthquake of 1950 destroyed many of the colonial facades that had covered up the Inca stonework exposing the original walls which withstood the earthquake because of its structural integrity and engineering. Fascinating history!
We then toured the Cathedral de Cusco and Carla explained some more history of the Spanish conquest and their use of religious iconic paintings incorporating Inca culture into the Catholic icons to help convert the Inca. Yet again the colonial architecture was stunning with detailed artwork, covered in gold and silver. The contrast between the Inca and Spanish influence in Cusco is evident throughout the city streets, cathedrals and buildings, as well as with the music, clothing and art.
After our tour we joined Javier for lunch in San Blas at Pachapapa and enjoyed delicious Peruvian cuisine followed by amazing deserts while listening to live Andean harp music. Many of us had one of my favorite dishes, Lomo Saltado, a popular Peruvian stir fry with steak strips, spicy peppers, onions and tomato served with rice and potato.
We followed cobblestone streets through San Blas, a quaint artist district on a hillside above the main plaza back to our hotel where we had a final briefing on the plan for the trek. We will begin our Salkantay trek tomorrow and by day’s end be settled into the Salkantay Lodge at 12,690 ft (3,869 m ).
One event to celebrate today is that Fred was reunited with his checked luggage! I too had my luggage delayed on the way to Lima, and received it 24 hours later. It is a good lesson, even for the seasoned traveler to carry on valuables, a puffy jacket, a warm layer, your trekking boots or shoes and a change of clothes, as you never know and Cusco can be quite chilly in the shade or evenings while you wait for your bag!
Stay tuned from (still) team ‘yet to be named’! (We are working on it! You can’t rush these things!)