If you don’t want to fork out S./130 for a boleto turístico which is necessary to see 16 of the attractions around Cusco you can buy the S./70 ticket which gets you into the four Inca ruins closest to the town. See, isn’t Cusco good to you? I bought the big boy on account of the fact I had a few days to kill before the Inca Trail and Chris got himself the cheaper one and off we went by bus to Tambomachay. Or “The one that begins with T, Timotei or something…” because the part of my brain which stores Quechuan place names had been demolished and rebuilt to accommodate the recipe for pisco sours. It doesn’t take long to get there on the bus and after kidnapping a French girl because she looked lonely and we thought she might like the pleasure of our company we found ourselves gawping at ruin number one.
Erm… is that it? It’s definitely ruined, I’ll give it that, but can you honestly call a wall with some water pouring out of it a site of interest? I like broken shit and am relatively easily impressed but even I found that no amount of head tilting, looking at it from a distance and photographing it from every angle could make it look cool. Talk about an anti-climax. The second ruin on the list is Pukapukara and it’s just over the road from Tamagotchi or whatever it’s called. Chris and our French hostage, Agnes, still weren’t impressed but at least it had rooms and a wicked view. I wouldn’t mind claiming squatters rights here. Build a roof. Hang some curtains. Bit of carpet (not the kind you munch). Lick of paint. Lovely.
We walked back towards town along the main road with the intention of stopping at Q’enqo next but we veered off along an unused road which took us straight to the ruin closest to town, Saqsaywamán meaning “satisfied falcon”. Ah now this is more like it. Lots of places to check out and ropes to jump over to attract the attention of the whistle blowing guards and doorways to lean against whilst striking a 90’s boy-band gazing-into-the-distance pose. Definitely the most impressive so far today.
Ready for the history lesson? Right. Back in the day (1438 to 1471, fact fans) the 9th Inca, Pachakuteq, after whooping the Chankas’ arses set to work improving Cusco including the agriculture and the water supply and he built a load of stuff including the fortress of Saqsaywamán. He saw Cusco as the shape of a puma with the fortress being the puma’s head. Hmm. I’m not convinced. A puma? Really? Does it really look like a puma? Are you sure or have we been sipping on a bit too much of the ol’ san pedro? I got a free, yes, actually free map with my boleto turístico although for that price I’d want more than a free bloody map. How about a foot massage you tight bastards?
But anyway, this map showed how Cusco was indeed in the shape of a puma. A tailless, crippled puma, admitted, but a puma none the less. Another map I found online gave the puma legs but the only bit I’m really convinced about is its back and its arse although if I close one eye and squint with the other, most of it up to it’s neck could be considered vaguely puma-like in the way that London could be considered a delicate flower with the Thames as the life giving stem. Or maybe one just needs to use ones imagination. Pass the hallucinogenics, please.
After a feed we headed to the final of the four, Q’enqo, which can legally be defined under European standards as a Pile Of Rocks. I honestly didn’t think it was all that ay, it had some underground parts you could look at but apart from that it literally was completely fucked. We wandered around them before heading back to Cusco.
But this place we ate at, that was an experience. Now, eating in a country where you don’t speak the language is always an adventure. I can usually recognise most things on a menu these days, the variations from country to country throw me a bit but for all intents and purposes I can hold a brief food-related conversation with the waitress in Spanish and more often than not I know more or less what to expect on my plate. Agnes’s Spanish skills were zero but Chris’s are better than mine so between the two of us we tried to decipher the verbally given menú del dia, a cheap, set menu consisting of a soup, a main course and a drink.
The soup was corn, we understood that. And the mains were a choice of fried fish or something else. Nope, neither of us could work out exactly what it was but I’m not fried fish’s biggest fan so by process of elimination I opted for the other. I couldn’t identify exactly what part of what animal the rubbery strips of fuck knows what were but the cat sat next to me loved it. I let it have it and made a mental note to stick to the devil I knew in future.
The following day I took off on my lonesome to check out a spot of culture. You’re gonna have to use your imagination for the rest of this post on account of the fact that museums and art galleries generally don’t let you take photos. This doesn’t always stop me and to be honest I don’t usually frequent these places unless they have cool stuff like dead things or machines with moving parts you’re allowed to play with or are un-monitored so you can play with them regardless of whether you’re allowed to or not, but today I made an exception because I’d already paid for them when I bought the boleto turístico and dammit, I intended to get what I’d paid for.
First stop was a big monument strategically placed slap bang in the middle of a roundabout surrounded by roads that paid stunt men and daredevils would look at and declare anyone who attempted to get over them clinically insane. Peruvians, like most South Americans, drive like nutters. After carefully timing my death defying dash across to the roundabout, ignoring blaring horns and staring straight ahead employing the patented “if I can’t see it it’s not there” technique, I entered the cylindrical tower that supported a massive bronze statue of one of the Incas. I forget which. Clearly today was going to be informative and memorable. Pfft. I made my way up from floor to floor, stopping to read the information on the various Incas that ruled the Tawantinsuyo then made my back down to find the Museo De Siteo Qorikancha.
Easily done and this one was ok, it had dead shit in it and dead shit is cool. They had mummies and information about how the Incas were revered even after death. In fact they were kept in their palaces, new Incas had to build their own new pad and the dead Incas were considered to still have power and a say in how government was run. They were brought out for occasions, offered food and drink and even left with other mummies alone so they could hang out and catch up. I’m not even shitting you, it was all right there in black and white on the wall. They thought that whatever the dead dude enjoyed doing in life he would enjoy doing in death also.
I had all kinds of images of a mummy curled up in a foetal position, the position in which they were interned in urns, sat under an umbrella by a river with a fishing rod, or amongst the other fans at a footy match wearing a scarf and a knitted with his team’s colours. Crispy, dead Incas propping the local bar up, flaking desiccated flesh into his pint. Actually that sounds like some of the patrons at one of the bars I used to work at. It’s an insane thought today but yeah, that’s what they used to do. The new ruler was expected to start again with new staff and palaces because the old lot were still looking after the old king in his old house. They also had some deformed skulls and that was news to me, I didn’t know the Incas practised cranial deformation. It was all to do with social class, the more fucked up the skull the higher up the hierarchy they were. Crazy motherfuckers they were, if that’s high class I’ll take peasantry, thankyouverymuch.
I visited a couple more art galleries after that, dragging my disheartened carcass around town, craving a beer. I don’t remember the names of them but one had some pretty weird sculptures, only small things, everything from Christian imagery to indigenous rituals and ceremonies and some odd stuff in between. There was a little statue, in colour, of a naked woman lying on an operating table with a cloth covering her lower half. She was pregnant, at least she was until the wild eyed doctor standing next to her cut her baby out of her pulling her intestines with it. Hot. There was another small statue, the colour of the clay it was made out of, of a bony, shirtless soldier with a skeletal face thrusting a rifle out in front of him with his right hand, clutching a missile with “USA” engraved into it in his left, trampling a mother holding a baby as a tearful child dressed in rags looked on. It was entitled Vietnam del Sur – 1972. It’s worth noting the Asian features of the crying child and the figure on the ground. I approached my last stop for the day, ticket in hand, and stood in front of the building staring at the door, willing my legs to carry me into it. I couldn’t bring myself to put myself through another agonising tour, gawping at stuff I had no interest in whatsoever. I looked at the ticket, back to the door, back to the ticket. And went back to Yamanyá Backpackers to reward myself with a trip to the bar.
Stayed at: Yamanyá Backpackers (2019 Update: According to Google this place is permanently closed)