The Walk to Saqsaywaman

We had made detailed plans for spending the day exploring the town of Cusco on our own, without the rest of the tour group.   The plan began to unravel almost immediately in the morning.  We did not follow the route that we had set for ourselves, and we did not pay attention to whether we were covering everything that was on our list of things to see. It did not matter. This turned out to be another day of new and interesting experiences in Peru nevertheless.

The men in the group decided that they would walk to Saqsaywaman, an ancient Inca fortress overlooking the city of Cusco.  (The name of this place is spelt in many different ways in the English language, as are many other names that are derived from the Quechua language.)  The women were to meet up with us at an entrance to the park.  This was going to be a climb of about 500 feet, over a couple of miles, starting at an altitude of about 11,000 feet.  It was going to be a nice challenge!

The puma is an animal of importance in the Inca religion (the others are the condor and the snake), and Cusco is shaped in the form of a puma.  Saqsaywaman is the head of the puma.  We set off down Ave El Sol from the Jose Antonio hotel, somewhere in the lower body of the puma.  Most of the road traffic at that time was headed toward the center of town, the direction that we were initially headed in.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few hundred feet into the walk, I abandoned the paper map that I had printed and was trying to follow, and let the youngster in our group lead us onward using Google Maps.  It worked out well.  A few turns, a first right on to the road past the Qurikancha,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthen a left onto the road near the Inglesia De Santo Dominigo,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa couple of more turns,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAincluding onto a road with the blue window shutters,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand then we were on the final road we had to take to the place where we were to meet the ladies.  Despite the narrowness of all the side roads, there was motor traffic on them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last road that we took during this part of the walk was a long stretch that was quite steep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwith the last stretch of the road proving to be the most challenging.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe even saw a car start up the street and then give up, backing away to a spot where it could turn on to one of the side roads. The motorbikers in the picture below made it to the end of the road, at which point they had to find an alternative way to proceed further.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took it slow and easy.  When the road finally ended, and we still had to climb a few steps up to the top,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAup to a hairpin bend on another road above the first one, to the place where we were to meet the ladies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the entrances to the park was located here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe waited for the ladies.  The street dogs kept us company.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bought tickets and continued our climb once the ladies arrived. The climb continued to be steep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis llama lifted his headed for a moment from the grass that it was chewing – to look at us with amusement as we passed it on our way up the slope.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe continued the climb!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce we reached the top, we hired a guide to show us around.  The first section we visited was the area of a reservoir.  We saw a few ruins along the way,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAincluding  a couple shrines,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand walked through a closed waterway (aqueduct), one of many,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthat lead into the reservoir. (Note that the hole next to the shrine above could also have been a waterway.)  The reservoir was quite large.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the reservoir you can see the “slides” that were once actually used by children.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis formation is  natural.  We actually saw children trying to slide down on these sections of rock.  If you ask me, it looked somewhat dangerous!

We walked across the reservoir, and up to a spot where the king used to sit and watch events in the big open field, the grand plaza, in front of him.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe remains of the fortress lay beyond the plaza.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(You can click on the picture below to expand it.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The people of Cusco apparently still hold events in this place, including a major celebration for the winter solstice. The fortress has three levels of walls.  The walls of the fortress have zigzagged edges, reminding you of the shape of lightning flashes.  (I have forgotten the reason the guide gave us for the use of this shape.)

There were doorways between the levels of the fortress, a few of them still intact.  (The guide told us that the rock on top of this doorway was placed there in later times.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe size of the rocks used for the walls decreases at you get to the upper levels of the fortress.  You cannot help noticing the massive sizes for the rocks in the lower wall,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and the perfect fit of the rocks.P4240487.jpgThe Incas apparently created shapes in the walls. The rocks in the wall below are in the shape of a llama or alpaca (I suspect it is an alpaca because the neck is short compared to the neck in another rock formation of similar shape close by).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked into the fort area, to its top, to get views of the city (click on picture).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ended our visit to the site shortly after that. The trip to Saqsaywaman had taken us  longer than expected, and we had a long walk back to town.  The Palacio Nazarenas might have been a good place to visit on the way back, but we did not stop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA By the time we had walked back to the central plaza, on another one of the narrow, character filled, roads that fill this part of town,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe were tired and ready for lunch.

A final historical note about Saqsaywaman.  It was deliberately destroyed by the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century.  They removed rocks from the fortress to use in their other endeavors. So much for civilized behavior!

Here’s what happened the rest of the day!