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Rock of the Owl

Cusco, capital of the Inca Empire for over 300 years beginning in the year 1200, is nestled in the Andes mountain range and attracts close to one million visitors each year. The sheer amount of hotels and hostels attest to that! Upon the Spaniards arrival in 1533, it was game-set-match for the Incas, though 3 years later over 100,000 Incas laid an ill-fated 10 month siege to recapture the historical city.

Plaza de ArmasCusco from High AboveLadrillos Alley

Despite the city’s contentious past, the culture and architecture pay homage to both occupiers. In fact, Inca foundations from temples and palaces were utilized for many of Cusco’s cathedrals and museums found today. Though a tourist’s nuevo sol (Peruvian currency) drives many locals to parade the streets dressed in traditional Inca garb with domesticated llamas, the Peruvian inhabitants of the Sacred Valley are immensely proud of their heritage.

Ash and I spent our first day wandering the alleys, markets, and plazas not knowing what we would find next. Hearing the sounds of drums and brass instruments, we found the Plaza de Armas (town center). A cultural celebration was in full swing.

Quarry - Muy GuapoOne of Three Tiers of Defence WallsSexyWoman in the Distance

Excited to see the ruins high atop Cusco, we arranged a guided tour on horseback ($10 each) for a few hours. Reminiscent of “Days of Thunder”, our horses vied for pole position without regard to terrain, grade, or physical exhaustion. The race between Quarry (my horse) and Pucapaya (Ash’s horse) was exactly the same as the NASCAR battle of Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns except for a few minor differences:

  1. 3mph vs. 180mph

  2. horse vs. racecar

  3. novice driver vs. professional

  4. mountain terrain vs. smooth asphalt

  5. time at stake vs. life at stake

We saw the ruins of Puka Pukara, Q’enqo, and Saqsaywaman. The first two were quite small yet interesting to see, but they stood in the shadow of SexyWoman – that is how it is pronounced. You guessed it, Saqsaywaman was named after Ashley Miller! We hiked around the ruins imagining how people lived here over 500 years ago. Despite our efforts, it was tough to wrap your brain around how much ingenuity the Incas really had to make these places come to be.

The Tiers of DefenceVistaPrecision Stone Cutting

Hiking Machu Picchu (4 days, 3 nights) initially drew us to Cusco, but there is much more to this ancient capital of the Inca Empire. It’s name is taken from the Inca’s Quechua language. The Quechua phrase of “qusqu wanka“ means “rock of the owl”. 

- Greg

 Tips:

  1. Most travel agents and guides will advise you to purchase the Cusco Tourist Ticket, allowing you entrance to over 16 venues including ruins and museums. The cost is 130 nuevos soles ($43). Don’t buy it unless you intend on doing most of the 16 spots! The included museums are not Cusco’s best and there aren’t too many employees checking admission tickets to the ruins.  The Sacred Valley can be done for 70 nuevos soles via its own ticket.  Don’t be like us, save your $43 and pay admission as you go if necessary.

  2. Don’t book tours from your hostel, there are much better deals if you stop into travel agencies. For example, we are doing an all day tour of the Sacred Valley for $10 each, Flying Dog Hostel was asking $20 each for the same tour.

  • Belinda Connell

    greg you said it best, i can not wrap my brain around what was needed to make this city and what few tools they had to do it with. I would give anything to see all of this, i am glad you get to share it together. keep sending info, may be the only way i do see it!!

  • laura_walker

    Ash & Greg: AMAZING!!! I cant believe you guys have only been gone a little over a week and have already seen/done so much! Are you doing Machu Picchu next?? I cant wait to hear about it! Awesome job on the blog– reading it is my new favorite thing to do.
    Ash- Im so impressed with your 'survivor woman' skills in the amazon–tarantulas?? OMG!
    Take Care! :-)
    -Laura

  • Aunt Debbie

    You should write a travel book! Thanks for keeping us informed. In the words of Herb Dietz “stay safe”!

  • fofs

    Nina, I have a small brain, thus cannot wrap my mind around it. I am
    certain your brain could be wrapped around it at least 2 times.

    - Greg

  • fofs

    Aunt Debbie, thanks for following along. I think of Herb everytime I
    accept candy from a stranger.

    - Greg

  • fofs

    Laura, the assault on Machu Picchu begins on Friday. We learned today
    a young Cusco boy ran the entire Inca Trail in just over 4 hours. Our
    estimate is a bit more conservative… 4 days.

    Ash is surprised by her Amazonian skills as well. So much, she has
    refused to shave and shower since.

    Looking forward to seeing ya'll in Buenos Aires, which means Good Aires.

    - Dietz & Ashley Elizabeth Miller

  • Kim Dietz

    Greg I miss your hair!

  • fofs

    It is being supplemented with a patchy beard.

    - Greg

  • fofs

    It is being supplemented with a patchy beard.

    - Greg

  • Kim Dietz

    Greg I miss your hair!

  • fofs

    It is being supplemented with a patchy beard.

    - Greg

  • fofs

    It is being supplemented with a patchy beard.

    - Greg

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