Thursday, July 23, 2015

Checking out Cusco--7/13-15 and 20-22

I arrived at Cusco just after 8am and had a great breakfast at the airport while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive at 9. Steven Smith had arrived just before me on LAN so we both waited for the others arrival. It turned out they were put on a later Star Peru flight and got in about 11am. We then headed to our El Balcon hostel where we would stay for a couple of days to acclimate in the 12,000 foot elevation before proceeding to our Chocquequirao trek.


View of Cusco from El Balcon Hostal.

We had invited a Inca shaman to ask Panchamama for a save journey to Choquequirao. He performed this ceremony in candle light. He created a kind of universe beginning with cocoa leaves and adding more elements from nature including items of ours we gave him. He then murmured Quecha words over it and then wrapped it up to take to a special place. Ronny was the guide for this session.

At the Plaza de Armas we seemed to always see performances of children who were apparently preparing for the big Peru Independence day on the 28th. Some of the performances of the children were quite startling. The girls would be whipping the boys and them slapping their faces while laying down and then the girls would be laying down and the boys would then chock the girls with their flutes. At the end the girls would be standing over the boys with their foot on the boys' chests with whip in hand.




We walked by the many beautiful plazas and churches and enjoyed walking through the local markets. I stopped by the fruit drink stand that I had first visited in 2005, and the woman there remembered me. I bought a mango, banana, pineapple smoothie from her for just 6 soles. The following day I had a carrot, mango, pineapple smoothie. The woman remembered the names of all of the people I had photographed including the little ones that I had photographed.



During our walks through the Plaza de Armas and other plazas we saw groups of little kids practicing their dances and marches for the up coming Saint Carmen fiesta as well as the Peru Independence Day celebration on July 28th.

We enjoyed eating at a variety of Peruvian food restaurants ranging from the Andean Grill on our last night where we feasted on cuy---guinnea pig---at 60 soles to a local restaurant where the set lunch was just 10 soles. This cheap lunch included soup with a big bone in it with some meat and vegetables, main course of trout, chicken, or tripe, along with chicha morada--purple corn juice. I enjoyed the trout and no one tried the tripe except for the locals that surrounded us.




One evening we went to the Pappllion Restaurant where we had some more delicious Peruvian food ranging from trout to lomo saltado alpaca and Peruvian pizza. We also were served a liter of house red wine at just 28 soles. Along with dinner we were entertained by some Peruvian musicians

We toured the Qorikancha museum along with the Santo Domingo Church that was built over these Inca buildings. Our local museum guide, Diana, was very knowledgeable about the history of the Incas and the Spanish conquistadores.

On our last day in Cusco before beginning our Choquequirao trek, we walked up to Sacsaywaman, the huge Inca fortress that overlooks Cusco. The stonework there was incredible where these huge stones were tightly fitted together and have withstood earthquakes but many of the orginal structures have been taken by the Spaniards for use in building their own homes.

These stairs were our first challenge in getting up to Sacsaywaman.

Steve, Malu, Alexis, Gary, Heidi, and me at the edge of the fortress.
Llama lawn mowers.

Malu taking hundreds of pictures of a sleeping lamb at Saacsaywaman----she is a professional photographer in New York City afterall.

I'm jumping for joy high above Cusco.

Gary and Heidi doing the same.

During our walkabout we came to some Inca slides which we had to try out. They were very slippery, but fun. Just think some Inca royalty probably slide down these same slides for fun just like we had.

We also walked through some cave that ended in a round field that had what looked like two rows of spectator seats.

When we returned from our Choquequirao trek around dark on the 20th we all made a bee line to the laundry. This time I took everything I had to the laundry except for my PJ bottoms and Hawaiian shirt---quite a fashion statement don't you think. It was an express laundry so my stuff would be ready within 2 hours. We went next door and all had pizzas and wine or beer to celebrate our trek accomplishment to Choquequirao and back in 5 days----75 kms with descents of 4500 feet to the Apurimac River and back up to Choquequirao.

After dinner at the Andean Grill we headed to the Museo Pisco----a popular bar that pretended to be a museum----- where we enjoyed a whole variety of Pisco drinks along with some great live music. A great way to celebrate our achievements on completing our trek. Juan Carlos, our local guide, joined us for dinner and this bar where we toasted Alexis, our Crooked Trails tour director with the Mexican cheer that Malu had taught us. It goes like this:

a la bio a la bau a la bim bom bam juan carlos juan carlos ra ra ra!

The band at the Museo Pisco was so entertaining that we ended up having two pisco drinks. Gary and Heidi along with a Swiss couple delighted the customers and performers with their dance moves---especially as the band kept speeding up the music until it was a frenzy of a dance that Malu also joined in.




The bar crew was so impressed that they invited Heidi to be a drink mixer behind the bar. The following morning we all moved a bit slower as we waited for our van ride to Chinchero.

On our last day in Cusco we visited the Proyecto Phawarispa, a school and training center for youth with mental and physical disabilities. They have about 25 students and many have some degree disability along the autism spectrum and the remainder appeared to have the downs syndrome. It looked like the ones with autism had about a 1:1 or 1:2 teacher to student ratio while the others had about a 1:4 ratio.
Some of the goals for these students was to have achieve some degree of independent living in that they would be albe to take care of their personal hygiene, and carry out some scheduled activities.
This school is only about a few years old and they would like to see some of their students placed in housekeeping or food service type of jobs since there are so many hotels and restaurants in Cusco. To that end they have set up hotel rooms with beds and cabinets and a dining room with kitchen as a training ground.
Although they have no placements yet, they continue to make contacts with hotels and restaurants and train their students.
Students not suited to this type of work are being trained in agriculture work. They have established an organic garden and sell the products to restaurants in the area.

It was apparent that attitudes and acceptance of disabled is perhaps more than 30 years behind where the US is with regard to how disabled are viewed and treated.

This school is just beginning and they currently have an annual budget of $200,000 and was founded by a Dr. in Seattle who's Peruvian wife was an educator of disabled children and died in the past few years so the Dr. dedicated resources to establish this school in memory of his wife. Donations are welcomed.

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