Cusco's foundation legend tells how two demi-gods, Manco Capac and Mama Occla rose from Lake Titicaca to search for a location for a new Inca kingdom. The first place that Manco Capac plunged his golden staff was this fertile valley and it became known ever after as Q'osco, the navel of the world. Cusco is perhaps the most schizophrenic city in Latin America, being devoutly Catholic while being intensely proud of its Inca heritage. Here Inca walls, streets and stones support the foundations of the current city while adding a symmetry and charm that speaks of 16th century fusion. Nowhere is this more evident than at Coricancha (right) where Inca foundations prop up an extant nunnery and church. Peaceful as the city seems now, Cusco was the scene of much warfare and violence, starting with the Inca-Chanca war in 1440 and ending with the revolution of 1814 and the subsequent war of independence from Spain. Spanish conquistadors considered Cusco the holy grail and when Pizarro entered the city in 1533, he was over-awed with the level of construction and civic planning (to say nothing of the quantity of gold!) Standing in the Plaza de Armas, one is always led to consider what this city must have looked like at its peak, when stone structures and gilt interiors were all pervading.
The house of blue balconies
A convent built on top of an Inca Palace
The Plaza de Armas
...with its ornate door.
The special afternoon light in winter ...
...always allows for some street shooting!
Outside Cusco is the fortress of Sacsayhuaman with its massive stones - some of which are 8 metros high and weigh more than 300 tons ...
... and Quechua women who still graze their llamas on the hills nearby.