Peru, April 28, 2013: Sacsaywaman
We awoke to another sunny morning in Cusco. Today’s mission: Sacsaywaman, the ruins of an Inca fortress just outside of Cusco. After obtaining a vague idea of where the ruins were located on our map, we headed out on foot. Danny seemed confident in where we were going, so I let him lead the way down many narrow, unmarked neighborhood streets and then up a long flight of steep stairs that left us both sweaty and winded at the top. Catching your breath in Cusco is not easy because of the altitude, and we often found ourselves gasping for air after walking uphill or up a few stairs. Upon reaching the top of the mammoth staircase I immediately slipped out of my jeans and into some shorts that I’d thankfully had the foresight to bring along, and we headed down a large road, doing our best to avoid the oncoming traffic.
Before long we found ourselves at the foot of a giant statue of Jesus himself, one you can see on the hillside from all the way down in Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco. We had come a long way. In fact, we were both surprised when we stumbled upon the statue, which had appeared so tiny and far away from down in the city. Maybe those stairs were steeper than we thought. We used the opportunity to take some pictures of ourselves and the city views, which were spectacular. Then it was on to Sacsaywaman, which at this point was in sight. We headed off down a side path marked, “Dangerous. Men at Work” that deposited us close to the entrance of the ruins. Upon arriving at the gate, however, we learned that tickets were more than we realized and that we were four soles shy of the price for two. Luckily a tour guide was able to exchange some USD (at a rate that benefitted him, I’m sure), and we made the ticket price by the skin of our teeth. I would have been disappointed if we’d walked all that way only to be turned back at the gate!
Once inside we took a self guided tour of the ruins, marveling at the size of the stones and the precision with which they were assembled. Unfortunately, prior to the 1930s, builders had stolen the precut stones for other uses, so the ruins were but a shadow of the structure they once were. All the same, it was still quite impressive!
Two views of Sacsaywaman
After sufficiently touring the photographing the place, we made our way back to city center via a different route, stopping for a snack in a small café before heading back to El Mercado San Pedro in search of some wool for Danny’s mom, who has her own hat making business. She had requested red or blue llama wool, but neither could be found, so instead she got pink alpaca wool. Oh well! I also bought a lovely blue tablecloth from a sweet old lady after perusing a few stalls. I was pleased with myself for pulling out my Spanish skills to compare prices between vendors, negotiate and then ask the important questions, such as, “if I want to wash this, can I use a machine?” I always enjoy conversing with the locals.
The rest of the afternoon was spent having lunch, obtaining walking sticks for our trek (surprisingly cheap to rent), wandering the streets and browsing in a few shops. We purchased some coca-infused chocolates, which were interesting. I’m not sure they’re my cup of tea. Following that we retreated to the hotel to take a load off while we waited for the 6:00pm briefing from our Enigma guide, during which we learned about the adventure that lay ahead and met several other people in our group. We tried to have an early evening, knowing that a 3:30am wake-up awaited us followed by four days on our feet.