Our 23 hour ride from Copacabana to Cuzco was extremely worth it… little did we know that the city was going to be celebrating almost non-stop for a week! Everywhere we walked, people were costumed, drinking, dancing, singing, etc… turns out that they were celebrating Cuzco’s anniversary (from what? I didn’t ask – but it was probably the independence day). The next day was a large procession with a food fair, and then started the Sun festival (Inti Raymi) – it was insane! We then went to visit Pisaq – a village located in the Sacred Valley, and its incredible ruins. We even got to do a band practice in a metal rehearsal room! So far, we are absolutely in love with Peru.
Cuzco (Qosq’o in Quechua) is the most ancient city in South America that has never ceased to be inhabited. The pre-Inca culture Killke lived here in 900, and built many structures, including the incredible Sacsayhuaman (built in 1100) fortress. The Inca then took over and largely expanded the city. In 1532, the Inca made Cuzco its capital. 19 months later, they were conquered by the Spaniards, who destroyed many Inca buildings, temples and palaces. They used the remaining walls as bases for the construction of buildings and churches. The city (at least, the very center) is thus very fascinating; everywhere you walk you see antique structures and streets… Cuzco itself is like a museum!
Most people here are living in quite modern ways, but you can still see locals dressed in vividly colored traditional clothing:
The streets in the old part (San Blas neighborhood) are really narrow. They were made by the Spanish, and built over important Inca foundations:
We were very lucky, as like I said earlier, we arrived in a time of festivities. On the 22nd of June, there was a long march that started early in the morning – which finished as a party in the late evening. It was so funny; some people were trying to dance at the end, beer in hand, and were almost collapsing of drunkenness. People were selling beer in the street for 1$ a bottle, and there were food stands everywhere!
The next day, we were told there was a Procession of Saints – also known as Corpus Christi. Paired with this was a food fair, which sold the traditional Peruvian dish, cuy (guinea pig!). We went to check it out for ourselves…
We met some local metalhead, and asked him about stores and bars. To our surprise, there was nothing to be excited about in Cuzco; pretty much only bootlegs were to be found, and there were only popular rock bars. He did hint us to a place called Warlock, which sold a few metal items like patches, shirts, spiked bracelets and guitars… but we were most happy to find that it was also a rehearsal space, so we got to rehearse and write new Cauchemar material!
The 24th of June was the Winter Solstice/Inti Raymi/Sun Festival. It is a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti; the sun. The last real Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor’s presence was in 1535, but then the Spanish conquistadors and the Catholic Church banned it due to its obvious pagan roots, opposed to the Catholic faith. The ceremony was said to indicate the mythical origin of the Incas, lasting nine days of colorful dances and processions, as well as animal sacrifices to ensure a good cropping season. Since 1944, a theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi has been taking place at Sacsayhuamán, (in the Inca time, it was in the city plaza) attracting thousands.
We were told it was impossible to see the ceremony, as all the seats were sold out… but we followed the locals and climbed a hill next to Sacsayhuamán to see it from a distance. We arrived there at 8AM, but found out the ceremony was only to be at 1:30PM! We had a great place, but we had to wait in the sun all morning to be able to witness the ritual. It wasn’t too bad as we were comfortably seated in the grass, and it was definitely worth it once the ceremony started! The sacred site was beautiful, and its stonework was absolutely remarkable (and in great shape!), for being built more than 900 years ago!
I took a video of the sun worshipping women walking unto the site:
The Inka Emperor worshipped the sun, drank chicha (fermented alcoholic corn drink) in its honor, and then the high priests chose a llama, opened it, took out its heart and guts and examined it carefully… blood gushing out signified that the crops were going to be bountiful in the following year!
I also took video of that bloody sacrifice, but you can’t see too much because I was way too far. You can still kind of figure out what happens though!
Dead tired, we then went back home to our hostel and took a massive siesta. A few days after, we ventured into the Sacred Valley into the town of Pisaq.
Located on the Urubamba river, the village of Pisaq is most known for its artisanal market and its killer Incan ruins, which lie atop a mountain at the entrance to the valley. They were once used as a fortress to block the access to the Sacred Valley (one of many Incan fortresses). We arrived in town very early in the morning to skip the crowds at the market, and then started the ascension to the Inca ruins around 9AM.
Nobody knows exactly when the original town of Pisaq was built, but it is said to have been made not before 1440. Unfortunately, Pizzaro had destroyed it in 1530.
This week, we are going to keep on exploring Cuzco and on Friday, we will be starting our trek on the Inca Trail, to finally reach Machu Picchu on July 4st. Expect news in a bit more than a week! Cheers!