A Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Day 7

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

This morning began with a walking tour of Cusco with our local guide, Vladmir. But before we began our walk there was a demonstration. Many local citizens and children were marching down the road holding signs and chanting. Vladmir explained the parents were upset because a school for the children had started five years ago and still wasn’t finished. This was due to problems in the government.

Cusco, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, was once the heart of the Inca Empire and is known for the Inca remains. It was located in the Peruvian Andes and was under the Inca ruler Pachacutec. Francisco Pizarro thoroughly looted Cusco in 1533. Pizarro was best known for conquering the Inca Empire. What Inca foundations remained were used to construct a new city.

Our first stop was the Convent and Church of Santo Domingo built in 1538. It was located on the foundations of the Coricancha temple from the Inca empire. It was the Temple of the sun. The church and convent suffered damage from the strongest earthquakes in 1650 and 1950. The Inca walls and buildings of the Coricancha were unharmed. This was due to the resistance of its stones and the perfection of how they were built. The engineering and stonework was quite impressive! It was like building legos. It’s impossible to put a needle in the grooves. The Inca walls also have a slight inclination to better resist earthquakes.

The lawn area around the Church of Santo Domingo.

The photo below was taken in 1936 and showed the area with the church and former temple in the background.

The niche below showed the trapezoid shape of the stones and it was believed that these niches held offerings.

From the church we had a great view of Cusco and the mountains.

We toured the Museum de Arte Precolombino which opened in 2003. The artifacts in the museum were created by the people who lived in Cusco and its surrounding area for 3,000 years. It was a privately owned museum and it had examples of pre-Columbian art from the Nazca, Mochica, Chimu, and Inca cultures. This museum building was originally an Inca ceremonial courthouse. The pieces date from 1250 BC to 1532 AD and were contained in the museum’s ten galleries. Some of the artifacts from the museum are included below.

As we walked around Cusco, the streets were very narrow. Many times we stood up against buildings to be out of the way of traffic.

Narrow streets, many were one way but some weren’t!

We walked through the main square in Cusco, Plaza de Armas.

Our next visit was to the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman or Saqsaywaman. The Incas left no written record of their empire. The experts don’t know if the Inca’s destroyed any records so the Spanish wouldn’t have access or if the Spanish destroyed the Incas records. Because of this at the ruins we visited, it was conjecture.

Entrance to Saqsaywaman

Some believe Saqsaywaman (is a Quechua word that means to satisfy and hawk and together means a place where the hawk is satisfied) was an important military base of the Incas. Before the Spanish invasion it was also considered to be a fortress as well as a ceremonial center but no one knows for sure. Another thought was that it was believed that Cusco was laid out like the shape of a puma and if so Saqsaywaman was the head.

These huge stones with many weighing over 100 tons and more than 13 feet high! The Inca people did incredible stonework. The Spanish dismantled part of it and the remainder was covered in earth until it was discovered in 1934.

Another Inca ruin that we visited was Tambomachay. Of course its actual use is unknown but it is thought to be an Inca spa and a military outpost. It was located on a hill about 4 miles north of Cusco. Its elevation was 12,150 feet above sea level.

Tambomachay was built into a natural spring. Waterfalls were built into the terraces. They thought maybe it was a spa for the Inca ruler and/or the Incan nobility. Another possibility was that it had a ceremonial function and offerings were places in the niches. Or it was for a military use and the last thought was that it was both a ceremonial center and a military outpost!

The last Inca ruin that we visited today was Q’Enqo or Kenko. It was believed it was built as a holy site where rituals took place. It was a megalith which was a large stone used to construct the site.

Inside the labyrinth was the table where children and others were believed to be sacrificed!

It was a busy day learning about the Incas and their empire around Cusco.

A Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Day 5

Sunday, October 9th, 2022

This morning we met our Road Scholar group leader Victor. There were 18 of us travelers in our group. We already knew Kathy (from Colorado) that we got to know on our Galápagos Island tour with Road Scholar and Roseanna (from Minnesota) that we got to know on our Road Scholar New Zealand/Australia trip. It was great that we could meet up and travel together in Peru. The fourteen others in our group were great and our group got along well.

After our introductions, we had a speaker, Ricardo Bohl Pazos, who was a geographer. His lecture was “An Overview of Peru”. In the region of Lima, there were 50 districts and 50 mayors. Peru has over 300 volcanoes and 4 are active. He was very interesting.

Our next activity was to board a bus for a tour of the city with our local guide Claudia.

Claudia, our local Lima guide

We visited a local fish market and walked out on the pier in Chorrillos, which is another district of Lima.

Our tour also stopped at the archaelogical site that we toured yesterday, Hauca Pucllana! Claudia led us through the site but it was a quick overview. We were very glad we took the tour yesterday where we climbed to the top and also visited the entire area. After our quick tour we ate lunch at the restaurant that looks over the site. The Huaca Pucllana Restaurant served us a Pisco Sour, the classic Peruvian cocktail. As an appetizer we had ceviche which was a traditional dish in Peru. The main course was beef tips, fries, and rice. We learned that most Peruvian meals are served with two starches! This was true almost everywhere we ate local food. The dessert was caramel cheesecake but when you must eat gluten free, my dessert was ice cream.

After lunch we rode the bus to the historic downtown area of Lima. We walked to the Plaza de Armas which was Lima’s main square. Off of this square was the presidential palace, the cathedral, the municipal palace and private colonial buildings. This square dates to the 16th century.

We visited the Cathedral of Lima that was on the square. It was a Roman Catholic cathedral and it was built between 1602 and 1797. Francisco Pizarro founded Lima and set aside land for the church. The current cathedral was the third built on this site.

In the late 1800s the remains of Francisco Pizarro were moved to the cathedral and placed in one of the chapels in the church.

We got to visit one of the mansions in the historic area of Lima. The Aliaga family owned this beautiful home since the 16th century! It was the oldest dwelling in the Americas that has been home to the same family for 17 generations! Earthquakes have caused the family to do some rebuilding over the years. This mansion was gorgeous.

The home also had secret passageways.

As we walked around the town, we came across a Picarones stand. Some of our group wanted to try these. They said they were very good. The Picarones looked like doughnuts. The main ingredients were squash and sweet potato. They are fried in oil and served with syrup made from charcaca (an unrefined sugar base).

Picarones Stand
Our group tasting the Picarones.

Sites as we walked through downtown Lima.

Santo Domingo was a Dominican convent with a pink bell tower. It was an historic religious site that we toured. It had a large courtyard that was lined with Baroque paintings and vintage Spanish tiles (from the 17th century). The monastery was well preserved.

The Chapter house was where the friars gathered to solve their problems and choose their authorities. It also was the place where the University of San Marcos which was the first Peruvian university and the oldest university in the Americas! It was founded in 1551.

We also visited the monastery’s library. It contained over 25,000 antique texts.

In the library in a case was a book written on the 6th anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s death. He was an Italian poet, writer and philosopher who died in 1321! He was best known for La Commedia or The Divine Comedy!

This evening we had dinner at a local restaurant called La Tiendecita Blanca. The bartender demonstrated how to make the Peruvian Pisco Sour which was also served to us!

It was a busy day of seeing Lima.