Ephemerratic - 5/25 - Independent travel blog with stories, travel guides, photos, travel art, and local food
Having poked around Sacsayhuamán, Todd and I head for a bouldery hill just across the site’s broad, grassy field. It looks like a sweet spot to relax and take in the whole of the extensive Incan ruins and the views of Cusco far below.
Nearing the hill’s top, we hear the type of screaming laughter that forms the vocal track at any amusement park. Curiosity pulls us to the far side of the hill, where we find a giggly family of Peruvians scrambling up toward us. This hillside here is steep and ridged, looking like ocean waves turned to stone mid-crash. The Peruvians reach the top, quickly sit down, lift their hands—
—and down they go. Fast.
Some people visit the ruins of Sacsayhuamán in the hills just above Cusco, Peru to see the remarkable Incan walls, bricks carved so perfectly that the thinnest blade can’t fit into the seam between them.
Others come to see the wild-haired alpacas, nature’s best and most photogenic lawn mowers.
With all the Incan ruins to see and llamas to pose with, most people visiting Peru’s Sacred Valley probably wouldn’t stop in any of Cusco‘s museums if admission wasn’t included in the boleto turistico.
Not us. Todd and I would have made our way to the museums regardless, if only to counteract our Peruvian “Ruin Fatigue” (similar to “Church Fatigue” we suffered in Italy, “Temple Fatigue” in Thailand, and “Damp Cave Fatigue” in Laos).
It’s fair to say that Cusco’s museums are dinky. But, even the dinkiest of museums usually offers something up to the art addicted. A visually illustrated bit of history, a gaudy bauble worth coveting, or an artist with a surprising talent.
While nowhere near the league of Lima’s Museo Larco, Cusco’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo del Instituto Americano del Arte, and Museo Historico Regional each had an oddball heart.
We avoid making eye contact with most everyone in Cusco‘s Plaza de Armas. Being so shifty eyed makes chilling out on one of the main square’s park benches a little awkward. We want to people watch, because there are just so many, so varied people. But, make eye contact with the wrong person and they’ll pounce with a pitch.
This is how it goes in the town of the touts.
While wandering aimlessly through Cusco, Peru‘s hilly San Blas neighborhood, the choice is pretty much just up or down. We choose to wander up and up until we come across a small terrace. Seats at a table. Coca tea. And this, the best view of Cusco we’ve found.
Today’s transit of Venus is the last one we’ll see in our lifetimes. We were lucky to have a fog-free afternoon to watch the small dot traipse across the sun. We still had our eclipse glasses from our recent solar eclipse chase, along with a lingering astronomical itch.
Neither Todd or I are religious. Ask us if we believe in god, and we’ll tell you stories instead. About how, when we first moved to San Francisco, we hosted a combined Passover Easter party and a Hindu guest knew more about the reasons for the holiday traditions than any of the Jews or Catholics there. And how we served trayf ham at that party and dyed the Passover seder egg in Easter pastels.
Ok, we’re not just irreligious. We can be so irreverent some certainly consider us sacrilegious.
The Jesuits of the 1600s sure knew how use a church to get all up in the face of others. Built to outshine the nearby Catholic church, La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, or Church of the Society of Jesus, looms over Cusco, Peru‘s main square.
Building on Incan sites was a common practice by the Spanish conquistadors, and beneath the Baroque church is the remains of an Incan palace, a victim of colonial and religious re-branding.
If Machu Picchu vanished, retrieved by Incan extra-terrestrials, the Sacred Valley would still be a top Peru destination. We visited in mid-March, at the tail end of Peru’s rainy season. I can’t imagine a better time to visit. The valley was saturated with colors and we rarely had to battle for a seat at a restaurant.