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.

The Galápagos Islands Day 2

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Our group met this morning at 8:30 AM for an introduction of each other and Patricia gave us an overview of our day! There are 13 of us from around the U.S. and Gonzalo with Holbrook Travel will be with us also!

We left the hotel around 9:15 AM and our driver dropped us off in the old town of Quito which is an UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site. Quito is the capital city of Ecuador. It is located between mountain peaks and is at an elevation of over 9,000 feet so it was important to drink plenty of water and take it easy as we walked the city so we didn’t suffer from altitude sickness.

Our first visit was to the museum Casa Del Alabado.

The museum held a collection of over 5,000 objects that were created from various materials and gave a vast information about the cultures that lived in Ecuador from 7,000 BC and 1530 AD. Also, the museum’s collection best represents archaeological possessions of Ecuador.

Below are a few of the items in the museum.

It was fun to see a couple of school groups touring the museum. We also saw them creating their own artifacts made from clay.

As we walked to our next stop, we saw stores selling spices and the San Francisco Plaza.

We visited the Capilla de Cantuna. This chapel was one of the first built after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

The Church and Convent of St. Frances was our next visit. This complex was part of Quito’s UNESCO area. It encompassed 13 cloisters, 3 churches, a plaza, over 3,500 works of religious art, and a library with thousands of books and historic documents. We walked through the main courtyard at the Basilica of San Francisco which was built between 1573-1581.

We then climbed up to the second level of the courtyard and then up to the choir stalls of the church. From this location we could look out below to the interior of the church and its altar.

The front facade of the Basilica of San Francisco.

There were over 20 churches just in the historic area of Quito. As we were walking we saw five churches within several blocks! We went in the Jesuit church, Church of the Society of Jesus or to the locals it was the Church of La Compañía. Photos were not allowed but this church was filled with gold leaf and was with ornate details of the Baroque style. It took over 150 years to build this church and it was completed in 1765. It was beautiful.

The Virgin of El Panecillo or the Virgin of Quito can be seen on top of El Panecillo, a hill in the center of Quito. The statue of a winged Virgin Mary was made of aluminum by a Spanish sculptor, Agustin de la Herrán Matorras. It was placed on top of its base in 1975 with a total height of 135 feet.

As we continued our walk in the historic center we passed by the Carondelet Palace (built in the 1500s) which was the seat of the government for the Republic of Ecuador and on its 3rd floor was the residential area for the President of Ecuador.

The Palace was located on the Plaza Grande.

We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant not far from the Carondelet Palace. Our dessert was served by a penitent who was dressed in a purple robe and purple-pointed hood. In Quito you would see a parade of penitents for a Good Friday procession. We had our very own at lunch!

Our group of travelers, minus Dave who took the pictures!

After lunch we met our bus driver and headed to Capilla del Hombre to learn about the works of Oswaldo Guayasamin, a famous Ecuadorian artist!

As our bus headed back to the hotel we noticed the amount of wires on the poles. To us it appeared as a tangled mess! You can decide for yourself.

We had time to freshen up before Juan Carlos Valarezo gave a lecture on past, present, and future of Ecuador. His talk was very informative and we learned a lot.

Tomorrow we fly to the Galápagos Islands!