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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Marching through Cusco

I think I said earlier that all flights to Cusco from Lima are in the morning. And there are about a dozen of them! Anyway, we got back across the street to the airport from the hotel (awful breakfast, by the way) and went through several confusing interludes attempting to get boarding passes, get our luggage checked, pay the departure tax, find the gate. It really was hell because our Spanish isn't that good and our experience with automated check-in quite limited. Finally a LAN agent checked us in manually. If not for her, I think we'd still be there. And we had to get Peruvian momey at some point, too. Then it turned out they took dollars. I gather the US dollar is becoming the Euro of South America.

The flight to Cusco is very short. They still managed to serve breakfast, take off and land on time, and so on. Every flight there is a nail in the coffin of US domestic airlines. The more USAians that fly foreign carriers, they less they are likely to put up with crap. So fly foreign, everyone!

We were collected at the airport by the best travel agent in Peru, Elson Espinoza. He had an air conditioned van parked inside the airport. Imagine that! And they took us to the first five-star hotel either of us ever visited (I guess the Swissotel Quito is a four), El Monasterio.

Here are some pictures:

Ignore my exhausted expression and ever-present cup of coco mate tea and just look at how beautiful these surroundings are. The building dates to 1495 and became a hotel in the 1940s. They play tapes of Gregorian chants all day and have a small but fantastic chapel still in use. Here's their site:

They did our laundry and held our extra baggage while we were up in Machu Picchu. This is how they say it there: MachuPICCHu.

After a couple of hours rest and some soup (during which we encountered that horrible screaming child in the restaurant), Elson put us on a bus for a whirlwind tour of the Inca and Spanish and archaelogical sites of the area. Unfortunately, we arrived right in the middle of the Feast of the Virgin where they carry the huge statues through the streets. Traffic was awful, it was crowded, and they tried to take us into way too many sites. Joyce and I only actually went through maybe three, and stayed on the bus otherwise. You really need much more time than this to do Cusco properly, which we didn't really know and wouldn't have done if we had known. But if you are interested in Inca culture, you should plan accordingly. I enjoyed Sacsayhuaman, an ancient Inca site, and the Cathedral best.

Here's the main square, with the Cathedral, from up a mountain outside town. THE Cathedral is the one whose towers are on the left. The other one is just a local one that happens to be right next to it.

Here's why there are so many cathedrals cheek-by-jowl in South American cities: they were established by four different orders: Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits and somebody. Lots of competition for souls.

More photos:

Taken from where we took the previous picture.


Both of the above are the main square right around sunset.

You can't take pictures inside the cathedral, but it houses the famous Cusco Last Supper. Here's a link for the cathedral:

Cusco Cathedral - Cusco, Peru

And here's a link to the painting. You have to scroll down. It's hilarious.

The Cathedral Of Cusco Peru Travels And Tours Pictures, Photos, & Information.

Look carefully. In addition to the cui on a platter, there's a bottle of chicha (Andean Viagara [the local rotgut]) on the table, and the face of Judas (lower right, looking out) is Juan Pizarro.

Next morning at the butt-crack of dawn, we were scheduled to take the train to MachuPICCHu. So as soon as we got back to the Monasterio, we ordered room service, re-packed (you can only take one bag each on the train) and collapsed. Getting to be a habit.

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