After staying out late on Friday night and being a little tired from a long week of waking up early for Spanish classes, we took advantage of Saturday to spend the morning relaxing around the house. We slept in a bit, had a typical Peruvian breakfast of spinach/egg pancakes and fresh squeezed papaya juice, and generally recharged because our plan was to spend the afternoon trekking up to the Incan ruins of Saqsaywaman (pronounced like "sexy woman") and the Christo Blanco (White Jesus). Before making the hike from the city center, which goes nearly straight up hill, we walked into town to have lunch and fuel up. La Boheme is Cusco's only "creperia". It seats only 8 people and is run by the owner and chef, who is from France but has spent the past 3 years in Cusco. Who knew the kids would be such fans…they each had a avocado and ham crepe, followed by several desert crepes!
By about 1p we had a full belly and were ready to hike. Saqsaywaman is outside of Cusco so our maps don't actually show the specific path, but we knew the general direction…straight up. Unfortunately, we followed an old sign to Christo Blank that must no longer point the right way because after climbing about 300 stairs, Sydney falling about 5 feet off the side of an embankment and me being chased by some kind of a rabid dog who was guarding a llama we were forced to turn around and retrace our steps.
We regrouped, found the correct signs, and about 45 minutes later made it to the entrance of the ruins…which is where the real adventure started. Apparently viewing the ruins isn't free…it costs 140 soles. While that's only about $50…we didn't have that much on us and it's not like there's an ATM next to ancient ruins. While we sat there debating what to do next, a fairly shady guy came over and offered us a horseback ride to the ruins for only 60 soles (which is all we had) for the 4 of us. Melanie was more than a little dubious about a horseback riding tour for only $20, but we decided to take the 15 minute walk to his ranch to check out his operation in person. After getting the thumbs up from a few other americans who had just gone on the tour, we saddled up and were off. Problem was…we had no idea where we were going! Instead of a nice english speaking guide to show us the way and explain the history of these ancient sites, we got a Peruvian woman, carrying a 9 month old baby in a blanket strapped to her back who spoke no english and spent the time not telling us about the tour but rather prodding our horses up a pretty steep hill (while she walked behind us…still carrying the baby).
(believe it or not, there's a 9 month old baby in that blanket tied around her neck!!!!)
At this point, I was feeling more than a little guilty that, for what's really only a nominal fee, we're comfortably being carried by horses while this woman is forced to walk, baby in tow. Regardless, it ended up working out. Eventually the mom was replaced with a much more physically capably 16 year old girl (it's still lost on me why the men who sold us the tour made the women walk next to the horses while they just hung out at the ranch) and the whole excursion lasted about 2 hours. We visited 2 different ruins (in addition to seeing Saqsaywaman) and saw some amazing scenery from the horses, all the while enduring cold weather (it's about 15 degrees colder at the top of the mountains), periodic rain and even a little hail/sleet.
Afterwards, we hiked up by foot to Christo Blanco where, coincidentally, we met 2 kids from Newport Beach taking in the impressive site.
By 5p we had had enough adventure and started the long walk back into the Cusco. Once back into town we stopped for a snack and a few hard earned cervezas (for Melanie and me). Having spent a very full day of activity, we grabbed some dinner at a place frequented primarily by the locals for its 1/4 chicken, and by 9:30p we were back at home completely exhausted but satisfied we accomplished all we had set out to do. All in all…a nice little Saturday.
As always, more pics are posted on Flickr.