Continuing our trip down memory lane…
Friday, September 1, 2017
We spent today largely taking a Cusela bus tour from Cusco to Puno – leaving in the morning, and arriving in the early evening. It is possible to take a flight (faster) or a more direct local bus (supposedly crowded and unpleasant). That said, there is a lot to see on the way and the tourist bus is a comfortable and super fun way to see it. We ended up making 5 stops, plus a brief pause for local bread. For the bread, our tour guide ran in, and brought out two varieties that were then passed around the bus for each person to tear off a piece. Not super sanitary, but quite good.
Our first stop was at the Church of Saint Peter the Apostle of Andahuaylillas, which was particularly amazing given that the town only has about 3,000 people. The outside is fairly plain, but the inside is a different story – very ornate. Apparently there was an Inca temple located there, so the Spanish decided to take the gold, melt is down, tear apart the building, and reuse the foundation and other stones to build a church. I wonder what the people on both sides thought about it at the time.
Getting back on the bus, John was horrified to watch our tour guide climb into the luggage compartment. After the driver closed half of it, they must have seen John’s face and stopped to reassure him that things were okay. Apparently the tour guide doesn’t get much sleep, so if he isn’t required to talk on a particular stretch, he will use the luggage compartment as a bedroom. To avoid hotel fees, it sounded like he may sleep there nights as well, when he is away from home. For Peru, his job pays reasonably well, but apparently not well enough to afford hotels.
Raqch’i, an Inca archaeological site, was our next stop. The boys enjoyed this one a lot more than the church. Only the main support wall of the temple was left, but it gave us a good idea of what it may have looked like in Inca times.
Continuing behind the temple, we were able to see the some of the priests’ houses and the granaries.
Originally there were 180 granaries, but most of them were destroyed. To discourage pests, the Incas would lay down thick layers of dried mint, then they would place up to 2 meters of crops on top of the mint. When we asked about rats, we learned that before the Spanish came, there were no rats, and there were few problems with disease. Also, since guinea pigs, or cuy, are considered a tasty treat, there was little chance of those creatures overrunning the granaries.
Lunch was a disappointing stop. Lots of mediocre buffet food that catered to Chinese and American tastebuds, rather than anything authentic. Also, we were towards the back of the bus and by the time we got to the dining room, there were not 4 seats together, so we ended up splitting up. John and I sat next to a family from Mexico City that had a boy the same age as John. Unfortunately, my high school Spanish was almost completely gone, and the family’s English wasn’t much better than my Spanish.
Getting back on the bus, we were told that our next stop would be La Raya, which was at 14,100 feet. Our guide said that some people may have significant difficultly staying long, so we would only pause for 10-15 minutes. The air was definitely thin, but the boys were delighted that we were finally at a high enough altitude to have alpacas – in Peru they are typically found from 11,500 feet to 16,000 feet. For a small fee, the locals are happy to let you hold the baby alpacas and take pictures.
Our last stop was at the Museo Litico Pukara, which had some mildly interesting Inca artifacts. More interesting, and slightly horrifying, were our guide’s stories. It started with his delight in showing us a cup that held human blood in Inca religious ceremonies. He then proceeded to tell us that when the Spanish came, the Incas blended their beliefs with Christianity and continued their ceremonies, but started using wine instead of blood. Over time, the religions mixed more and more until it looked mostly like Christianity, but with a few Inca aspects. The Spanish seemed to think that this was perfectly fine, and our guide had a strong belief that at the root there was no difference between the original Inca religion and Christianity. I was a bit disturbed and reflected on the hot/cold/lukewarm verses in Revelation 3:15-17.
Things got a bit weirder when our guide shared his theories on how the Incas built their temples. First there is the problem of how they moved the gigantic stones without draft animals. Next there is the problem of how they cut the stones so precisely, to the point that they fit together so perfectly that a piece of paper could not be inserted between them. He strongly believed that the Incas used telekinesis and other powers given by the gods to achieve their architectural mastery. Too bad there is no scientific evidence that points to how they accomplished their tasks.
Regardless of how the Incas achieved their masterpieces, I came away with a new appreciation of how easy it is to stop thinking where religion is concerned.
After a long, but fun day, we arrived in Puno, which sits on Lake Titicaca, which is considered the highest navigable lake in the world. We checked into our hotel and went to Lima Street to wander the main part of town and find dinner. The place we picked was amazing! My alpaca was quite good and came with some nice quinoa and veggies, which had Inca corn mixed in. James also got a different alpaca dish, and while it was good, it wasn’t as good as mine.
As we were getting ready to go back to our hotel, we ran into our tour guide. Puno is his hometown, and he seemed to be enjoying the Friday night atmosphere.