Cuzco and Machu Picchu – A guide to cultural travels in the land of Quechua

Cuzco and Machu Picchu – A guide to cultural travels in the land of Quechua

One of our core languages to look after is Quechua, the language of the Incas. Quechua is still widely spoken in South America, but the language is considered endangered as it is not being passed down to generations. The culture of the Incas has also merged significantly with the culture of the Spanish colonisers producing a unique setting. But in the hills and valleys of Peru there remain variation in the reach of Spanish culture and disparate communities retain their Incan culture to varying extents.

To learn more about this endangered language and culture you could do a lot worse than visit Cuzco in Peru (Wikipedia has a useful page). Cuzco was the historical capital of the Incan Empire, from which the greatest political organisation in pre-colonial South America was organised and administered. What a place!

Cuzco was the historical capital of the Incan Empire, from which the greatest political organisation in pre-colonial South America was organised and administered.

The Incas deemed this spot the belly button of the world (Indeed Cuzco mean navel) — a fitting name, tucked away as it is within the Huatanay valley beneath the majestic Andean mountain peaks.

The city is a mish mash of Pre-Columbian, Colonial and Modern architecture. A visit to Cuzco tumbles you back into the cosmic realm of ancient Andean culture – knocked down and fused with the colonial splendors of Spanish conquest, only to be repackaged as a thriving tourist mecca.

Old ways are not forgotten here. Colorful textiles keep vivid the past, as do the wild fiestas and carnivals where pagan tradition meets solemn Catholic ritual. A stunning landscape careens from Andean peaks to orchid-rich cloud forests and Amazon lowlands. Explore it on foot or by fat tire, rafting wild rivers or simply braving the local buses to the remote and dust-worn corners of this far-reaching, culturally rich department.

All this could alone justify why Cuzco is one of the most visited cities in Peru. Yet Cuzco is only the gateway to many of these visitors.

Beyond lies the Sacred Valley, the Andean countryside dotted with villages, high altitude hamlets and ruins linked by trail and railway tracks to the continent’s biggest draw – Machu Picchu (old mountain), one of the 7 wonders of the world. On arrival at Cuzco you will arrive at the airport of Alejandro Velasco Astete; the city of Qosqo is small with only 385.1 km2 so it will only take 15 to 20 minutes to get to the city center by taxi, normally the cost of the taxi is 15 soles to get to the main square or to a hotel in the center.

Beyond lies the Sacred Valley, the Andean countryside dotted with villages, high altitude hamlets and ruins linked by trail and railway tracks to the continent’s biggest draw – Machu Picchu (old mountain), one of the 7 wonders of the world.

Before going to Machupicchu you can visit many archeological centers inside Qosqo, like Qoricancha (temple of the sun) where the Incas worshiped their god Inti (sun), Maras where the cachi (salt) wells are located where salt is still collected that come from a small river (mayu) that in turn comes from a mountain and among other places like saqsayhuaman (get satisfied hawk) place where you can ride horse.

Carnival Cusqueño

This feast is celebrated between February and March, for almost a killa(month) people live a colorful environment surrounded by dances, talc, serpentines and especially much unu (water).

The carnival begins two weeks before its main day, a Thursday to be more exact, to this date is known as “Compadres Day”, here warmikuna(women) celebrate their compadres, feasting them with mihuna (food) and mocking them (keeping the respect is clear), with dolls made of cartons and dressed in old clothes, which highlight some peculiar characteristics, these dolls are then hung in places of great competition for the delight of passers-by. Similarly the next Thursday in the “Comadres Day”, it is up to the qharikuna(men), who perform the same activities.

In the central day, the main celebration takes place in the Plaza de Armas of the city of Cusco, where various public and private institutions come to dance, with the rhythm of dances such as the Cusco carnival, gang and others surrounded by local runakuna (people), as well as visitors enjoy this festivity.

Well we can not leave aside the gastronomy, on this date the dish that reigns at the tables is the exquisite T’impu (boiled) or Puchero made from meat(aycha) of lamb, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, peaches, moraya, rice, corn and leaf cabbage; also the delicious k’apchi(mashed) of beans accompanied by zetas (a typical fungus of the serranía of our Peru) is elaborated. But all this would not be perfect if it is not accompanied with the delicious frutillada, drink elaborates with chicha de jora, strawberry and cinnamon.

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