One of the coolest things about Cusco is its role as the capital of the Inca Empire. Great pains have been taken to preserve the Inca culture, the most evident of which are the Inca walls everywhere in the city integrated into new buildings.
We learned a lot about Inca construction on our free walking tour and why they have lasted so long and withstood earthquakes when so many other structures have failed. Apparently the secret lies in three main aspects. First the walls are built with smaller stones on the bottom. This may seem unintuitive, but the smaller stones are then allowed to shift and move during an earthquake which gives the walls some flexibility. Secondly, it’s hard to miss how perfectly the stones fit together and it still seems somewhat of a mystery how the Inca created such perfect fits using convex and concave shapes. Finally, all of the structures are built with a 15% grade so that they create a sort of trapezoid. After learning this, Erik and I constantly teased my mother about taking the “trapezoid stance” to make sure she took steady pictures.
Another afternoon, in order to help us acclimatize we all decided to hike up to a cluster of ruins above the city. After trying various tactics to get in for free, such as claiming we wanted to rent “caballos” and asking if we could just walk through Sacsayhuaman to the free ruins, we realized that we needed to alter our approach. We somehow found a very small path that went straight up the hill that bypassed the control gate.