We left wonderful La Posada del Puente for an early morning flight to Cusco, where we were met by our driver and taken to Rumi Punku, a small and charming hotel up a steep cobbled road above the city center. It once was an old government building and features a warren of small rooms set around interior open air court yards with fountains and benches. The hotel has daily breakfast in a lounge with a fireplace. I loved the thick Peruvian coffee and coca tea.
The two mile high altitude typically bothers me here, and I was short of breath on several occasions while walking around the city. Today is a religious holiday and the churches in town were parading all of their saints through the streets with marching bands and showers of flowers. There was every kind of street fare food imaginable.
We saw but were afraid to eat smoked guinea pigs, roasted corn tamales and plastic cups of jello and meringue confections sold by street vendors. We walked past hostels, eateries, open air markets and hole in the wall convenience stores jammed into alleys. I found Casa Andina, the hotel where I had stayed on a past visit and also my favorite restaurant Inka Grill.
We had a lunch of beef risotto and curried chicken ravioli at a restaurant on a corner in the city center, where we could watch the never ending parade of painted plaster saints festooned with flowers. Marching bands urged on those who struggled to bear the heavy statues from the Catholic churches along the parade route.
In the afternoon, we explored the Inca Temple of the Sun, destroyed by the Spaniards in 1532 when they stripped it of gold and built a catholic mission and church on its ruins. The Incas had built the temple in the 1400’s in honor of their calendar which began on the solstice.
Then we drove above the city to walk around four archeological sites: the Red Fort, which was really a signal site, Tambomachay, which has the hidden aqueducts and is a temple dedicated to water, Anku, which has a sacrificial site and is dedicated to birth and rebirth in the forms of the snake, the puma and the condor, and Sacsayhuaman a large zig zagged temple with four towers over looking Cusco in the shape of the Puma.
It was after dark when we got back to Cusco and Umberto dropped us off at a favorite restaurant of his Nuna Raym, on a side street on the second floor near the cathedral. We met a Mexican American couple from San Diego who owned a restaurant in Mexico. They ordered the guinea pig entrée and we had alpaca and trout. The Pisco drinks were especially nice. Tim had his with lemon grass.