On the afternoon of day six we met up with the rest of the tour group at the Aguas Calientes train station and boarded our train to Cuzco. During the train ride you see a lot of the Sacred Valley. The Andes are beautiful and covered in snow and glaciers. The train staff put on folkloric dances up and down the aisle. The dances were followed by a fashion show. I feel sorry for the male purser/model as there was an unruly group of women near the end of our car that hooted and hollered whenever he did his walk down the aisle. At the end, the passengers could purchase the clothes that were modeled.
We got off the train one stop before Cuzco and got on a bus to complete the trip to our hotel. The station we got off was closer to the hotel then the Cuzco station. We checked into the Libertador Palacio del Inka Cusco Hotel. It was a nice hotel. We enjoyed Dinner at the hotel before going to bed.
The next morning, day seven, we had the morning free. It was Sunday so the wife and I went to the Plaza de Armas, the central square, and went to mass at the cathedral. The mass was a very typical mass until they started playing the Battle Hymn Of The Republic. We asked our guide about it later in the day and she was surprised to learn about it's origin as an American Civil War hymn. She thought of it as any other church hymn.
At the end of mass we stood on the steps of the cathedral and watched a parade. The parade started with a military band followed by children ranging from kindergarten age up to the teens. A lady, noticing our delight in seeing the cute little kids, asked me in Spanish if our children walked in parades where we came from. I said no, not like this. The parade ended with a couple of interesting banners: one praising the relationship between Peru and Cuba and the other praising the Marxist revolutionary Che Guavara.
After the parade, we saw three girls in native costume, one holding a cute little lamb. We took their picture and then ... I screwed up. I had three coins. Instead of giving one coin to each girl, I gave all three coins to the oldest girl. What a mistake. The littlest one followed us asking for money. She was relentless. She kept getting in our way. Even the Peruvian people on the street were telling her not to harass us. I finally gave in and gave her the little change I had left - she had won. Sigh.
We walked around the neighborhood looking for shops to browse in. We ended up in the Hotel Monasterio where we were planning to have lunch. It turned out that the restaurant, the best in Cuzco, would not be open for a while and we were hungry so we decided not to wait. We headed back to our hotel. On the way back to the hotel we passed this delightful establishment. In Peru, Guinea Pig is served on special occasions such as birthdays. My real concern was the fact that soup and laundry were in the same establishment. I wouldn't trust the soup.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were tired. Cuzco is a little hilly and the altitude, 11,000 feet, really saps the strength. We ate at the hotel restaurant and went to the room to rest before our afternoon tour.
We boarded the bus which took us back to the Plaza de Armas and the cathedral where we received a formal tour (no photography allowed though). The rainbow flag that flies over the Plaza de Armas is the Cuzco Flag. Our guide was aware that the flag means something quite different in the States. She also pointed out that the order of the colors are a little different for the two flags.
After the cathedral, we left the city and visited several nearby Incan and pre-Incan Ruins. The first were the ruins of Tambomachay, location of natural springs and aqueducts. We asked our guide if the water was drinkable. She said Yes - for her. No - for us. We knew what she meant. The second set of ruins we went to was Kenko, a religious center. Here we saw altars dedicated to the Sun. Finally, the third site was Sacsayhuaman (sounds like Sexy Woman). The zig-zag ruins are build with huge stones. The Spaniards raided the site for stones to build the cathedral in Cuzco.
We returned to the city, stopping at an overlook on the way, and ended up at an orphanage. General Tours tries to add a visit such as this on all their tours. They want to give back to the country where they are conducting their tours. We watched the orphans dance and sing and listened to the Sisters who ran the facility. Some of the tour members had brought gifts for the children and others provided a donation. I wasn't sure about this part of the tour but it turned out to be a nice change of pace and we all enjoyed the visit.
That evening we ate at the Tunupa restaurant located on the Plaza de Armas. The buffet was good and the music and dancing was entertaining. We bought a CD from the band that was performing - they were pretty good. The deserts at the buffet where yummy delicious.
Here ends Chapter Six. Pictures can be found here. Coming up in the next chapter: The Road To Puno.