Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bulletins From BA #26

Bulletins From BA #26
02 junio 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:
  “Cusco/Machu Picchu”

Like most expats, A.J. and I create “The List” of the places we want to visit while we’re posted to a particular country. And, with careful planning and a bit of luck, we make it to… oh, maybe two-thirds of them. But there are places of such significance that visiting them is simply not optional. Places such as Machu Picchu in Peru.

Día Uno - Up at a (typically) ridiculous hour to catch the flight from Buenos Aires to Cusco, via Lima. The sun is contemplating rising, the traffic is surrealistically sparce… and the baggage handlers are out on strike. Again. So, instead of arriving in Cusco with time to spare for self-guided exploration, we get there late, exhausted, and dealing with the possibility of soroche (altitude sickness), Cusco being at an elevation of 3400 m/11,200 ft. Forget touristing. We have some soup at the hotel and go to bed.

[Demographic Sidebar - We are a small tour group of 13 Embassy folks, consisting of nine adults: One single and two couples, and two additional couples, each with two niños (two three-year olds, a toddler, and a baby). Alright, then.]

Día Dos - Somewhat recovered, we begin our day by visiting various sites near Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. These include Saqsayhuaman (a walled complex overlooking the city), Tambomachay (which features a series of aqueducts and canals), Pukapukara (a military outpost), and Q’enqo (thought to be a place of sacrifice and mummification).

After a brief lunch break, we continued the tour in the city itself, beginning with a visit to Qorikancha, built in the mid-15th century and once the most important temple of the Inca Empire. Splendid beyond measure, it was inevitably stripped of its gold by the Spanish, who then erected the Convento de Santo Domingo, demolishing the temple and using its foundations for the church.

[Construction Sidebar - Incan masons, utilizing only stone tools and no mortar, left an astounding legacy that may be seen in many locations. But the foundation walls at Qorikancha defy belief. As I put my hands on them and ran my fingers along the joints between the enormous stones, I felt I was in the presence of perfection.]

Our day’s peregrinations continued with a visit to Barrio de San Blas, a district of artisans, workshops, and old Spanish houses built on Inca foundations, with steep hills and narrow streets designed for llamas, not taxis. We concluded at Plaza de Armas in the historic center of Cusco, and the Catedral Basílica de la Virgen de la Asunción, an imposing edifice and HQ for the Archdiocese of Cusco. Interesting though it was, by this time we were some weary tourists in need of sustenance.

Opting to stay close to the hotel, we ended up at a place called La Cusqueñita, which featured a buffet. (Peruvian food is, in my opinion, one of the world’s great cuisines. Even the buffets are worthwhile.) Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant also featured a floorshow with a band, dancers, and people in colorful masks mixing it up with unsuspecting diners. It was great fun, especially for the three year-olds in our gang.

Continuará en Bulletins From BA #27: Excursión a Machu Pichu.


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