Jul 15, 2008

An In-Depth Look at Cusco

So, after arriving in Cusco early in the morning and exploring for awhile on my own, I had just enough time to freshen up and meet my group in the hotel lobby for our first official outing. Abelardo, our awesome guide, was ready to take us on a walking tour of Cusco. The fresh air felt good! I learned a lot about this ancient city and had fun meeting the others in our group! Did you know that Cusco is built in the shape of a PUMA?

I was fascinated with all of the history. As I listened to Abelardo tell us stories, I was intrigued by the blend of two distinct civilizations… the Inca and the Spanish. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire. The translation (in Quechua language) means “naval of the world.” Everything the Incas built was in accordance with the sun gods, measuring light from both the summer and winter solstice, and the sunlight of the fall and spring equinox. We saw a fountain that was carved from one piece of stone and used to mark what the Incas believe is the exact center of the 4 corners of the earth.

Let me bore you with some fascinating history: The Inca nation, called Children of the Sun, began its expansion in the early 1400’s, one of the greatest and most rapid expansions that has ever been recorded. After the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500’s, the city was transformed. We could see this influence mainly in the architecture. Inca temples became Spanish cathedrals. Inca masonry sat next to Spanish-style archways. Spanish language harmonized with Quechuan (the language of the Incas). During the Spanish Inquisition, one would be murdered if caught speaking Quechuan, yet somehow, the language survived! We walked through the small community of San Blas, and spent time learning of the Inca’s fascination with astronomy. It is speculated that a city boundary was warped to make it coincide with the mid-point in the Milky Way! Everything we saw and learned about had some relevance to astronomy. Definitely Children of the Sun!

We walked through and toured cathedrals and plaza squares. I sensed the ancient beliefs and noticed ancient traditions. The past and present all speak their own languages and tell the own separate stories. I learned the importance of the serpent, the puma, and the condor; past, present and future. While Christianity is the primary religion today, the Incas still believe in worshiping the earth, sky and the sun.

The history was expansive, extensive, and far too much to include here in my blog. What I can tell you is that upon completion of our tour… it hit me… altitude sickness. Oh my gosh! Here’s my recipe for disaster: 7 hours of sleep over the course of 48 hours; no coffee (I wasn’t sure the water in the coffee was considered ‘safe’ so I skipped my morning cup of java); an altitude of almost 11,000 feet above sea level, and an afternoon of serious tourism. The word ‘headache’ does not even begin to cover it. My new best friend, Curtis, bought me a nice hot cappuccino, but I was too far gone. I excused myself and opted out of our late-night welcome dinner. Instead, I soaked in a very hot… and I mean extremely hot bath. After an hour of hot bath-therapy, I crawled into bed and fell sound asleep. By the next morning I was feeling great - eager and ready for another full day of adventure!

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