Friday, September 4, 2015

Beef Hearts & Alpaca & Guinea Pigs, Oh My!

Saturday August 29, 2015

Today is actually Friday September 4th; a combination of unreliable wifi and days packed with travel and adventure got the best of me. But I've been keeping notes, so here we go!

We had breakfast on Saturday at the Dragonfly Hostel in Lima. Classic bread, rice puff cereal, coffee.

We then traveled by van to the Lima airport and made our way across the Andes Mountains to Cuzco, Peru. We got settled into the Dragonfly Hostel in Cuzco and met up with our tour coordinator Willy. He directed us to the beautiful Plaza de Armas in Cuzco where we met our tour guide, Freddy. 

Our "City Tour" of Cuzco began at Qoricancha, the Sun Temple. This was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated to Inti, the Sun God. Spanish settlers tore down part of the temple to build the Cathedral of Santo Domingo on top of it. When the area was stricken with earthquakes, the Spanish built portions of the buildings crumbled, but the Incan structures remained due to their exceptional stone masonry. The Incas built their stone structures with a lock and key type of system, and the stones were cut on a slight angle that made them more resistant to earthquakes. 



Next, we ventured to Sacsayhuaman (which sounds very similar to "Sexy Woman" which our tour guide found rather funny). Sacsayhuaman means "speckled head". The city of Cuzco is said to be shaped like a puma and this raised fortress that overlooks the city is the head of the puma. The limestone walls run nearly 400km in length and weigh and upwards of 300 tons a piece. Pope John Paul gave a mass here in 1988.


En route to our next destination, we stopped to overlook the Sacred Valley.

Then we continued our journey to Tambomachy. Commonly referred to as the Inca Baths, this was a site for ritual bathing. It has been suggested that it was used only for ceremonial occasions and that the water there would give you immortal life. The four cutouts in the structure signify the elements water, fire, earth and wind. It was at this point that we realized we should have packed some parkas, we were freezing!!

We made a quick stop at Puca Pucara, the Red Fort. Theories are that this fortress acted either as lodging for travelers or as a guard post to regulate goods and people from Cuzco to the Sacred Valley.     

As it got dark, we stopped quickly at Q'enko. This rock is an example of "Inca Rock Worship". There is belief that the Inca held cosmological beliefs that rocks possessed hidden spiritual force. On the top of the rock are zigzag channels that held sacrificed llama blood. Inside the rock is an altar where sacrifices took place.

Our last stop on today's tour was at an alpaca factory where a local Peruvian woman taught us how to differentiate real alpaca goods from synthetics.

After a day packed with history, traveling and lots of pictures we set out for dinner. Cuy, or guinea pig, is a common dish in Peru and it was on the top of my list of things to try out. We ventured to a restaurant near our hostel and ordered cuy, beef hearts and alpaca lomo saltado. The alpaca was by far the best, tasting similar to steak. The heart and guinea pig were both a bit tough, and though we were glad we were adventurous and tried them, are not something we would seek out in the future. 

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