Tour bus to Cusco, the Inca capital

It’s been a while but Vietnam and Xmas are behind me and it’s a new year so time to get back to blogging.

Our trip to Cusco was by a guided public tour bus with several stops on the way and it didn’t start well. Our six am transportation didn’t show up at the hotel so we were late for the bus and greeted with annoyed faces of our fellow travellers. Nonetheless, we got our ‘VIP’ tags and moved on.

First stop was in Pukara, about 20 miles from Puno. We didn’t have time to see the archaeological sites but did visit the Museo Litico Pukara with its collection of pre-Inca sculpture and wander about the town square. One memorable sculpture shows a warrior holding an enemy’s head in his hands with several more dangling at his back.

The Pukara Stone Museum has a nice collection of pre-Inca artifacts. They were avid head hunters and this warrior is holding one in front and dangling six more at his back.

Pukara is the country’s ceramic bull capital and these iconic creatures adorn rooftops and bring good fortune to people throughout southern Peru. The idea goes back a long way though they were ceramic llamas before the Spanish introduced cattle. A couple of them preside over our kitchen but have brought no discernable improvement in my cooking skills or facilitated any weight loss. Hope springs eternal…

This was a regimented one-day tour with little time at each stop and we were soon off to lunch at the tour-company-owned Restaurant Turistico Marangani in Sicuani. Similar buffet restaurants are common in Peru and cater to tour groups. This one was in a lovely building with soaring windows, great views, clean washrooms and particularly good food.

Buffet restaurants are a thing in Peru. This was a good one.

Next stop was a large outdoor textile market set up at the 14,200 ft. La Raya pass, overlooking the Andes and the highest point on our route. Beautiful stuff — yarn, blankets, scarves, toques, gloves, sweaters, etc. Prices vary depending on the type of wool ranging from sheep/alpaca blends at the low end to quite expensive virgin alpaca or vicuna. I broke my usual rule and paid a woman for her picture as she talked on her cell phone. Quite a clash of traditional and modern and I expect universal cell phone access will lead to a lot of changes to traditional culture.

I may have been the only person in Peru without a cellphone.

We continued on to our first Inca site, the Temple of Wiracocha ruin in
Raqchi. It’s an impressive structure overlooked by a defensive wall and surrounded by round stone grain storehouses or ‘colcas.’ Peru has an unpredictable climate and the Incas put a lot of effort into securing their food supplies for lean years.

Our too-short visit to Wiracocha ended and it was back on the bus headed for San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillafors, otherwise known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. Michelangelo may not have had a hand in it but the interior is certainly impressive. It’s covered in elaborate gold leaf  and replete with sun and moon Inca religious symbology that Catholics co-opted to lure in the natives. A fellow tourist — from South Carolina– was quite outraged by this and asked if I was Catholic when I pointed out that Xmas trees, incense and the word “Easter” were similarly borrowed from pagans. He was last seen shaking his head and muttering about how wrong it was. Sadly, I only managed one or two photos as I was actively discouraged.

The San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas aka the Sistine Chapel of the Andes. The interior is completely covered in gold leaf and quite stunning. Alas, photography is not allowed.

All-in-all a good day and, as bus rides go, a good experience. We pulled in to the Inca capital of Cusco at about 7 pm and prepared for a heavy hit of Inca culture and our day at Machu Picchu, the culmination of any trip to Peru.

The photo gallery

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