Peru is pretty famous for its ruins. I mean, the Incas had a pretty extensive empire and undertook a lot of construction. Cusco, the capital of the Incan empire, is home to a lot of ruins, mainly as a result of the Spanish bearing down on Peru and saying “heathens! all heathens! we shall destroy your religion and culture and way of life because we are Spanish!”
Okay, maybe they didn’t say that, but the Spanish definitely destroyed a lot of Incan buildings, temples, and fortresses and definitely went to war with them. But I’m not here to give y’all a history lesson (mainly because I don’t know enough to teach someone else); I’m here to share recent adventures to ruins in the Cusco area! Yay!
A good friend of mine, Iain, came to visit me the other week so I saved up all the visits to ruins so we could explore them together. And explore we did. We probably hiked about 30km+ over the course of a few days at high altitudes (+3000m) and with A LOT of stairs.
After a day to relax and adjust to the altitude, Iain and I headed out on a hike of ruins, beginning about 10 km outside of Cusco and then walking back.
First up: Tambomachay! These ruins have aquaducts and canals and is believed to have been used for water ceremonies and worship.
There was even a donkey helping to cut the grass.
And a pig wallowing in the mud.
Next up was Puca Pucara! Translated, it means Red Fort and is thought to have been used as a guard post on the road from Pisac to Cusco. It’s not that impressive though there are great views of the mountains.
Then we wandered a bit more and came across these ruins which, I believe, are called Amaru. There wasn’t much information about what these ruins were used for but you can kinda see how they carved into the stone to make stairs.
On our way to Q’enko I spotted these two dummies hanging from a tree. I have no freakin’ clue what they are there for. It was a bit creepy.
Inside Q’enko was an egg sitting on what was probably an alter and used for animal sacrifices. Q’enko, I learned, was likely used for ritual ceremonies.
Our final spot on our day hike was Saqsaywaman! This place amazes me; I was there last year and I immediately felt that it was built by giants for giants. The stones are HUGE! One apparently weighs about 300 tons and some are about 11 feet tall. Huge. Saqsaywaman was likely a religious temple and makes up the head of the Puma-shape that Cusco was built. What remains is probably about 1/4 of the original size and there was probably some military use as well. I stole this picture from Iain. Isn’t it awesome? I hope you don’t mind Iain!
The best part, in my opinion, was the rock slide. I also took this pic from Iain since my memory card was full so I couldn’t take anymore snaps. The slide was actually really slippy and I had to be really careful that I didn’t slam my right foot into the ground at the bottom.
So that was that day! I got sunburned, walked a lot, had some bonding time with Iain, and saw some fascinating ruins.
More ruins still to come!
I’ve got some crazy updates comin’ at ya this week! After about a week and a half of non-stop fun, I have a ton of photos to share with you: tons of ruins including Machu Picchu, climbing a mountain, and today, a trip to the zoo!
My friend Arianna and I headed out to Tipon yesterday (about 30-45 minute bus ride east of Cuzco) to visit the zoo. To be honest, we were really only going to see the sloth.
This zoo is by far the sketchiest one I have ever been to. If it were located anywhere in Canada or the U.S, it would be shut down in a flash. But this is Peru. Things are different.
Sketchy Reason(SR) #1 : built on the side of a mountain.
There is a variety of animals there. Like this owl.
In this cage we have a tortoise, a monkey, and what I think is a duck. Random? Absolutely. SR # 2
A parrot! There were a couple others in the cage with this guy. A too-small cage IMO. SR#3
Monkeys that people could pet and feed. Just a simple chain-link fence separating humans from animals (SR# 4). I have to admit, this guy looked a bit sad.
They even have a condor. I’m really hoping there is a reason why this bird can’t be in the wild. Condors are pretty big and there is no way this dude can fly in the cage. SR#5
I spy with my little eye three alpacas sitting in a row.
Okay, this little guy was ADORABLE. I don’t know what type of animal he is. That’s okay. We bonded.
BIG yawn! Check out that tongue!
We held hands. (SR#6 – most zoos wouldn’t allow humans to pet baby animals, I don’t think)
We saved the best for last! We looked all over for the sloth and couldn’t find him so we finally asked. Turns out he was hanging out (literally) in a tree that we walked by about three times. One of the workers brought him down so we could cuddle. SR#&
Check out the claw!
I have named him Sully. He does have a “real” name but I didn’t catch it. This guy is 4 years old and, according to the worker, is blind during the day. Or maybe permanently. I didn’t catch all of that. I was a bit too obsessed with cuddling.
After all the excitement of the zoo and all of its sketchiness (I didn’t take pics of the stairs and the other randomness there), Ari and I headed to the next town over, Saylla, for chicharonne! It is a specialty there – seriously, the street is lined with chicharonnerias; probably about 20 of them. Ridiculous.
For those of you who don’t know, chicharonne is fried pork served with corn, portatoes, and onions. We enjoyed it with some Inka Kola and at the end, we were served this drink. I don’t know the name but it is supposed to help you digest the pork. It has anis in it. I didn’t like it.
And that, my friends, was my Sunday! Enjoy your Monday! I’m off to a day-long meeting today so will be working hard.
Receiving mail is awesome. Receiving mail when you’re living in another country and you know that mail is full of favourite goodies from home? Well, words can’t describe it.
Last week I received my second parcel sent by my mom and I thought I would share in the delight of not only the great things I received (thanks, mom!) but also in how you go about picking up a package here (insert sarcasm font for the latter part of that sentence).
As my mom and I have learned, paying for express delivery isn’t worth it; it actually takes longer than regular air mail and costs a TON more not only in shipping, but for me to receive it here. It’s ridiculous. So here’s what happens. The package is sent. I receive a tracking number so I can follow it’s progress. After a couple of weeks, it lands in Peru. I receive a notice form like this one:
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Having mail sent to an apartment is difficult because there really isn’t anywhere to leave the notice. So I had my mom send it to the school where I took Spanish lessons in January. I checked with them and they were cool with it. I asked if they could notify me when the form arrived.
The notice was delivered on March 13. I never heard anything so I headed ‘round that way early last week. Lo and behold, the notice was there. Moral of the story: if you ask someone to notify you of something, don’t count on them. I was told that I could just go to the post office here in Cusco to pick it up.
The next day, I go to the post office. This is what it looks like inside. There aren’t any signs telling you where to go to pick up packages or the process that is involved.
Luckily, a friend told me what to expect. When you get the post office, you had your form over to a security guy who gives you a number, like this one.
You have to get there early to get a number. You can only pick up packages between 8:30am and 12:30pm HOWEVER they only give out 30 numbers a day. That means you can get there at 10am and there be no numbers left or you can get there at 11:30am and there could be numbers left. But once they hit 30, that’s it. Doesn’t matter that they are open for a few more hours.
Eventually, your number gets called and you make your way into the back. I had never picked up a package here before so I didn’t know where to go. The security guy just gestured. There were no signs. I only went to one wrong place, thankfully.
And there was my package! Yay! It arrived in one piece!
Before I could leave with my box of goodies, I had to hand over my passport, sign about 3 documents, pay 7 sols (about $3), for what I don’t know, and watch as the workers opened the box, inspected the items, and then replaced them and taped it back up.
I then had to walk home. Could have taken a taxi but I couldn’t be bothered. Besides, it was a nice day and walking is good for a person (yay healthy decisions!)
I was running late for a meeting so I only had time to open the box, check the contents for explosions (minor one with the almond butter), grab one of the power bars as a snack, and then hightail it to my meeting.
Later on I got to pull out everything and revel in the amazingness.
- Funfetti cake mix (oh yeah!)
- Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate (made in England)
- Warm socks
- hot chocolate mix (the hot chocolate here tastes awful when mixed only with water and I try to avoid dairy)
- lip balm – my fave: Burt’s Bees
- hemp power bars – not a big fan of hemp but these are gluten free and will be good for some upcoming treks and travels
- ALMOND BUTTER!!!! peanut butter is available here but I don’t eat it because of an allergy
With about a month and a half left here, this will be my last mail delivery I receive. A friend did offer to send a wedding invitation to me here but the risk of it getting lost (it’s possible) and the expense made me suggest to not do that. Just send me the location and time and I’m there!
So that’s how you get mail here. Notifications, numbers, no explanations of the process, paying more money, and finally getting to open the package and taking delight in what is inside. Thankfully, I haven’t had problems with customs but I know people who have had to pay bribes to get their packages. It’s a weird system but you just have to work with it.