Monday, May 9, 2011

A Journey to the Inca Land (part 2)

As our focus was visiting Machu Picchu, the only way to get there is through city of Cuzco. Originally named Qosq'o, navel of the earth, the city is filled with ruins, museums and churches. A bit daunting but bursting with life. With the population about 600.000, they expect tourists as many as 800.000 this year, celebrating the return of artifacts that sent to Yale University since 1912-15.

One of the most important point if you travel to Cuzco through low land like Lima, do not overexert yourself on your first day, at least on your first two hours. Basically, since the city is laid on 3,360 m above sea level, we have less oxygen. That's why altitude sickness (in local: soroche) is something that we need to prevent. No matter how healthy or fit you are, you can get it. So don't underestimate it. More about it in here.  Mate de coca (Coca tea) may help, so drink a lot of it. Analgesic is very useful, so make sure you have some in hand.

The symptoms could be as light as heavy breathing, headache (from mild to severe, I mean severe that you can't even lift your head), nose bleed, etc. When we arrived in Cuzco, we took a rest for a while,and go out for lunch. Guess what, we only walked for two blocks from the hotel, but felt very very tired. In the restaurant while we're waiting for the food, my little son fell asleep. When he woke up, he started to have nose bleed and felt dizzy. I gave him low dose acetaminophen, and we decided to change the plan. We did the tour by car and visited the ruins around Cuzco, thinking to let him stay at car and rest while we saw the sites.

We chose to visit some ruins a bit outside of Cuzco, one is Saqsaywaman and the other Puka Pukara. To be able to reach it the car should climb up the mountain, yes it's getting higher than 3,600 m, and we need to walk a little. Just a little walk, like 5 minutes, but since it's very high it could really break down your body. My husband walk with the tour guide to see the ruins closer and guess what, right after that he got a bad headache and he preferred to stay in the car for the rest of the tour in Cuzco. So again, be careful for every decision you made on your first day in Cuzco. Don't try to finish everything in such a short time.

Back to the story of Cuzco,
One of the most striking thing that you can see once you're in Cuzco is how the Spanish always built their buildings, like churches and city hall, over the Inca's shrines. They tried to diminished the Inca, make sure nothing was left to be seen. Fortunately up to now you still can see how developed the Inca was. There are gigantic stones cut precisely to fit one another without any mortar in between. It's nothing but a sign of advance engineering.

The center of Cuzco is Plaza de Arma. You can walking around and visit some buildings. Be careful for they can charge you and actually you don't really want to go in to every single building I assume. A city pass would be worth to have, it covered everything important. Also try to enjoy the way the Cusquenos live their life, in such a challenging condition: the height.

On the way to some ruins, when the mountains and valleys are meet, there are small shops selling typical things fro Cuzco, like clothes and accessories made from Alpaca, Baby Alpaca, Vicuna and Royal Alpaca (they look like Llama). Beware of those duplicate made from acrylic fiber, but if you have the real one and the fake one at hand, you can tell the difference. The best way to buy is from the recognizable shop. Sometimes, for certain things, they even have to give you the certificate of originality. The other thing typical is jewelery from gold and silver. You can tell that the Cusquenos are very crafty. They are very artful, combining silver with stones even pearl. I bought a silver ring, with the Inca's symbols, but every symbols was filled with tiny pieces of various stones. Imagining how they do such a neat and detail job, only for one small piece of ring, impressed me.

Peru is one of the biggest exporter of gold and silver. Gold and silver were the most important thing that were looked for during Spanish occupation. For the Incas it was nothing, shell/oyster was more precious to them. So basically the Inca just gave it to the Spanish. But guess what, the colonialist wanted it all. Before  Spanish came,  there were 9 mil of Incas, after their occupation they became 600k. The rest? You guess...