Sunday, 17 May 2015

Cusco

Our next destination was Cusco. Legend has it that Manco Capac, son of the Sun God, and Mama Occlo, daughter of the moon, rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca and travelled this way looking for somewhere to settle. Eventually they reached a place where Manco Capac plunged his golden staff into the ground only to see it sink and disappear. They called the place Cuzco - "the navel of the earth" - and it became the capital of the Inca Empire. As with many Incan sites, Cusco has several spellings including the aforementioned Cuzco and also Qos'qo, the native tongue of Quechua's pronunciation. 

These days Cusco is well equipped for tourists using the city as a base camp for Machu Picchu - the "Lost City of the Incas." However Cusco itself is an impressive city with a grand cathedral, many churches, stunning views across the valley and colourful locals in traditional dress. All the religious sites were built by the Spaniards in 1532 on top of raised Inca temples - perhaps as an attempt to cast out any pre-Spaniard religious beliefs. However this was only partially successful as today Cusqueñans will visit the cathedral but only after they have prayed at the base of an Incan stone at the entrance, demonstrating how they have combined Catholicism with traditional Paganism, with a strong belief in Pachamama - Mother Earth - still instilled.

After running around the city organising our Machu Picchu Jungle Trek we took the time to participate in a walking tour which took us up to Sacsayhuaman, the largest and most impressive archeological ruins in Cusco and also the bohemian San Blas neighbourhood where live music floats through open doors on homemade instruments and artesan jewellery is sold on the streets. 
Considering the amount of tourists, Cusco still has been able to hold on to its Peruvian charm and if you overlook the countless boutiques selling "real alpaca wool jumpers" then it is easy to while away a good few days soaking up the history of the Inca civilisation.