Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cordillera Blanca Research Expedition: Cusco


Now that our research expedition in Peru's Cordillera Blanca has ended, many of us took some time to have more of a vacation in Peru.   Three other expedition members and I headed to Cusco on a trip organized by the Alpine Institute.  We'll be here for three days – that will include a trip to Macchu Picchu, before flying home or continuing on other travels in South America.

After a quick early morning flight from Lima to Cusco, we were met at the airport by our tour guide, Luz.  She immediately helped us to feel welcome and well cared for, and after settling into our hotel, we set of on a walk around Cusco.

Brief note about the hotel:  After spending a month in the field and in cheap hostels, there is nothing like comfy hotel beds and clean bathrooms.  We feel like we are living in Luxury!

For our first look at Cusco, Luz took us on a walking tour where we visited the church in the Plaza de Armas and a museum with historical artificacts from Pre-Incan to Incan times.  Luz's extensive knowledge about local history as well as the Quechua language provided us with a great history lesson!

The Church in the Plaza de Armas

Our Cusco-four:  Tylor, Nicole, Aaron, and me.

We enjoyed walking through the narrow, cobbled streets of Cusco and looking at the ancient Incan architecture that still supports many buildings in the city. Since it was Sunday, we also got to enjoy the city's weekly Sunday parade.

Our view from the museum that we visited

After a welcome lunch break (during which I tried Alpaca, which was quite good), we hopped in the bus to check out the Sacsaywaman ruins, including the main city, a military checkpoint, the water temple, and an archaeological temple. The Incan architecture of these places was extremely well-planned and complex, and Luz gave us some really interesting and helpful background information for each site.

Luz giving us some history of the Sacsaywaman ruins.  Perfect weather!
Incan architecture is awesome. See the puma print?

Here I am in front of the incredibly complex Sacsaywaman ruins.  
Luz was great about always offering to take souvenir photos of us. 
Yes, I really was here! 

By the end of the day we were exhausted, but not too exhausted to check out the salsa dancing lessons at a local bar!  It was a great day, and as much as we each enjoyed the Research Expedition, this day was a welcome change of pace after working at high altitude for three weeks.  Tomorrow we head to the Sacred Valley and the day after to Machu Picchu, so more on that soon!

Ciao,   Elsa

– Elsa Balton, Kodner Laboratory and American Alpine Institute Research Assistant

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