#7 Peru, March 5, 2000

Dear Everybody,

I got up this morning at 5:30 to see Jeanne off to Lima and home, and then attended Mass at one of the most unusual churches that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of churches!). The church of Santa Clara has six huge altars, floor to ceiling, all covered with 10-inch by 12-inch mirrors, and smaller decorative mirrors, too. Since there were many lights and candles in the church the whole thing was flickering. They say that the mirrors were designed to entice the Indians into the church in former times. Jean, it reminded me a lot of the Amber Palace at Jaipur in India, and also of our hotel suite there—remember? The nuns served as the choir, sequestered in the back of the church behind a double screen of wood and steel bars. It was the only time I could visit this church, as it is closed except for Mass.

 

 

 

 

 

Cusco and the area around it is a special place. The Plaza de Armas is like a movie set, only authentic looking.

 

 

 

 

One afternoon Jeanne and I sat in a balcony restaurant, The Bagdad Café, overlooking the Plaza with the sun shining on us, the cathedral, and the mountains around Cusco, as we were drinking in the view and our cappuccino.

Last Sunday we visited the Pisac market, which was grand. We also watched a bit of their Sunday Mass in the mural-decorated church, filled with people in colorful native dress. And then we ate roast pork sandwiches in the market, along with some stuffed chilies and potatoes with peanut sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon we took a taxi up, up, up to the Pisac Inca fortress and walked and climbed along paths rimmed with rock and wildflowers to see Inca ruins on overlooks among the mountains that are spectacular. Those Incas really understood the use of drama and beauty to make their power felt.

That night we stayed in a 400-year-old convent/hotel in Urubamba called San Augusin Recoleto. We were the only guests as has often been the case as this is the rainy season and not their high tourist season. However, this has worked to our advantage as we have our pick of hotels at sharply discounted prices ($10-15 each for a single with bath), the rain has rarely interfered with our doings as it typically rains in the late afternoon and night. And the flowers and grasses make the landscape so beautiful.

The next day we took a collectivo (minibus crampacked with people and bundles) to Ollantaytambo, another Inca fortress—this one where Pizarro and the Spanish were once defeated. Another day of climbing and viewing—and huffing and puffing, I might add, as these altitudes are all over 9000 feet.

We took the local train to Aquas Calientes, a sleeping community for Machu Picchu. AND on leap year day, February 29, 2000 we saw Machu Picchu!

It had been cloudy all morning but the sun came out just as we got there, going up, up the mountains with nine switchbacks. This, of course, is what I came to Peru to see, and while all the weeks prior to this had been wonderful, Machu Picchu has no match.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent a second day at Machu Picchu and then caught the local train back to Cusco, which took about 4 ½ hours, getting in at 10 PM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we came down the mountain we saw Cusco all lit up, and the Plaza de Armas with its two splendid churches and colonial portales beautifully illuminated. Wow!

In Cusco we visited the Coricancha, the richest temple of the Incas that was literally gold plated and had a life-size ‘garden’ of gold and silver plants and animals—sadly all melted down by the Spaniards.  It is now the base of the Santo Domingo church.

 

We also walked along several streets with Inca walls, some of them weighing many tons fitted together without mortar—an amazing achievement.

 

 

On Friday Jeanne and I took a taxi about 10 km to an Inca ruin, Tambo Machay, and then walked about seven km back toward Cusco, stopping along the way to explore three other ruins. The sites were all so different from each other but all with lots of Inca stonework, and the mountain views so beautiful that after five hours when we were back in Cusco, we considered it a very successful day.

The next day we visited several museums and also the Cathedral where we saw a large 18th C. painting of the Last Supper—they were eating (what else?) cuy, which is guinea pig!

Carol

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