Friday, October 6, 2017

Three Faces of Peru: Cuzco, Arequipa and Lima

Cuzco is at an elevation of 3,400 meters and it took us several days to get used to the altitude. This is the Plaza de Armas, with the Cathedral on the left and Company of Jesus Church on the right.

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1533, Cuzco was the spiritual center of the Incan Empire. It took many years for the Spanish to destroy the 'heathen temples' and build 21 churches. There are reminders of Incan history, like this fountain which features Tupac Amaru, the last Incan leader who was killed in this square in 1572.

While in Cuzco we talked with several Peruvian tour guides who took great pride in their Quechua (Inca) heritage, and who didn't show any bitterness toward the Spanish. One of the popular souvenirs in Cuzco was a chess set of the Incas (front) vs. the Spanish.

This photo shows a detail of the Spanish colonial architecture, and of course there's a church nearby.

During the Spanish conquest, the stones of the Incan buildings were used in the Catholic churches. This site is called Coricancha, and it was originally an Incan temple to the sun god. The Spanish left the foundations and impressive, dry stonework in place and built their church on top.

The plaque shows that Cuzco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but its due to the Incan heritage rather than the conquistadors.

Here's a closer view of Coricancha's original stone walls that have withstood earthquakes.

Inside the church there were several original Incan rooms.

As well as a central Spanish courtyard.

Our Llama Path guide recommended restaurant Chicha, so we went there for lunch.

We started with the server's suggestion of the sampler plate that included beef heart, egg rolls, a tamal with onion salad, pork belly, and of course potatoes and corn.

Kristina's cousin Cynthia connected us with Adam and Tessa who were traveling in Peru with their kids Drew and Cameron, and we made plans to meet them at Chicha on another day. Drew (to Kristina's left) is close friends with our nephew Julian.

Over lunch we talked about what it felt like to travel for a long time. So far they have traveled all over Peru, and they will also travel in Ecuador and perhaps Belize before they relocate to Portland, OR in December. Adam share some of his incredible photos with us. Drew has a friend on his shoulder, an emperor tamarin monkey from the Amazon.

Cameron made a friend at Rainbow Mountain summit. It was clear they are learning a lot and having amazing experiences.

On their adventure trip to Machu Picchu (complete with zip lining, biking and hiking) both kids got their faces painted with natural pigment. This is Cameron.

And here's Drew. We had fun sharing travel stories. To see more photos, check out their blog, To Peru and Beyond.  

For dessert Drew ordered the "chocolate balloon". This is what it first looked like. 

Then hot chocolate sauce melted the outer shell, revealing ice cream and whipped cream.

The decorations at the restaurant included all types of (ceramic) corn. The Incas grew hundreds of different types of corn.

And there was a sculptural ear of corn above Chicha's wood-fired oven.

We bid our new friends good-bye and went walking around Cuzco. We noticed some anti-Monsanto graffiti with an ear of corn stencil.

Some of the local women have figured out that lambs with knit hats are highly desireable for tourist's photos, so these women have set up shop in a local square.

We learned that the Spanish word Cuzco means small, dirty dog in Quechua, and that the original name of the city was closer to Cozco, which means spiritual center. The Incan foundations around Cuzco were still visible, like these walls.

Notice this large stone cut with 12 sides to fit perfectly into a wall built by the Incas.

And we learned more about Inca history at the local museums. The statue is likely holding a glass of chicha, an alcoholic beverage made by boiling and masticating corn that was then fermented for several days.

We took a tour of the Sacred Valley near Cuzco.

The valley floor is said to resemble a puma. We noticed lamp posts with the Incan motifs of a snake for the past, a puma for the present and a condor for the future.

We toured Pisak, an Incan city with lots of agricultural terraces.

The stone buildings behind Pete were likely granaries for storing excess crops.

The town of Ollantaytumbo is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, with water channels that run through the streets.

This view of Ollantaytumbo is from up the hill near the Inca temple looking down onto the town.

Kristina is next to Six Monoliths, the unfinished temple made of six polished stone slabs weighing 70 tons each.

On one of the slabs the Andean cross design was still partially visible.

The terraces behind us were used to fortify the buildings and for growing crops.

The tour included a presentation on traditional wool weaving and dying.

And we got a closer look at two of the four types of camelids in this area, the domesticated llamas and alpacas. We noticed that the Peruvian women often wear awesome traditional hats.

We took a flight from Cuzco to Arequipa. In the background you can see some of the old volcanoes that ring the city.

Called "the Rome of Peru", we found Arequipa to be a charming colonial town.

The buildings were constructed of sillar, a volcanic rock that is lightweight but also very durable. We liked roaming around to check out all the historic buildings.

This street sign was carved directly into a wall. This photo shows the porous quality of the sillar.

The architectural style is unique to Arequipa and is called "Escuela Arequipeña." The city was founded by the Spanish in 1540.

The Incas had farmed around Arequipa but hadn't built a city here. We think this is why it felt like a Spanish colonial city and so different from Cuzco.

We walked around this church.

When we went into the small chapel at the back, we were delighted to find it colorfully painted with birds and jungle plants.

In the Plaza de Armas we got to watch high school students perform traditional dances.

Their costumes looked warm but they were enthusiastic dancers.

At the center of the plaza is the Basilica Cathedral. The old town of Arequipa is recognized for its historical buildings and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cathedral looked especially nice as the sun was setting and the stone took on a golden hue.

Here's a look inside the cathedral.

It has elaborate saints in the side altars.

And at night it was beautifully lit.

We enjoyed exploring different parts of Arequipa, including a neighborhood called Yanahuara. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru (after Lima).

And we especially liked visiting the Santa Catalina Convent, which was founded in 1579.

With its vibrant colors, it looked like a pleasant place for nuns to live.

The arches throughout were cool in the shade

and dramatic in the sunshine. The convent was also built of sillar.

We saw lots of beautiful plants as we strolled around.

This panorama shows how simple a typical nun's room was.

Each room had a niche for an altar and most had built in cabinets. At its peak 150 nuns lived here.

Each had a kitchen, so we think the nuns cooked for themselves.

The kitchens had different, interesting metal cookware.

We took a picture of an old photograph showing the nuns playing ball. The convent became a museum in 1960.

This was the laundry area, with enormous clay pots for washing their habits.

And there was also a small school inside the convent for the neighborhood children.

All that walking made us hungry, so we went out for lunch. This is trout ceviche served in the traditional Peruvian way with the corn and sweet potatoes.

Kristina ordered adobo arequipeño, slow cooked pork stew. It is said that adobo was invented in Arequipa.

It was served with pan de tres puntas, triangle bread that had been cooked in a clay oven, which gave it a crispy crust.

Pete ordered osso buco, which was delicious.

And he had chicha morada, a non-alcoholic version of the Incan fermented corn drink. In Arequipa a number of the restaurants are in historic buildings.

This is La Despensa cafe, which is also in a heritage building.

Arequipa has over 500 historic buildings, so even the banks are often in these amazing spaces.

We also visited Lima, Peru for the first time. The city is built on the hills above the ocean and this time of year it was gray and foggy.

We toured Huaca Pucllana, an enormous clay pyramid of the Wari people who lived in the Lima area 500-900 AD.

Lima doesn't get much rainfall, so the adobe bricks, which are unfired, have lasted much better here than in the Andes.

The outline of the pyramid was still visible, and we could walk around the top part. It is thought that the Wari used the pyramid to make offerings to their gods.

It was so interesting to see how Lima had developed around the ancient pyramid, with streets and buildings surrounding Huaca Pucllana. The Spanish conquered Lima in 1542 and governed all of Peru from here.

We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in a 16-story building across from a park.

The Barranco neighborhood had been established in 1874. Note the Catholic church in the Barranco emblem.

Barranco had lots of mature trees so we enjoyed walking around and seeing different birds.

There was a flock of Saffron Finches that Pete was able to photograph close up.

This wall art appears to be a fantastical combination of human eye and bird body.

We walked across the Bridge of Sighs and saw this interesting mural by Jade Rivera.

With a closer look we saw a motmot bird inside the head. Motmots were one of our favorite family of birds we learned about in Costa Rica. This image is likely an Andean Motmot. 

In Rivera's nearby studio we saw an in-progress mural.

The Hermitage Church was permanently closed and a colony of black vultures had taken up residence on the roof.

Apparently the vultures are welcomed, and we saw these huge sculptures across from the church.

And there were some vulture stencils nearby.

There was lots of colorful and wacky street art.

We saw these fantastical animals as we roamed around El Barranco.

The meditating tree says to "come fruta, eat fruit".

This is the public library in the Plaza de Armas.

Another day we walked in neighborhood Miraflores.

But truthfully we visited Lima for the food. We went for lunch at Isolina Taverna. The upstairs room had deconstructed walls that opened up the space.

We started with a pitcher of passion fruit juice.

And split an enormous portion of beef liver.

But still had room for flan with caramel sauce.

Another day we went back and sat in the downstairs.

This is the starter of pickled fish that we shared.

We tried to eat ceviche every day in Lima. This is cebiche clasico served with corn and sweet potato.

Our favorite meal in Lima was at La Picantería. We waited a few minutes in the bar when we first arrived.

The restaurant sells whole fish, so we checked the board to see what they had. Our server recommended rinchin, rock fish.

Other options besides whole fish were scallops and sea urchin, all displayed in a big trough packed with ice.

We asked for half of the rock fish to be prepared as ceviche. It was fantastic because there were chilies added to give it some heat.

And the other half was baked and then drizzled with passion fruit sauce.

Finally the bones were used to make a soup. As you'll notice the restaurant has long, communal tables and offers bibs to their customers.

Another day we ate at restaurant La 73, named for an iconic local bus line. We started with ceviche, and in this dish the fish was lightly fried and drizzled with a passion fruit sauce.

Pete was looking hungry.

And then his salmon arrived and he was happy. We are glad we were able to explore different parts of Peru.

Next we'll be in Buenos Aires for a month.