Another week in Cusco! The opportunities, experiences, and adventures never end! We were invited on an appointment with the elders, and Elder Andromidas found a new friend while we were waiting at the door. No shortage of dogs in Cusco, some of them appear to have owners and are cared for, others not. A few close calls with dogs but not personal encounters yet. This furball was friendly, and was just looking for a good rub.
Why bother to spend the time and effort to shine my shoes myself, when I can get an excellent shine for only 2 Soles, plus 1 for a tip = $1, in comfort in the shade. Graciela has become my favorite, and we're by her street several times a week, so I have to remember which shoes to wear, and to set aside a few minutes.
How do things get built in Cusco? By hand, mostly. There's a project going on right across the street from our apartment, and I'm monitoring the progress. Labor is cheap and undervalued here, and there's a lot of men involved in heavy, backbreaking work in construction. Homes or businesses will generally be built one floor at a time, with rebar sticking up in anticipation of building the next floor. Financing and real estate loans are much different than we're used to, and new construction is usually built as money is saved up for it. On one hand, it may take years to complete. On the other, there's not a big mortgage payment to make every month.
How many favorite people do we have? Well our friend Avelina is right at the top of the list. In spite of having very little sight, she sings like an angel, and her acapella version of "Oh My Father" in Espanol is angelic. To compensate for her lack of sight, her memory is especially sharp, and she's got generations of family information in her head. Hermana J gets her ready to "push the button", and send family names to the temple system.
Hna J gets her hands on the dough! Hermana Koki opens a little shop in the evenings where she makes and sells bowls of rice and vegetables (sometimes sweetened), and has a fryer going. What we would call scones or fry bread are called Picarones here. Hna J couldn't resist making her own.
Pretty good job for the first try. They are served with a syrup. We're trying to convince Koki that they would be delicious shaken up in a bag with powdered sugar - if we could find any. She made several more for me and the elders. What a fun evening!
Hna Koki has some papas (potatoes) and tomatoes ready to serve. After the last customer that evening, we cleared the table, set up the computer and speakers, and had a Family History lesson with her daughters (esposo Pedro was working late that night). They are the very first family we met with back in January, and we've wanted to get back with them for some time. We're now able to make a 2nd round of visits through the mission and see some of our favorite people again.
Hmmmm? Sock soup? Evidently our washing machine doesn't get Hna J's sock slippers clean enough, so they get a soapy boil on the stove.
What's this? It's the tren (train) schedule that gets us from Ollantaytambo (which you have to get to by combi from Cusco) to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Macchu Picchu, and then on to another train to Hidroelectrica, the end of the line, from which is another combi ride to Santa Teresa, where we're going with the Rhoades. Unfortunately, the ticketing procedure is not very efficient, and there's a lot of time wasted standing in line to buy tickets that only cost 10 Soles ($3.50) for locals and furriners like us who have "carnets" or resident cards. The seats aren't plush, but this time they were actually padded instead of hard wooden seats, but the offset is the low price. Tourists can't get these rates, and pay up to $300 US for the same ride, but they do get a very plush railcar with food, drinks, and waiters. Being the cheapskate I am, I'm pleased to pay 10 Soles, but they sure could streamline the ticketing procedure. The whole procedure could be upgraded, but I will say that the trains here are about the only things that actually run on time.
With the gruesome ticket-buying procedure over (at least one-way), its time for a break with the Rhoades and a visit to some ruins that we haven't seen before - and we know of some they haven't seen, so it was a very great experience. The Hermanas enjoy helados (ice cream), while we're waiting for a combi to take us to Sacsayhuayman. The combi we wanted didn't come by for about 20 minutes and I finally got tired of waiting, so I hailed a taxi for 10 soles - just as the combi showed up. We took the taxi anyway, and got there nonstop, whereas the combi stops every few blocks to let people on or off. The combi fare is 70 centimos, or 2.80 Soles for the 4 of us, so taking the taxi cost us an extra $2. For me, it's totally worth it.
We got dropped off at the top of the hill, and started our walk to the first ruins site. Immediately we saw a life-size family of stuffed dolls hanging in a tree. I thought this was a little strange, and was able to ask one of the locals later about it. These figures represent what we know as "godparents", or those whom you designate to take care of your children if something happens to you. I still haven't figured out the significance of them hanging on a tree. Many local traditions here that are interweaved with Chechua, Spanish, and Catholic traditions.
As we're walking up the hill, we come across a crew excavating an Inca or Pre-Inca wall that has been buried for who knows how many hundreds of years. There are literally so many ruins around here that the people usually don't think they're any big deal. And new ones like this are being discovered or uncovered all the time. Some of the well-known ones are on the tourist "must see" lists, and others that are equally as spectacular and intriguing are never even seen by tourists, and many of them are not even named.
Here's one that is named, its the "Temple of the Moon", carved into a big rock outcropping. A complex of stone walls, probably houses of some sort were built around the base of it. This site is supposed to represent "fertility". One thing that we've found here, is that there is no shortage of opinions as to the age, significance, or purpose of any site. I've heard 4 different guides give 4 different descriptions of the same site. So you can pretty much make up your own version. Some of the sites are pretty well researched and documented, others (like this one), not so much.
Laying at the foot of this site are some discarded carved rectangular stones. Why did they do this, and what were they for? Probably just to show us that they could do it, and make us latecomers scratch our heads and try to figure out the how and why. The methods of stonecarving really were lost or destroyed with the Spanish conquest, and nothing survives to conclusively verify their methods of transport of HUGE stones (30 tons +) over long distances, the tools they used, and how they engineered these marvelous structures.
Carved into the rock, which follows a natural crack or small cavern is the "altar". There is a natural crevice through which light enters from above.
View from the top, looking down onto the remaining walls and structures.
Heard of the "Inca Trail"? They had a series of roads that were built through the Inca Empire, on which goods were transported from one location to another, and which the "chasquis", or fast runners could get messages delivered quickly. Depending upon the location, some of the trails are broad, graded, and rock-lined, others are narrow, and some are even steps that are cut into the rock. The Incas had an abundance of skilled labor (every man was required to spend 1 month a year in service to the Empire, this was their tax system, they were not slaves), and they used it to good effect.
Here's a little water or wash station where you could get a drink and soak your feet, built right into the trail. How clever and ingenious!
A little ways down from the Temple of the Moon is the Temple of the Monkey. The Hermanas check it out, while a guide (upper left), gives his own interpretation to some gullible tourists.
This carved rock is supposed to be the "monkey", but it looks like they didn't get it finished.
Here's the "altar". Not hard to imagine sacrifices (animal not human) on the flat rock, with the blood dripping down. Or give it your own interpretation.
Down the hill a little ways, another taxi ride, and we're headed to show the Rhoades the site of our Zone Conference last week. A nice photo of them with terraces in the background. The Roades are the Self-Sufficiency, English Teaching, Piano Lesson Giving, all-purpose mission couple. We love them, and are able to get together with them frequently. Elder Rhoades is always up for an adventure, and he's pretty knowledgeable on the local sites, but this was a new one for him.
Here we are, enjoying a beautiful Cusco day exploring. The seasonal weather is changing from the "dry" season into their spring or wet season. It's been described as their March, since the seasons are reversed. High puffy clouds today instead of blazing sun, and there's a hint of rain. It's supposed to get a little warmer, but we haven't seen that yet, but unless there is a heavy overcast or wind, the days are very pleasant - and the nights are still very cool to cold.
How do you get from one terrace to another? Easy, just build some stone steps into the walls. These were very clever people. Behind the steps is a little stream of water that flows from above down through each terrace level so they could irrigate. Again, very well engineered and built.
What looks to me like a washing station, built on the approach to the site where we held our Zone Conference last week.
I just had to include another photo of this site, one of the most intriguing places we've seen here.
After a good look and a little break and snacks - and since we could see the city down below not very far away, we decided to "bushwhack" our return trip down the valley, instead of returning by the trail. There wasn't a clear trail for all of the way, but we managed OK. And it was all downhill.
Along the way what do we find? Another pool/font like we have seen before, this one less than half the size of the other, but built in the same fashion, about halfway down the hill. Again, note a couple of stone steps right below Elder Rhoades.
Along the way, we passed someone's weekend house. Padlock on the door, and a couple of dogs to guard the place. A nice getaway from city life, and it is quite peaceful and picturesque up here. No electricity, but they have fashioned their own water system by piping down from above on the hill.
Hermana J always has time to stop and smell the roses.
And find some lovely wildflowers for me to photograph.
The Hermanas scramble across the creek at the bottom. Nothing timid or wimpy about these two.
Later that evening, after we got back and cleaned up, we met Elder and Hermana Oxborrow for dinner at our favorite Cusco restaurant - UCHU. The Oxborrow's are from Mesquite, NV, and have been serving in Huaraz, in another mission. When they finished, they scheduled some time to visit Cusco and the surrounding areas with Hna O's brother and his wife. I made reservations, and here's the sign at our table. The Espanol version of our name is spelled as shown, and is pronounced "Yawnson.
A delightful evening at dinner. Unfortunately Elder Hasler was away on Mission President's Counselor duties, and Hna. H got diverted by some late-arriving workmen at their apartment, so they missed this event. The Oxborrow's are next to Hna J, and we look forward to getting to know them when we're able to spend time in St. George.
The next Sunday was Stake Conference, and we got a new Stake Presidency in Inti Raymi. After the meeting, we saw about half of one of our favorite families gathering for a photo, so I had to step in and snap one of my own. The Villaivicencio's are a mainstay of the Church here in Cusco, and this is only about half of them.
Thus wraps up another week in Mision Cusco!