First stop Cuzco - a beautiful colonial style city with a terrific Plaza de Armas and cathedral.
Craig enjoyed wandering the town - though mostly at crack of dawn while the rest of us were sleeping in.
The city is interesting in that it has been a political center through many civilizations. The early pre-Incan construction remains in the old temples that are now tourist sights in particular Koricancha, the temple of the sun.
Throughout town you see buildings that use the pre-colonial rock bases upon which have been built colonial structures and ultimately more modern buildings. A privilege of the Incan nobility was to have the walls of their palaces built by highly skilled masons. The accuracy in which they cut and polished their stones allowed them to fit each piece together without the need of mortar. Most you cannot even fit a piece of patper between, and that goes for today. Powerful earthquakes have torn down much of the city, but have been unable to move these walls - including the famed 12 sided rock - still standing and serving as building materials.
The city is hilly and relatively high in altitude (11,000 feet) so wandering is done slowly for us flat-landers. But the sights and local color make it very worth while. Sharon befriended this local woman and her baby alpaca.
Just outside of town is the very impressive Sacsayhuaman historical site. The ruins are on a hill overlooking the city and include enormous polygonal stone blocks representing some of the finest stone masonry you will ever see. Apparently most of the stone has been taken away over the centuries to be used for construction materials but what remains is quite impressive.
I'm here to give perspective on the size of these enormous stones:
Sharon & Craig:
Chica, Chico, Craig:
We then spent a day traveling through the sacred valley between Cuzco and Machu Picchu. The valley is slightly lower in altitude than Cuzco so many people start their visit here to acclimate. Agriculture is major business in this area though tourism is rapidly taking over. Huge ears of inca corn (choclo) are grown in this valley, still using oxen to till the soil. The sacred valley derives its name from the growing of this corn which was sacred to the Incas.
Throughout the valley and in many other parts of Peru we had the opportunity to pose with local women and their alpaca:
Sunday market in Pisac:
Stop for a relaxing lunch in Urubamba:
More climbing at the Ollantaytambo ruins
The town of Ollantaytambo - a stopping point on the train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu and gateway to the Incan trail (a four day hike into Machu Picchu):
And views of the impressive Andes: