Saturday, May 07, 2011

Day 14: Cusco

Note: Because I had no internet connection on the boat, I'm posting these about a week after they actually happened. I'll post one Galapagos post each day, followed by Machu Picchu posts, so you can live vicariously through my diaries and photos.

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Like Ecuadorians, about 90% of Peruvians are Catholic, but unlike Ecuador, only about 10% of them go to church regularly. Still, there's no shortage of cathedrals. We went to the one in the center of Cusco today, but no pictures were allowed. It had a lot of gold, a lot of saints, and a lot of bloody Jesuses.

From Cusco

More interestingly, we visited the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, a monastery that was built on top of Inca temples called Qoricancha (above). In fact, most of the center of Cusco uses the Inca walls. When the Spanish came, they seemed to realize that the Inca walls were quality, so they left them in place and built second stories on top. In Qoricancha, we were able to see where they had plastered over the Inca walls.

From Cusco

Cusco was planned by the pre-incas in the shape of a puma. ("Puma" is actually a Quechua word for mountain lion.) The head is Saqsayhuaman, pronounced like "sexy woman". Due to active excavation, we were only able to visit the walls around this complex, but the walls alone are exceptional. They are the largest Inca rocks used, and they were transported from miles away. Also at Saqsayhuaman: llamas and a street performer who only knows one song, and just the chorus, "Let it Be."

From Cusco

In the afternoon we visited the Inka Museum, where a guide gave us an overview of everyone who has ever lived in Peru. It took a while, but it makes more sense. If you decide to visit Peru, visit the Inka Museum first, because it's a good orientation to the different tribes and where the Quechuas and Incas came from. Less on the Spanish colonials, who were jerks anyway. I also visited the Cusco Museum of Natural History, just because I had the time and have a habit of visiting science museums. It was one room filled with stuffed animals found in Peru. Most of them were from the Amazon area, but there's a surprising number of large cats, primates, and crocodilians. That's also the only place I was able to see a condor.

Finally, in the evening we had a demonstration of Peruvian instruments. There are three categories: wind, percussion, and strings. The wind instruments are many variations of pipes, like the ones you hear/see in NYC. He also had one that looked kind of like a French horn, but made out of cow intestines. My favorite percussion was a clay or stone frog with raised scales that you run a stick over. Then for strings he had a regular guitar (introduced by the Spanish), but also a 16-stringed derivation and a 20-string derivation, and a funny-looking harp. I would tell you the names for all of these, but I wasn't taking notes.

From Cusco

Click here for the whole day's album.

See vacation summary (with links to each day).

1 comment:

  1. I know it must have been annoying, but I love the idea of someone singing the chorus of "Let it Be" over and over in the middle of sunny Cusco.