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Legacy of the Incas

Cusco to Puno and Lake Titicaca

sunny 68 °F

On Saturday we left Cusco at 11,000 feet and flew even higher into the Andes to Juliaca where we boarded a bus to travel the 45 minutes to Puno and Lake Titicaca and our hotel, the Libertador, which was right on the shores of the lake. We were now at 12,500 feet, which becomes a real challenge for those of us who normally live at sea level. The hotel offers complimentary oxygen sessions (about 10 minutes) for those who have trouble adjusting. The lake is composed of two nearly separate sub-basins connected by the Strait of Tiquina, which is 800 m (2,620 ft) across at the narrowest point. The larger sub-basin, Lago Grande (also called Lago Chucuito), has a mean depth of 135 m (443 ft) and a maximum depth of 284 m (932 ft). The smaller sub-basin, Wiñaymarka (also called Lago Pequeño, "little lake"), has a mean depth of 9 m (30 ft) and a maximum depth of 40 m (131 ft). The overall average depth of the lake is 107 m (351 ft.)

On Sunday, we boarded a very comfortable boat for a full day on the water. Our first stop was the floating reed islands or Uros Islands. The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas mats), and to make the islands themselves. The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones, only about thirty meters wide, house only two or three. The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. The islands last about thirty years. We had a wonderful visit leaning about their culture and way of life and native dances.

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We then reboarded the boat and drove about an hour to the UNESCO heritage site of Taquile Island, one of the last frontiers conquered by the Incas. Taquileños are known for their fine handwoven textiles and clothing, which are regarded as among the highest-quality handicrafts in Peru. Knitting is exclusively performed by males, starting at age eight. Women spin wool and use vegetables and minerals to dye the wool to be used by the community. Women are also the weavers of the Chumpis, the wide belts with woven designs worn by everyone in the community of Taquile. The island is divided into six sectors or suyus for crop rotation purposes. The economy is based on fishing, terraced farming horticulture based on potato cultivation, and tourist-generated income from the approximately 40,000 tourists who visit each year.. We learned about their history and wonderful weaving and knitting skills (which earned the culture its UNESCO status) and had a wonderful chicken lunch.

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It was then back to the boat for our trip to the hotel and a quiet evening. At this altitude, you burn out quickly, and everyone was pretty exhausted by dinner.

Posted by rpickett 12:41 Archived in Peru Tagged lake titicaca Comments (0)

Legacy of the Incas

Cusco

sunny 68 °F

After only passing through Cusco earlier in the trip, we visited the sites of the city today.

First was the Inca ruin of Sacsayhuaman, equally as important to the Inca civilization as Macchu Piccu. Sacsayhuaman, is a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100; they had occupied the area since 900. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca from the 13th century; they built dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. The site is at an altitude of 3,701 m. In 1983, Cusco and Saksaywaman together were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Inca used similar construction techniques in building Saksaywaman as they used on all their stonework, albeit on a far more massive scale. The stones were rough-cut to the approximate shape in the quarries using river cobbles. They were dragged by rope to the construction site, a feat that at times required hundreds of men. The ropes were so impressive that they warranted mention by Diego de Trujillo as he inspected a room filled with building materials. The stones were shaped into their final form at the building site and then laid in place. The work, while supervised by Inca architects, was largely carried out by groups of individuals fulfilling their labor obligations to the state. In this system of mita or "turn" labor, each village or ethnic group provided a certain number of individuals to participate in such public works projects.

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We then headed back into town for a visit to the Santo Domingo Monastery. The Church and Convent of Santo Domingo date back to the end of the 16th century. The church is famous in Lima for being the only one with a "real" steeple, which in consequence of the construction over several stages has a very peculiar style. Inside the church are the oldest choir stalls of Lima, the famous statue of the Virgen del Rosario and the silver urns that contain the relicts of Santa Rosa (the patron saint of Lima) and San Martín de Porres.

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After a productive day, we were treated to a wonderful buffet dinner and traditional Peruvian entertainment at a local restaurant.

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Posted by rpickett 08:07 Archived in Peru Tagged cusco Comments (0)

Legacy of the Incas

Machu Picchu to Cusco

sunny 65 °F

After a wonderful morning in town, we boarded the train to head back up the Sacred Valley and back to Cusco, where we would spend the night at 11,000 feet.

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Posted by rpickett 14:46 Archived in Peru Tagged to machu picchu cusco Comments (0)

Legacy of the Incas

Machu Picchu

overcast 65 °F

After lunch in the village, we boarded the buses that take you to the entrance of the ruins. We spent the next two hours viewing one of the most amazing sites in the world.
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Posted by rpickett 14:30 Archived in Peru Tagged machu picchu Comments (0)

Legacy of the Incas

Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu Pueblo

overcast 60 °F

This morning we headed down the Sacred Valley to a lower elevation to the town of Machu Picchu Pueblo, the gateway to Macchu Picchu. It's elevation is only about 8500 Feet.

First we stopped at the town of Ollantaytambo to visit the village and view its ancient Inca Ruins. Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays it is an important tourist attraction on account of its Inca buildings and as one of the most common starting points for the four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail.
In addition to the ruins, we were able to visit a local home complete with its supply of Guinea Pigs.
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After the ruin visit, we boarded the train, that would take us to the jump off point for Machu Picchu.
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Posted by rpickett 14:09 Archived in Peru Tagged valley sacred machu picchu pueblo Comments (0)

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