Sunday, February 21, 2010

South America Trip - Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Cusco was the center of the Inca empire in the 1400s. The Inca culture is still prevalent in the region and many of the modern buildings are constructed on old Inca foundations.

Our first afternoon we took a city tour of some churches and nearby Inca ruins.

The Inca walls were built of perfectly fit rock pieces. They didn't use mortar for their sacred buildings. They also figured out a way to make the mortar-free walls strong enough to withstand major earthquakes. All the walls standing today have survived 5 huge earthquakes in the last 600 years.
The tour was ruined by rain. It poured the entire 5 hours of the tour. Also, we were the only English speaking couple in the group so the tour guide would gloss over the details with us and then give a lengthy explanation to the rest of the group.

We were the only ones in our group to hold out and not buy a poncho. Instead we huddled under the umbrella we brought from home. We got soaked.
When it stopped raining Cusco was a beautiful city. The city center had several impressive churches and the surrounding hills offered excellent views.

A couple hours outside of Cusco were some famous Inca ruins. The ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo were impressive. I can't imagine how much manpower was required to chisel so much rock and move it around that terrain.

The Incas were big into the science of farming. They built these terraces on the hillside as laboratories to test farming techniques. On each terrace they tried something different. The successful experiments were transferred to the large farms on the valley floor.

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