Monday, July 8, 2013

Peru: Exploring Cusco and Sacsaywaman

Welcome to Peru Week on Pro-Soup Propaganda!

Now that I've been back from my vacation for a week it's given me a chance to reflect on everything. It was AWESOME. I had the most fun in Peru. REI hosts Conservation Volunteers International Program's (CVIP) Machu Picchu Volunteer Vacation and it is, hands down, one of the best things I've ever done in my life, seriously. I highly, highly recommend it. In fact, I want to do it again! I now know the volunteering aspect will be a little different every time, depending on what needs to be done. The trip was a good balance of volunteering, sightseeing, and learning about Peru, thanks to Dr. Bill the archaeologist and Santiago, our wonderful local guide.

I arrived at the airport in Cusco on Monday morning, June 10. I took a taxi to the hotel, the Best Western Los Andes de America. I was greeted with a cup of coca tea, which was delicious and supposed to help me adjust to the altitude. (Luckily, the entire time I was in Cusco I never got altitude sickness, although most people in my group did. The most I ever felt the altitude was getting winded while going up the two flights of stairs to my room. Seriously, the feeling of winded after two whole flights of stairs is nothing I had ever experienced before, but it was odd. It made me thankful that I am pretty healthy and usually stairs ain't no thang.)

I was there a little early for check-in time, but they managed to get a room made up for me and my roommate, who I hadn't met yet. A little while after getting into my room I heard a knock at my door and it was my roommate for the next ten days. Her name was Caitlin and she was super nice! I feel I lucked out because she was very friendly and easy to talk to and we clicked immediately. Everyone was to meet at 2pm in the hotel lobby to officially meet each other and to go over what we were to be doing over the next ten days.

I managed to get a short nap in before we had to meet, which felt awesome, as I hadn't really slept on my overnight flight. When we did finally meet up I realized that everyone else in our group was SO NICE. I was super excited to get to know these people and begin our adventures!

The first two days we relaxed a bit but also did some sight-seeing. Monday evening we went to the Santo Domingo Church, a building completed in 1654. It contains beautiful architecture, paintings, and more. We couldn't take pictures inside, but there were so many features that were just gorgeous. After visiting Russia in 2005, I love seeing how ornate and gilded so many old churches are. Ugh, just amazing!

We ate dinner together after touring the church and I had my first Pisco Sour in Peru! It was delicious. ;o)

The next day we got up and went to the Museo Machupicchu Casa Concha. The absolute, most totally amazing best part? We got a personal tour from Jean-Jacques Decoster, the director of the museum!! IT WAS SUCH AN HONOR OMG OMG OMG. Seriously, I could have died. Also, it was his birthday! He gave us a very thorough, in-depth tour of the museum and his tour + Dr. Bill's archaeology expertise + Santiago's local knowledge = breathtaking amounts of knowledge. We couldn't take any photos inside, although he did let us take photos of the women selling their woven goods. They were so interesting to talk to and some members of our group bought wares from them.

After the Casa Concha we went to the Qurikancha, which was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. It is now a mix of Inca stonework and what Spanish colonization completed. A major earthquake happened awhile back and the Spanish part suffered a bit, but that Inca stonework remained strong! After the Qurikancha we were all hopped up on excitement and history, so we went to a pizza place for lunch (which was surprisingly delicious :o).

But afterward we went to Sacsaywaman, a walled complex and beautiful example of Inca stonework! We walked around there for several hours and learned lots and then went back to the hotel for dinner and sleeps, for the next day we were heading on the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo!

And this story, my friends, will continue tomorrow...

 Beautiful Andes mountains on the way to Cusco!

Delicious coca tea!

Santo Domingo Church

Women weaving at the Casa Concha

Inca gutters in the street

An example of a beautiful Inca doorway

Perfect Inca stonework at the Qurikancha


View from the back of the Qurikancha

Me at Sacsaywaman. How the Incas stacked these giant boulders is AMAZING.

Cusco, as seen from Sacsaywaman

Glacial striation is FUN!

John sliding down part of the "slides"

Goodbye, Sacsaywaman! You were lovely but we need to head to Machu Picchu!

Tomorrow's post is about us getting to Machu Picchu Pueblo and exploring for the first time, something I will always remember!

Check out the rest of my photos from my trip here!

Love reading about my adventures? Consider donating to my Smarty Pig fund! I'm saving up for a six week trip to Antarctica, Patagonia, Argentina, and Chile in January and February, 2014. Your donation can help me continue these adventures!


  1. What an amazing adventure. I cannot imagine seing a building from the 1600's ... how humbling! I have been eagerly awaiting your posts from the trip. I love everything here, but the glacial striation is REALLY amazing!!!

    1. Hi! The glacial striation was sooo cool! I have never seen anything like it!! There is lots of glacial activity in Alaska, but I haven't seen anything like that anywhere else until I got to Peru.

  2. Welcome back, and look forward to reading about all your adventures! That was a gorgeous shot just even out the airplane window, I can't wait to see more

    1. Thank you, thank you! I was hoping others might find it interesting, so I appreciate your kind words!

  3. Such beautiful pictures! I've heard lots of good thing about the volunteer trips to Peru and it looks like I have your experience to add to the list! I'm excited to see more pictures.

    1. You should totally check out a volunteer trip sometime! I'm excited to both do this one again and to do another one from CVIP!