In the morning we awoke semi-rested, but wholeheartedly ready for adventure! We grabbed a quick meal in our breakfast nook and enjoyed viewing the sea of clay tile that decorated all the rooftops. The sunshine (both my sunshine and the literal) warmed the room and holding a cup of hot coca tea between my hands, I was finally warm for the first time in Peru. Ahhh. Coca tea is another popular drink in Cusco. It helps with with altitude sickness (and its warm!). Incans actually ate coca leaves when traveling hundreds of miles to give them energy.
After breakfast we packed up and headed off to meet our tour group at Tika Wasi.
I have this bad habit of filling my bag to the brim. Give me a 6 ft suit case and I’ll fill it to the tip top. Doesn’t matter the size or shape, I always feel the need to fit in as much as I can! Do you have this problem too?
This trip was no exception. Tika Wasi was only about 6 blocks away from our hotel, but I swear at 13,000 ft and 30 extra pounds on my back it felt like 60. I’ve never felt so out of breath and so close to passing out in my life. Walking up about 10 stairs seemed impossible and my head felt like it might actually explode. At that point, I think I needed about a gallon of coca tea. I promise I’m not addicted! Wooooweeee altitude sickness is reallll ya’ll. Confession: I totally tought altitude sickness only affected older or pretty out of shape peeps. WRONG.
I had to take a quick sit to catch my breath. Brian kindly switched backpacks with me and I begrudgingly restarted our trek up the stairs of death.
Tika Wasi wasn’t as swanky as Hotel Arqeologo, but it was charming and the staff members were just as kind. And they had a pot of coca tea waiting in the lobby which I downed a cup of immediately. Looking back I was showing signs of dependency.
We met our whole travel group and our awesome guide, Patricia. We learned of travel plans for the day and rest of the week We decided to be brats and break away from our group to take advantage of touring the ruins around Cusco: Sacsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay.
We had another quick sit, grabbed some snacks, and off we went. The first ruin, Sacsayhuamán is about a 20 minute walk up about 5000 steps so I needed about 5000 breaks to make it up. At the top we bought our Boleto Turistico, which gives you access to all the Incan sites and museums around Cusco. Well, almost all of them, but definitely worth it!
We were quickly greeted by our trusty guide Jose’ who believed everything was sacred. He was full of stories (which I’m sure only half were true) but he was so charming he could get away with it. We followed him around for about 4 hours eager to hear his tales, explore the sites , and count sacred numbers 🙂
Here’s a little bit about each site we visited:
Sacsayhuamán (said like saq-say-waman) is believed to have once been a royal retreat, a fortress, or both. Its zigzag walls are built with some of the largest stones to be found in Inca masonry; some are estimated to weigh as much as 300 tons, yet are fit together as tightly as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. You can see more of Peru’s awesome ruins here, where I found this quote about Sacsayhuamán.
I loved sliding down the natural slides at Sacsayhuamán! Jose’, working hard for his 100 soles (around $40) and being the experienced guide he was, knew the exact spot to yell so our voices would echo back from one side of the ruin to the other. The Incas used these locations to communicate with one another.
After we hopped on our first public bus (I’m still shocked how many people they cram into the back in those things) and chugged up to Tombomachay. Tombomachay, is known by locals as the ‘Bath of the Incas’. The water here is considered sacred and our guide insisted that Brian and I take a sip. We felt lucky to drink from the fountain and hoped our stomachs would later agree.
Next, we headed over to Puca Pucara located at the peak of a hill overlooking Tambomachy. It is thought to have been a military fortress, used as defense for Tambomachay.
The Temple of the Monkey and the Temple of the Moon
My favorite part of this day was walking through the country side and viewing the beautiful mountains surrounding us. Jose’, still working hard for his 100 soles, took us off road to two other sites, the Temple of the Monkey and the Temple of the Moon. We saw people meditating and went inside the sacred caves.
We ended our journey visiting Qenqo. In quechua, a native language of Peru, Qenqo means ‘labyrinth or zigzag’. A place of worship, the walls are covered in carvings of lamas, pumas, condors and other symbols.
After, we said our goodbyes, packed back into another public bus, and bumped our way back down into Cusco.