Sacsayhuaman, Cusco

Woke up without a headache, and what better way to test if we have acclimatised than by climbing a mountain. The way up to sacsayhuaman was through paved roads or steep stairs. It’s a weird feeling when your legs don’t seem to mind the steep climb, but my lungs just kept asking for more air. I needed to stop every five minutes. We were rewarded with panoramic views of Cusco and the neighbouring mountains every now and then and it was quick to forget how hard the climb up is. Women in their costumes and pet llamas were plentiful, some selling wares, others take tips for having their photos taken.

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It was more than 1 hour to go up. 130 soles for the boleto turistico ticket that gives you access to most of the sites in the region. 50 soles for a guide, should you need one.

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‘El puma’ (the puma), an Indian shaman, was our guide (recommended because he gives a different perspective and is full of information). He guided us through the Inca symbols and wisdoms hidden in the stones around this temple. History believed this site was a fortress with it’s three levels of zigzagged stone walls. The locals know it as a temple. The original name of the site meant satisfaction of the head – meaning it’s a repository of wisdom for their people. The new name meant satisfaction of the falcons because on this site, the spanish conquerors left many incas dead, and the survivors forbidden to bury them, and falcons feasted on the dead bodies.

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‘El puma’ says he was a tour guide not for the money, he wanted to teach people the wisdom hidden on the Inca sites and tell people of the evils the Spanish conquerors have done to his people. Theirs was a proud and rich civilization, not able to read or write, but their history is on their buildings and their sculptures. They were not savages even though there are tribes who eat humans. They know steel, and their treasures are food and knowledge.
This site is only 15% of the original site. Much of the site was destroyed to get building materials for the churches and lavish homes of the conquerors.
Our guide tried to make us feel the cosmic forces by channeling energy on to our palms – unfortunately, these unbelievers failed to feel anything. He gave us Indian medicine to soothe our tummies and relieve us of altitude sickness. I think it contains chicha, alcohol made from corn, and mint. It warms the throat and stomach, but almost made me puke. It was great in inhale and does clear your head, helping you breath better.
He left us to explore the rest of the site after an hour of teaching us the symbols in the stones.

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His teachings made me realise how similar most religions are no matter where in the world they started from. Our search for a god gave us different interpretations but mostly the same conclusions.
He points to the women in their costumes, their ancestors built this temple, and they are not even allowed in the site. He says the money we pay for our entrance fees to the site do not reach these people. That is why I think it’s important too, that as tourists, we get to do our part – choose to stay in hotels owned by the locals, choose tours that are run by people who do not just exploit the people who work for them.
We climbed to the top of the temple and the turtle structure. Almost panicked as i got to the top of the stairs and struggled to get enough air at 3600m.
Crossed over to the other side where the Christ statue is located. Not much stairs here, just a steep trail up. You’ll be rewarded with more panoramic views and local music from a quechan musician on his banduria (give tips or buy his cd)
Lunch/dinner was at 4 on a wayside restaurant back to town. Chicken noodle soup and fluffy alpaca meat. Alpaca meat was a bit like overcooked chicken, with a slight liver taste. It was different. Peru libre for cocktails and chicha juice. A glass of argentinian malbec to wash down the cooties.

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Walked/climbed 8km. Ascended 259m.

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