At barrio Ttio one Sunday, we got to meet a lovely couple, then made an appointment to visit them in their home. It's hard to remember a more delightful and fun evening. Even though Hna Gloria is in her mid 80's, and Hna Adan will be 90 next year, they are lively, funny, and very welcoming to us in their lovely home. They are the parents of a large family and they invited us to spend Christmas eve with them, which we may do. How they met: Hna Gloria's parents hired Hna Adan's mother as their servant, and occasionally Adan would come along to help out in the home. He got acquainted with Gloria, they fell in love, her parents objected, but they got married anyway and have been happy together for 65 years!
This Sunday, we finally got had a cita with the Carrasco's. Seems like we couldn't get our schedules together for several months, but were finally able to. Hno William is an MD specializing in hyperbaric medicine, which is the treatment of altitude-related illness, and he has a large number of patients, given out 11,000+ foot altitude in Cusco, and there are higher inhabited places around, up to 14,000ft. He is the primary medical resource for the missionaries in Cusco as well. He was recently released as the Presidente of the Inti Raymi Stake after 12 years of service. Hna Ana is so delightful and warm, and their children (Samuel and Rebecca here, William visiting his cousin) are enjoyable. They turned our cita into a dinner, and we really enjoyed Hna Ana's skill at traditional Cusqueno cuisine.
In addition to being a great Mom and friend, Hna Ana is also very talented and prolific in knitting, from shawls and sweaters to warm gloves. Hna J was overwhelmed when she was presented with this pair of exquisite knitted gloves. They will be a beautiful reminder of our friends in Cusco.
Is there Thanksgiving in Peru? There certainly is when a few Norte Americanos can get together in November. Due to the complexities of coordinating 4 schedules, we held our dinner on 20 November at the Mission Home with Presidente y Hermana Harbertson, the Haslers, the Rhoades, the other members of the Mission Presidency, and the mission home staff. Their kids Emily and Matt were here visiting, and it was great to see them. This early dinner just means that we got to celebrate and get together a little sooner than if we were in the USA. Hna Hasler holds the proof of her high-altitude baking skills. None of these made it to leftovers.
Elder Hasler has a large repetoire of culinary skills, including baking pavos (turkeys), and carving them into delicious servings.
As I was touring the kitchen on a photo expedition, there was a loud crash to one side. Looks like the mixer got away from Hermana Harbertson and flipped mashed potatoes around the kitchen.
Hna J shows off her plate before heading to the table for an evening of good food and good company.
This was Hno Julio's first experience with an American-style Thanksgiving Dinner, and he became a fan very quickly.
After living in Cusco for nearly 11 months, we have visited a lot of the historic and interesting sites, but there are many that we haven't seen. With the Hasler's as our guides, we got to see two that were on our "must see" list. The first is Tipon, which is only a few KM south of Cusco. We hired a car and driver for the day (the best way to get around here), and got to Tipon fairly early. The Hasler's and Hna J survey the site before we enter.
The best way I can describe Tipon is: The Inca's Agricultural Experiment Farm. It has 12 levels and channeled watercourses on each side, and graded flat areas for planting. Here the Inca Priests/Scientists would plant and experiment with different crops, planting/harvesting/irrigation cycles to determine which crops would grow best, and at what times. They would then disseminate their findings throughout the empire, so that the most food could be grown. This was pretty important, as they had more that 8 million people, and limited cropland to grow food. These "ruins" are remarkably well preserved, and the watercourses still work.
How to get from one level to another? Why these clever Incas built stone steps into the walls, so you can just step up/down from one level to another. Again, it's not hard to see where the Peruvians get their cleverness and ingenuity from.
The stone walls are pretty much still intact. Most of the stone came from the hills in the background. Not a terribly difficult job to get them to the site, since it's all downhill. The stones are fitted and cut exactly into place, and their remarkable construction is confirmed by how they have withstood close to a thousand years. Remember that this area doesn't have the annual freeze-thaw cycles like we're used to and that, along with good foundations and extraordinary engineering and craftsmanship give them the ability to withstand those many years.
Not inconsistent with the "form follows function" philosophy, they built in some decorative pools and artistic watercourses as part of the site.
Here's a good example of a still-active watercourse. The water can be diverted into side channels at any place, just by dropping in a little dam or rock, and the water will flow wherever it's wanted.
Just a little further down the road is the ruins of the ancient, pre-Inca city of Pikillacta. This abandoned city pre-dates the Inca Empire by many hundreds of years, with the archaeologists estimating it was built about 500AD, and occupied for hundreds of years. It's a "fortress city", obviously built for defense against attack. And it's huge, there could have been as many as 40 - 60,000 people living there.
Its construction is credited to the Wari people, who lived in the area around Cusco in the A.D. era up to the beginnings of the Inca Empire, about 1300AD. The exterior walls are built high, up to 20-25 ft in some parts of the perimeter. They are thick, built with 2 facings of exterior stone, and filled with rubble. Its been in disrepair for 800 years or so, and many of the walls have degraded or fallen down, a few have tipped over. There are small ports in the exterior walls, and in some places there are rows of stone steps on the inside, where archers or slingers could stand. There is an open passageway around the inside of the perimeter, then a secondary wall. The Wari had some cement and plaster technology that were used during construction, and remnants are still visible.
The interior structure of the city is pretty amazing, and is laid out in rather complicated fashion. This area is about 80 x 120 meters, and subdivided into many rooms, but there is only one exit right here, which would enable only a few soldiers to defend against entry. There is also a complex and well-engineered water aqueduct system that brings water to the city from the other side of the valley.
Hna Hasler and J are in an inside passageway. I'm actually "trapped" inside the maze of the rooms in the photo above. I could have climbed over the wall to get out of course, but I made a circuit of the entire area, and sure enough, there was only 1 entrance to that area.
This area is now protected under a roof. During the discovery of the ruins and first archaeological excavations of the city in the 1960's, this was thought to be a ceremonial room. It was finely finished with plastered floors and walls, and there were skeletons resting in the crypts in the walls.
The Cusco valley was carved out during several of the ice ages when glaciers pushed through here. Some prehistoric skeletons as well as early human remains have been found. This skeleton was essentially in one location and pretty well intact. Looks pretty fierce.
Well, it looks fierce until you see the shell that covered it. It's a giant slow-moving, plant-eating turtle-like creature called a "gliptodonte", which were featured as slow, dimwitted creatures in the Ice Age movies.
After a day of adventuring, we stop on the way back at the famous chicharroneria in the town of Saylla. There's no menu, they serve only one meal, cerdo chicharron, or fried pork. It isn't exactly on the mission's approved list, but it is thoroughly fried, so any little critters that may be lurking in it are toasted to a crisp. You can select regular or large portions, as well as the drink of your choice. Our thanks to the Hasler's for escorting us on this exciting and interesting day. They are great friends and mentors. We could spend all our remaining time just visiting sites around Cusco, but that's not really why we're here - we've got work to do, but we do enjoy the opportunity to get out once in a while and see the marvelous places that are here.
Do you remember the dubloons I found a few weeks ago? I took them to our local silversmith friend Wilson, and he mounted them in a small silver ring with a loop. I selected one nice braided silver chain from his inventory, and it makes a very attractive and interesting necklace, beautifully modeled by his lovely daughter Millie. Hna J now has a 300+ year old accessory to wear. Much better than just tossing the coins in a drawer where they'll never be seen or used.
Here's a photo of our apartment building. Ours is 3rd floor, right side. Why are we sitting out on the street looking at the building? There was a seismic alert for a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that was epicentered about 300km north, way out in the jungle NW of Puerto Maldonado. We didn't feel a thing in Cusco, but the alarms were going off and the mall was being evacuated while we were walking by. They put guards or security at the high-rise buildings to keep people out (there were people inside who weren't evacuated). So we just sat on the street for about half an hour, then the guard just walks away, so we went back in. We are appreciative that they do have somewhat of a warning and evacuation system in the event of "seismos". There are no building codes or standards here that will withstand a major earthquake - like they had in 1960. We're hoping that's one adventure that we don't experience.