Cusco - Peru
CUSCO - PERU
Sadly it was time to leave Lima and head to Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport to catch my flight to Cusco, a city located 583 kms from Lima at an altitude of 3,399 metres (11,152 feet) above sea-level, much higher than our highest mountain in Australia.
I allowed plenty of time to reach the Airport in anticipation of travelling in frenetic traffic like on my arrival, thank-goodness this wasn't the case on my return journey.
I was flying with Peruvian Air, one of the cheaper airlines with flies to many Peruvian towns. As I was early and had plenty of time, I browsed the souvenir shops and found a good range of souvenirs, I didn't buy though as I thought souvenirs would be cheaper at market stalls in Cusco.
My flight with Peruvian Airlines from Lima to Cusco took about 1hour 15minutes. Once departing Lima airport, the plane flew out over the ocean and then turned and made its way back inland and over over the Andes mountain range where I saw snow capped mountains peaks popping out of the many clouds that had gathered in the high altitude.
It wasn't long and we were flying over the fairly large city of Cusco, a city with lots of orange roofs.
Surrounding the city were hills and valleys that looked like a patchwork quilt.
Cusco is only a small airport with a couple travel agents from where I picked up a free map, then I caught a taxi to my Hotel, the La Casa De Fray Bartolomo. The lady at reception was very helpful and pleasant, in-fact all the receptionists were, and they could speak English. I appreciated one of the staff carrying my luggage upstairs to my room on the first floor, a good size room which included a bathroom/toilet. Even though I overlooked a main street, I found I had a very quiet night. Breakfast was included in the deal and that was across a nice garden in a separate room, or you could have breakfast in the garden. Sadly the morning was too cold to be eating outside.
La Casa De Fray Bartolomo - I enjoyed my stay here.
As I had the whole afternoon for exploring Cusco, I had a cup of cocoa leaf tea then hit the streets. The hotel was in a good position in the historic centre, only a short walk uphill to the Plaza de Armas, Cathedral and Monastery. I was told to walk slowly until I acclimatized to the high altitude, this I did and still found myself short of breath.
At least after my mishap that resulted in a sprained ankle in Lima, I knew to watch where I was walking, thank-goodness I did, as anybody could have a nasty accident walking along these streets.
The footpaths were uneven and there were deep holes that looked like they should have been covered, but they weren't, no good for tourists who are looking at other things instead of where they are putting their feet. I noticed some other people nearly falling over through not seeing these dangerous hazards.
As I walked, I noticed a lot of the buildings had balconies, but not like the historic enclosed balconies I had seen earlier in Lima. These were open
Being a tourist destination, it was no surprise to find a young Quechua girl approach me to have her photo taken.
Not being a novice, I knew money would be involved.
Quechua girl @ Cusco
She was dressed in a beautiful brightly coloured outfit, which today is a mixture of styles from pre-Spanish days and Spanish Colonial peasant dress. Some women wore embroided skirts, hats and jackets, whilst others wore clothing decorated with beads and flowers.
The locals can tell by the way these ethnic people dress and do their hair, what their social status in the community is and what region that person is from.
The young girl I took a photo of, was wearing a Lliclla - a small rectangular handwoven shoulder cloth worn on the front of her body in which she was carrying a tiny Lamb. It looked like she was wearing one skirt or Polleras, but many women wear 3 or 4 skirts layered or up to 15 skirts during festivals.
Two older woman had a K'eperina, a larger rectangular carrying cloth worn over the back and knotted in front. They had children in theirs but I saw many with their shopping/ goods in the K'eperina.
All were wearing Monteras (hats ) which can identify which village the women comes from. The white straps are woven sanq'apa straps adorned with white beads and their sandals are made from recycled truck tyres and are known as Ajotas.
As I walked along the streets, I noticed many buildings built with stone foundation from Inca times, then the top was plastered. Many of them had beautiful open balconies, different to the historic enclosed balconies in Lima, although both are Spanish architecture design.
I walked to Cusco’s main square, the Plaza de Armas where the Cusco Cathedral and the Church La Compañía de Jesús is located.
The square was filled with locals and tourists wandering around, many just taking time out on one of the many garden seats in the square. I liked the layout which had a large fountain in the centre with paths radiating out from there, lawn and pretty gardens.
Plaza de Armas
There was a group of Artists painting and selling their work, others were walking around trying to sell their paintings, whilst some ladies were selling painted Gourds.
Plaza de Armas
This square covers part of the area that was once the Great Inca Square, today it looks different as it's surrounded by Spanish colonial buildings with balconies and long stone arcades.
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin and the Triunfo church
On either side of the cathedral were 2 smaller churches which were included in my entrance fee to the Cathedral, and so was the no photo policy.
The Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family Church- 1723) was on the left, and on the right-hand side was Triunfo (Church of Triumph).
The Triunfo church was built in 1536 over an Inca ceremonial building, inside the church is a statue of St. James atop a horse slaying an Inca.
While in the Plaza de Armas, I went into the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, also known as Cusco Cathedral. The Spaniards drew up the plan of the church, then building began using Incas as labour to build the church. Finally in 1654, after 95 years construction, the Gothic-Renaissance Cathedral with a facade incorporating some Baroque architecture was complete. The Incas carved the head of a jaguar (an important god) on the cathedral doors.
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Sacred Family church
The interior was magnificent! The entrance fee was 25 soles, sadly NO photos were allowed. The main altar was embossed in silver and consecrated to Our Lady of the Assumption, behind it was the crypt that holds the ashes of many of Cusco’s deceased archbishops . The cathedral has 14 side chapels, all gold and silver overload, many famous artworks, paintings, altars and statues of saints and virgins. The choir stalls were beautiful, so was the 'Silver Room,” that contained a collection of religious silver artefacts dating back hundreds of years. It took me quite a while to look around the cathedral, I just wished they had allowed photos!
The Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus was another impressive church in the Plaza.
The Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus
When the Jesuits began construction of this church in 1571, they decided to make it the most magnificent of Cusco's churches. The archbishop of Cusco argued that it should not be allowed to compete with the cathedral as the seat of the diocese, how-ever, this caused so much conflict that a message was sent by ship to the Pope in The Vatican. Communication this way was very slow, so by the time the Pope had written a message back to the Jesuits in South America, the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus was almost finished.
Viewing the churches took quite a bit of my time so now I had to hurry and find the Mercado Central de San Pedro markets I wanted to see. Lucky for me the walk was only around 10mins and I was there. On speaking to an American, I was told they are not like they used to be, instead they have come a bit of a tourist attraction with many of the items not being made by the local people. This didn't put me off!
I must say that I love oversea's markets where I find different things to home.
As it was getting late in the day, the market wasn't very busy, some of the stalls were packing up for the day.
The markets are open from 9am - 6pm and are located on the corner of Calles Tupac Amaru and Cascaparo streets. Morning is said to be the best time to visit, although I found the afternoon a good time and not that busy at all.
On entering the building I was blinded by colourful bags and other souvenirs, the smell of traditional local food being cooked and a mixture of other smells. I took my time walking past the stalls manned mainly by women, some of them so bored they were asleep!
The stalls are grouped together - souvenirs take up quite a few aisles, vegetable stalls together, meat, cheese, bread and much more. I found I was the centre of attention at this time of the day, that didn't matter, I just smiled and asked if I could take photos and was allowed every time.
I wished I came from a cold climate as the Alpaca clothing was so reasonably priced.
The meat area of the market was particularly interesting. No refrigeration here! Most of the meat was on open benches, so If you have a weak stomach, then you may find it hard viewing intestines and other offal on display, even skinned cow's heads!
I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around this market and seeing the unusual sights. Time was marching on and it was getting near Dinner time. Ladies with Bowler hats were converging on the street footpaths and in the parks with their portable cookers to cook genuine Peruvian food.
Lots of people had finished work and were coming here for food and pleasure. I found a good chicken shop for my meal, then made my way back to my Hotel for the night and a good sleep, as tomorrow was an early start for a tour of the Sacred Valley