Seat of the Inca Empire

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.

DSC03706WOn one of our free afternoons we visited some Inca ruins right within the city.

DSC03739WHere was the holiest of the Inca sun temples, Qorikancha. Originally it was completely covered in gold, but alas not anymore.

DSC03726WSome of the original structure still stands, but has been built around since then with a large church and a small museum. The grounds were really lovely,

DSC03731Wand we got some great views of the mountains at sun set from the top level.

DSC03730aWAnother 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.

DSC03745aWWe met up with two other travelers trying to do the same thing, and after much huffing and puffing we made it to the Jesus Blanco at the top.

DSC03746WFrom there we had great views of the city,

DSC03748W and also of the ruins that we refused to pay for.

DSC03750WWe decided to continue our hike to the Temple of the Moon, which was another one of the free ruins.

DSC03764WIt took some doing to find, but we were rewarded with ruins in beautiful surroundings that were almost empty.

DSC03753WLegend has it that each year on the solstice for 15 seconds the moon shines into the caverns of the temple and lights it from within.

DSC03761WWe tried to climb into the caverns,

DSC03764aW but, alas, they didn’t go very deep.

DSC03764bWMy mother and Erik thought it would be a great idea to sacrifice me to the Gods using a plastic knife, and I’m slightly concerned at how much Erik seems to be enjoying it.

DSC03764cWIt was a long day out in the sun, but I really think it paid off on our Trek and we had stunning scenery the whole way back home.



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