Cusco, Inca capital of Peru
When we arrived in Cusco, or rather it's Airport, we immediately noticed the effects of altitude, some of the passengers in the aircraft looked rather sick within a few minutes. This wasn't the kind of altitude sickness that kills through low pressure but simply a shortage of oxygen. In fact we had noticed repressurisation when we came in to land, but of course the aircraft had oxygen enriched air and outside didn't. We were all a bit tired, and some took longer than others to adapt. The main trick seems to simply involve deeper breathing and not forgetting to keep it up. The capital of Peru is now Lima, and that was a deliberate move by the Spanish / Catholic invaders, they probably found the air a bit thin in Cusco too, even having taken much longer to get to it. However, having got there, they have made a right mess of the monuments and ceremonial structures of the Inca, usually robbing the stone to build dozens of cathedrals and churches with, and often on the foundations of, the Inca buildings. Fortunately Cusco's street plan would have been too difficult to erase, just look at the wall behind the chap in ceremonial costume, so much of it remains. The Inca were so good at building using irregular stones that the Church builders must have had some serious problems recycling them. Sadly however they persisted and have converted quite a lot of impressive monuments into churches which they then covered in gold leaf. I suppose the natives would have been impressed by the height of the rooms on the inside, and the stained glass windows, but I think they'd have taken a bit of convincing that this was better masonry. and would have been puzzled by the fixation on gold Of course the actual building of the churches was done by the ignorant heathen peasants, who would have brought their impressive, though of course ungodly, skills to rapidly outclass the educated christian master masons. If I seem a little unsympathetic to the catholic cause of making a buck or two from the poor, (while explaining that it was their fault for being sinners) consider the picture below which was the first thing we saw on getting off the aircraft. Colonisation continues
Colonisation also brings local attractions to a wider public, and there are a great number of attractions in the neighbourhood of Cusco. In town we saw an excellent drama showing some of the culture and history of the Andes. It should be shown world-wide. Here's a link.
That should give you a general feel for it. If it doesn't come to you, you should go and see it.
While you are in Cusco a trip up to what is commonly pronounced sexywoman would be a good idea, it's not as famous as Machu Pichu, but it's a good taster for the massive masonry style. The name in Quechua is Sacsayhuaman and for all its size it is probably not a fortress, either way it is impressive, the mind boggles a bit as to what it would have looked like before the spanish started knocking bits off it to build churches. I've put a couple of photos on another page,
and there's a link to a couple of proper sites