Chile - Peru 2009

Cusco, Peru

10 November 2009

General Information

Local Map

Photographs and Commentary
Click on picture to enlarge

The morning was spent wandering around the central area of Cusco. We walked up to the Plaza de Armas, the main plaza in town and looked at the shops that lined it. I tried to find a bank where my ATM card would let me get Peruvian Soles... I was not successful. I have been able to use an ATM in other parts of the world to get local currency and was surprised that I was unable to do this at three different banks. I contacted my bank at home and asked if there was any kind of a hold on my account and was told that there was none. So, I tried a different approach. I went to a bank on one of the main commercial streets in Cusco and decided to ask for US Dollars... success at last. I then took my Dollars and went to a money exchange to get Soles. It required an extra step but at least I could buy things with local currency.

This afternoon we met David, our local guide. The agenda was to tour a bit of Cusco and then head up into the hills to visit several ruins. The first of these ruins was Sacsayhuaman, a fortress high above Cusco. Sacsayhuaman was built, in the normal Inca manner, of large stones (the largest is 361 tons) assembled with no mortar to hold them together. The stones were cut to fit each other with stone and bronze tools and took the labor of over 20,000 workers. Much of the fortress was torn down by the Spaniards and used for building materials for their version of Cusco. Only the outer walls of Sacsayhuaman remain to this date. It is an active archeological site. We walked around the fortress for quite some time before heading out.

After leaving Sacsayhuaman we went to a few other sites and finished up at Tambomachay which is known as "El Baño del Inca," or, Inca's Bath. There are a lot of theories as to what this site was. Our guide thought it was a rest area where travelers coming to Cusco could clean up before entering the city. The most common theory is that this was a ritual bath. The altitude at the entrance to Tambomachay is at 3,765 meters (12,352 feet) and may be the highest spot we will visit during our stay in Peru.

David was a guide that didn't look at his watch too closely. If had questions and wanted to stay at a particular site longer, he said , "OK." As a result we didn't spend much time in some of the lesser sites and spent most of the time in Sacsayhuaman and Tambomachay. It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the hotel. Most of us were a bit fatigued and wanted to rest before going for dinner. Dinner in South America is usually a late thing... many of the restaurants are relatively empty until after 7 pm. After dinner we didn't get back to the hotel until around 10 pm and went to sleep in anticipation of another long day tomorrow.

Front of Casa Andina Private, our hotel

The Plaza in front of the Casa Andina Private, our hotel in Cusco. The hotel is made up of a series of what we believe were individual homes with their own courtyard.

Plaque next to entrance of the hotel. I assume that this was the original Spanish structure on the site.

Narrow Streets in Cusco

Sacsayhuaman, as seen from the Plaza de Armas


Left, The narrow streets of Cusco were never designed to handle motor vehicles. Many of the streets are quite narrow with little or no sidewalk room. Traffic is heavy.

Cusco Cathedral viewd from one of the many porticos fronting the Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas


Left, Cusco Cathedral viewed from one of the many porticos fronting the Plaza de Armas

Iglesia de la Compaña;

Detail above the main door of the Iglesia de la Compaña


Left, Iglesia de la Compaña, the Jesuit competitor to the Cathedral

The porticos surrounding the Plaza de Armas. Even Cusco can't escape from McDonald's. It occupies a store in the building at right.

"Graffiti" on the hillsides of Cusco placed there by the military. With the new environmental attitude in Peru these "works of art" will be allowed to fade away.

Portico fronting the Plaza de Armas

Entrance to Sacsayhuaman

The entrance to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The guides like to call it "Sexy Woman" so I asked our group of women to stand under the sign.


Left, Portico fronting the Plaza de Armas

Approach to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman

Archeological excavations at Sacsayhuaman

Susie as reference to block size

Nearly perfectly assembled blocks make up this wall

This assembly of blocks shows how well engineered this work is. It contains nearly perfect right angle corners and huge blocks fitted so they do not need mortar to hold them in place.


Left, Susie standing next to one of the larger blocks to show its relative size

The cousins assembled in front of the largest block

The cousins assembled in front of the largest block


Right, Notches in the block were used to maneuver and work it into place.

Notches in the block were used to maneuver and work it into place

Figure in stone wall

The Incas apparently placed blocks to represent animals and other figures. This assembly of blocks (contrast enhanced) seems to show a llama with the ears missing.

Stone block lintle

This lintel stone weighs several tons. How did they get it here from a quarry as much as 30 Km away and how did they raise it to the top of the door? Many theories abound. The Incas did not use the wheel.

Cusco as seen from Sacsayhuaman

View of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman

One of the fountains at Tambomachay

One of the fountains at Tambomachay

Fountain/bath at Tambomachay h at Tambomachay
Fountains/Bath at Tambomachay

Temple of the Sun in church - Cusco

The Temple of the Sun was destroyed by the Spaniards who built a church on top of the ruins. Portions have been rebuilt and are housed within the church.

Temple of the Sun in church - Cusco

Church courtyard viewed through a window of the Temple of the Sun

Sample of technique used to join blocks

Samples of blocks showing method used to join them. Some, like the one in the center, are joined to the block above by stone pins fitted into the hole in the center. The Incas also used molten brass poured into the carved semicircles and T's to create staples that joined adjacent blocks.

Church Courtyard

Church courtyard adjacent to remains of the Temple of the Sun

Restored sections of the Temple of the Sun

Restored sections of the Temple of the Sun. Church courtyard arches are seen on the left.


Right, Portions of the Temple of the Sun incorporated into the structure of the church.

Church built on the foundation of the Temple of the Sun

Church built on the foundation of the Temple of the Sun

Previous Day Next Day