June 2008
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Thursday, June 5, 2008, Cusco Peru

Today we flew from Lima to Cusco. The day started pretty early with breakfast at 6:30 AM and the group leaving for the airport at 7:00. We hadn't seen many people the night before, so we didn't think breakfast would be too crowded. We were wrong. There were more people at breakfast than the hotel could really handle, so by time we made it to breakfast there wasn't much food left, but we still managed enough to satisfy us until lunch.

The flight from Lima to Cusco is only about on hour. Traveling within Peru is a little different than what we're accustomed to in the US. They have a small tax that has to be paid when leaving Lima, so we all had to pay the tax and get a stamp on our ticket before being allowed to pass through security and enter the gate area.

After arriving at the Mabey Palacio Imperial Hotel and getting settled in, we had a city tour of Cusco from 2-5:30PM.

Our first stop on our tour was the Santo Domingo Convent which was built on top of the temple of the Coricancha (Temple of the sun.) In 1650 an earthquake hit Cusco which caused severe damage to the convent, but surprisingly the parts of the original Inca temple remained intact. Looking at the convent it's very clear which part was built as the original inca temple and which part was built later by the conquistadores. The more modern part of the building uses mortar and bricks. However the original part of the temple doesn't use any mortar. All of the stones are perfectly carved to fit into each other forming seams so tight you couldn't even slip a piece of paper between them.

Our next stop on the tour was to Sacsayhuamán (it sounds like "sexy woman") where we walking around a very large area of Inca ruins. Most of the stones were massive with some over ten feet tall and they all fit into each other very tightly without the use of mortar.

Between our tour of Sacsayhuamán and our final stop of the tour, the group was taken to a local tourist trap to purchase high quality alpaca products. When we entered everyone was given a cup of tea which is supposed to help with altitude sickness. One of the saleswomen gave a short lecture on alpaca wool, explaining the difference between baby alpaca (very soft and fine) and adult alpaca and what to look for when purchasing alpaca products at the local markets.

Our final stop on the tour was to the main square where we took a tour of the Cusco Cathedral. We were shown many interesting works of art including a large painting depicting a Peruvian version of the last supper. Since the artist was a local Peruvian and did not know life outside of Peru, local traditions were incorporated into the painting. For example, since the Last Supper was a big feast, the meal included the local delicacy, Guinea Pig, as well as a glass of Inca beer called chicha.

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