Waking up to a chilly 2 degrees centigrade, we are starting to appreciate that this is winter in the southern hemisphere. Although it is expected to rise to 18 degrees in the daytime, it is always very cold at night. This explains the way that the indigenous people dress, in many layers, and always a hat. We took advantage of the beautiful alpaca knitwear available in the shops, and have attired ourselves in appropriate Andean winter attire.
Cuzco is fascinating for many reasons. First, this is the historic capital of Peru, and is the oldest city in South America, as the Aztec ruler Atahualpa had succeeded in defeating his brother for rule of the Inca empire. He was a mighty warrior who managed to take control of most of South America, including Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Columbia. It is thought that the population of the Inca empire numbered about 160,000,000. Yet, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro, with only 160 men, through lies and trickery, direct slaughter of thousands, with the help of smallpox and other European diseases, was able to effectively bring the Inca Empire to an end.
Today, 60% of the population of Peru is Inca, and they are very proud of their heritage. All of the guides that we have had as well as all of our drivers have stressed that the Inca are a proud people, and that their language is Quechan, not Spanish. In Cuzco particularly, it is easy to see that the Andean Incas are holding onto their traditional ways.
The Catholic influence is prominent here, with a cathedral on every corner. They are quite large and extravagent.
There are also many squares, with lovely parks in the middle, and of course, a statue of Atahualpa.
In the afternoon, we went on a tour of the main cathedral, and then up above the city to some of the Inca ruins. These were fascinating, as they were built in the 1400s, and gigantic stones were moved several miles on wooden rollers, where the stones were fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, where not even a piece of paper can fit between them.
We were happy to get back to our hotel, exhausted but happy after our day's adventures. Fortunately, we have had only mild symptoms of altitude sickness, with slight headaches and shortness of breath when going upstairs or uphill. We have been told that these symptoms should abate by day 3, so we should be in good shape for the Inca Trail.