So when I planned to come to South America this year, I thought that “summer” would equate warm weather. My bad. It’s the rainy season here! And no, it’s hardly ever warm, although the sun does shine through from time to time in the city.
Cusco met me with wet stone streets, dark buildings, and gray rain clouds. In the distance, I could see the sometimes colorful stucco homes scattered all over the hillsides, alongside rows of crops and farmland. And words sometimes, written large on the hills, spelling out the names of universities, Cusco, history, etc.
I was supposed to meet up with my friend Penny so that I could do the four day trek to Machu Picchu with her and her friends, but I had no idea how that would coordinate. Good thing she happened to be standing outside the door of my hostel when I first arrived by cab! That night I got to meet the whole group over a good dinner of traditional Peruvian/Cusqueno food. I had the alpaca; it was pretty damn good. They had a nice spicy sauce to add to our dishes that didn’t seem to be that hot, but maybe that’s just because I’ve been exposed to so much Southeast Asian spicy food since becoming an AYPAL staff member. Nothing beats that hotness!
The next day we all met up to take a trip to the Ollantaytambo temple. I had missed the previous trip to the Saqsaywaman temple (“Sexy Woman”) the day before because I only had about 6 hours of sleep over the past two days (after 3 flights and 2 layovers from SFO to Cusco) and decided to rest while everyone else went touring.
On the way there, we of course stopped off at a flea market as a part of our tour. I bought some mandatory earrings, and coca leaves – one bag for me, and one for Lizzy, who was hungover/suffering from altitude sickness in the van. I also got to hold a baby llama, which is pretty much my dream come true. We later went to an animal sanctuary, where got to visit with different endangered and hurt animals. Our guide even got a condor fly over our heads as we dodged and took pictures of the spectacle. Condors have always been highly revered animals in Peru and were considered gods during Incan times; yet today they are targeted by poachers who want their feathers – probably to make trinkets for tourists 😦
More photos of fuzzy and cute animals to come…!
Ollantaytambo’s temple is incredibly impressive and stunning. The small town is said to not have changed much since Incan times. There’s a lot of history to the area, but as I am a visual learner, and have poor audio memory (unless I take notes!) I don’t remember the details. Basically, the temple’s full purpose remains a mystery. Some say it was a temple to honor the Sun. You can see some amazing stone architecture around the temple – homes, fountains, terraced gardens, and stone steps and rooms. And storage buildings built up high on the sides of the mountains. When the Quechua were building the temple, they had to halt construction to fight off Spanish conquistadores, who were warring with the Incas over territory and power. It was never finished.
For more information, check out: http://www.machupicchu.com/peru/tour-guide/ollantaytambo