Heaven before Hell
06/23/2010 - 06/25/2010 70 °F
Wednesday June 23rd 2010
We leave Cusco early with our group, Dante and another local guide. Right outside of the city of Cusco we visit “Sacayhuaman” (which sounds roughly like saying “sexywoman” with a Spanish accent).
These ruins display some of the Inca’s best work, their most incredible architecture and unbelievable stonework. Although it looks like a fortress with its massive rock wall protecting it from the outside world, it really is a temple (some arguments are still made about its military uses). Pachacutec, an Incan emperor, began its construction in the middle of the 15th century and it took almost 100 years to complete. Its large structure and expansive grounds could house more than 10,000 men in its peak.
Left today are the well standing outside walls, some towering up to 11 feet high and weighing up to 300 tons each, interconnected and zigzagging through the surrounding lands. Each stone fits perfectly to the next without the use of any mortar… those crafty Incans. This beautiful area will be host to the celebration of the sun god tomorrow.
Sacayhuaman holds many secrets, some of which are in the form of dark caves. We go through one of these shorter caves, pitch black and scarily narrow… Our guide tells us the story of a research and his student getting lost in one of the longer caves many, many years old. The cave they were in led from this ruin all the way ten of miles to the foundation of the cathedral in the middle of the city. Once the two reached the barrier between them and the church underground, they hollered and banged on the stones for help for days. The people in the church heard these noises but mistook them for the gods sending them messages- and the church’s people celebrated this holy visit. Days after their death, the research and his student’s bodies were found deep inside this dark cave….
We visit two more ruins, and take an hour walk/hike through a canyon area, before we make our lunch spot in a small town called “Pisac” best known for its bazaar of…you guessed it!...woven goods. This Andean village rests at the eastern end of the Sacred Valley. We eat lunch on a balcony looking over this small square which is completely overtaken by local vendors, children peddling small trinkets, and some random hippies through to perform with a sword.
We eat, walk around, buy some stuff, and head back onto the bus bound for our hotel “La Casanoa de Yucay” further into the Sacred Valley (“Urubamba Valley”).
The Sacred Valley is a relaxing place stretched between beautiful mountains on either side, containing some of the most important ancient Inca ruins, small markets, and stands at about 9,000-10,000 feet above sea level.
We arrive at our hotel, a small but relatively sprawling grounds with yards and gardens, all rooms facing the gardens and/or mountains beside us. It tranquil here- the nicest hotel we have stayed on this trip… and we know very well why… The coming days will be hell.
We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing around the hotel, napping, reading, and enjoying the beautiful weather and gorgeous views. We eat dinner at the hotel; smoked trout on a Caprese Salad and rare Alpaca with rice.
Our group also had our Hiking Orientation where we go over the fact that Mom, myself, and one other guy from our group (Denmark) will be on the Quarry Trail (or the Larse Trail, we are still very confused on what we were actually on…), while the rest of our group will be on the classic Inca trail. The reason for this is our late booking for this trip, and the inability to then gain permits to the Inca Trail, which only doles out 500 per day, and are usually sold out 3-6 months in advance. We have no idea what to expect on our very less well-known hike… other than the fact that we are told it is harder and more remote. Hmmm…