My feet almost get ran over by a taxi. The streets are narrow, the sidewalks the width of my hips. Sharp cobble protrudes from worn concrete. There are channels in the middle of the road covered by metal grates. Gralic odor wafts from restaurant windows and mixes with the stench of nearbye dog shit. Someone has stepped in the pile, but it wasn`t us. Another gringo must have done it. They are eveywhere. White faces hide beneath khaki sombreros. Pale legs are protected from the sun by cotton trousers. New Balance sneakers stained tope and cracked from wear. Cameras.
Like animals fed in the wild, the habitants of Cuzco have grown accustomed to the easy exploitation of the over-abundant tourists. We are offered massages from every doorway we pass. Hosteses wave menus in our faces. Red-eyed Peruvians offer paintings and terquoise jewelry. We say no gracias and continue walking towards the plaza.
Enormous diorite blocks carved for a perfect fit. The joints are nearly invisible, hidden by the shadow of the inlay. These walls survived the great earthquake of 1650 while the Spanish architecture crumbled. These walls were here when Cuzco was last besieged by the Manco Inca. The weight of the stones is unimaginable, the skill of the craftsmanship unbelievable. The temple we are exploring was built right on top of an ancient Incan structure. Many of the walls remain intact, but they are now decorated with colinial religious artwork. The Virgin Mary stares skyward with imploring eyes. I`m more interested in the stonework.
We go to the Inca museum next. Black and red pottery, bronze tweezers, a golden llama. There are faces on the vases with tiny noses and pointy eyes. One exhibit shows mummies illuminated by red bulbs. Their gaunt faces stare back at us from the 16th-century. The artifacts tell a history of wealth and power, but there is a noticable lack of gold. Spanish furnaces melted a wealth of art that could not be equaled by the thousands of bars stamped with the King`s seal.
We hike towards the ruins and are stopped by a man in a booth selling tickets. The price is 40 soles, about 14 dollars. The ruin is packed with white faces pressed to viewfinders. Tour guides spew mystery and legend. We will have plenty of chances to see ruins on our nine day trek to Machu Pichu. We decide to stroll around the countryside. We climb a short hillside with a white statue at the top. The statue has his enormous arms open wide, as if embracing the city. From the hilltop we can see every red roof of Cuzco. The green valleys contrast the sprawling buildings.
A young boy starts talking to us even though we do not ask him to. He tells us that the city is built in the shape of a Puma. He points out the head, the legs, the genitals. The Plaza Armas is the heart of the beast. The blood is tourism and it pulses to the claw tips of the puma.
A milk shake with chocolate chip ice cream. We play cribbage and discuss our trip. We leave tomorrow morning at 6:30 am. The trek will take nine days. We will see Machu Pichu and many other ruins along the way. We are all excited. I suck forcefully on the straw until the glass is empty. My stomach is full of sugar. My mind if full of anticipation.