The first Spaniards arrived in the city on November 15, 1533. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, officially 'discovered' Cusco on March 23, 1534, naming it the "Very noble and great city of Cusco". The many buildings constructed after the Spanish conquest are of Spanish influence with a mix of Inca architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas barrios. The Spanish undertook the construction of a new city on the foundations of the old Inca city, replacing temples with churches and palaces with mansions for the conquerors. During the colony, the city of Cusco was very prosperous thanks to the agriculture, cattle raising, mining as well as the trade with Spain. This allowed the construction of many churches and convents, and even a Cathedral, University and an Archbishopric. Often, Spanish buildings were juxtaposed atop the massive stone walls built by the Inca.
While in Cusco, we stayed at the Novotel Hotel - unfortunately a modern 21st century name for a very historic and comfortable hotel! Built around an early 16th century Spanish aristocrat's mansion, it is located in the heart of the archeological centre of Cusco, one of Americas oldest cities.
At left can be seen the hotel central courtyard, now protected by a paneled glass roof. The main floor offered a Spanish/Peruvian atmosphere as well as artisans and musicians performing while guests enjoyed the distinctive meals including a delicious buffet. The rooms off this courtyard include one for breakfast, dinner, etc. and hallways leading to the modern wing and bedrooms. We were very fortunate to have a suite on the second floor of the courtyard itself - marvelous!!!
As previously mentioned, I became very ill several days after arrival in Lima. Finally, on 24 May in Cusco, Judy had the hotel call a doctor as I was barely able to climb a few stairs, had absolutely no energy, and was suffering severe heart palpitations and difficulty breathing.
The doctor arrived within minutes, and immediately had me transferred to the nearest medical clinic. At the clinic I was put on oxygen, had an ECG, blood work up, and a heart specialist was called in. Thankfully, it was determined that there were no serious heart problems!!! But, it seemed that I was having an allergic reaction to the pills I had been prescribed in Ottawa at the Travel Clinic to combat high altitude sickness (Apo-Acetazolamide 250 mg). Evidently they were diuretic and had dangerously lowered my potassium and electrolytes blood levels!!! I was subsequently put on an intravenous drip and oxygen for 6 hours. Also, the doctor gave me pills to take to help my recovery (Amiodarone). Within 48 hours I was feeling sufficiently well enough to resume our holiday - thankfully!
Back in Ottawa, It was determined that the palpitations I had were only an annoyance, and I have a prescription for Novo-Metoprolol, a beta-blocker, to reduce their frequency and effect. The long term solution (when available in a year or so) is an operation involving catheters, arteries, electrical shock and, of course my heart. The doctor says its a permanent solution to the palpitations ... which, of course, can be taken to mean two distinctly different outcomes!
One proffered solution to altitude sickness was found throughout the higher areas of Peru - Coca Tea. It is made from coca leaves, which are also the source for production of cocaine! BUT, the tea is very diluted compared to the concentration in cocaine. You could also chew the leaves, but this must be an acquired taste as the taste to me was like eating weeds!
We enjoyed the tea, but didn't notice any 'buzz', nor obviously in my case did it positively affect my problem. The photo at left shows the appealing serving at our Cusco hotel.
Regardless, the various treatments worked, and at left I'm looking out our hotel 2nd floor casement and raring to go!!! (Well as raring as one can get at my age!).
"During three and a half hours you will explore the most magical city, capital of the Inca empire (15th century) on a tour including the Main Square, the Cathedral, Santo Domingo Monastery -the legendary Korikancha Temple- and the old town with its very narrow streets. Drive out of the city to visit the archaeological Inca remains of Tambomachay, Kenko, Puca Pucara and the impressive fortress of Sacsayhuaman, overlooking Cusco."
Besides visiting the main square as part of our tour, we also returned to this colourful square on our own time to witness the seemingly constant events/parades, etc. (and to use the ATM on the corner).
On this particular Sunday, there was a big parade involving not only the Peruvian Army Special Forces, but local school children.
At left is a "squadron" of young girls decked out in their finest and marching with military precision.
Unfortunately, we never did figure out just what the occasion was to merit such celebration!!!
I did read later back in Canada that Cusco evidently had parades, etc. on the square just about weekly.
At right, Judy and I are standing against the wall of the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman which is located in the hills surrounding Cusco.
Please note that Judy is NOT wearing her favourite trade mark straw hat! She decided it shaded her face so placed it on the ground near our guide who was taking the picture. We forgot to claim it afterward sooooo now its either part of Peruvian Heritage, or has been adopted by someone who truly appreciates fine haberdashery ... maybe.
Regardless, the Inca construction capabilities were incredible considering the limited tools they had at their disposal.
At left is a hidden cave located well up in the hills above Cusco. The Incas placed the remainder of their gold and other treasures in it in a last ditch effort to stop the conquistadors from getting them. This action did work for several years, but eventually, the Spaniards learned of this scheme, and plundered the treasure in their inimitable fashion.
At right is a view of Cusco from one of the Inca ruins locations.
In the next couple of days, we traveled around the region including a stop at AWANA KANCHA, a dromedary reserve and traditional Peruvian Andean textiles store. At left I'm patting an Alpaca which didn't seem too contented to having me do so. Evidently their manner of expressing dissatisfaction is to spit, so I made a hasty retreat as soon as I heard the camera click.
The beautiful restaurant at right provided a tasty buffet lunch which we enjoyed on the patio under the thatched roof. It was so peaceful, with a string quartet playing softly in the background, and a gentle breeze moving the leaves.
After our meal, I wandered around the grounds of the restaurant, and came across this gorgeous parrot - obviously a pet, not a wild bird. How do I know that? I jokingly said "Good afternoon" to the bird, and it replied immediately, "Hola" which somewhat equates to the english "Hi".
Perhaps the photo at left will give you some idea of the 'mountain goat' requirements for traveling in the Andes. Do you see all the protective fences and railings guarding the stairs and paths? Of course not as there aren't any!!! Tourist beware!
Above, Judy and her bargains. Bartering over the price is expected of course, much to Judy's delight. And she is very good at it as demonstrated by her excellent purchases - dishes, paintings, hand-woven table cloths, etc. I even got into the game as previously mentioned and bought a Peruvian pan flute which unfortunately can't be persuaded to produce the same haunting Peruvian melodies as the locals. My output sounds much like a flatulent Scottish bagpiper with the hiccoughs!!! But with some more practice ...
But now to the Main Attraction, Machu Picchu. Just click on the name or the picture and be transported to another world!
To return to our Peruvian page index, just click on the young girl on the right.