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A day in Cusco

Worldwide Programme Manager Hannah travelled on a whistle-stop trip to Peru to meet with some of our partners where she found that the highlights of Peru are not always Inca ruins.

"After a flying visit to Lima to catch up with the Explore team who look after our Peru trips I couldn’t help add a few extra days to hop over and see Cusco and Machu Picchu, it seemed rude not to.

I was really short on time so my plan was just one day in Cusco and to cram in as much as I possibly could, after all I don’t know when I’ll get back there. After grabbing a quick breakfast and a glass of the scarily deep purple chichi morada, a juice made from local purple corn, I hopped in to a car with a local guide and started to head to my first stop of the day, the Saqsayhuaman Fortress. This Inca temple-citadel is set up on a hill overlooking the city and allegedly took around 90 years to build. But I got distracted on the way - quite normal for me.

After crawling along in heavy traffic for a while we turned a corner to find the road closed ahead and a huge crowd of people. Well this looks interesting! I get out and find myself in the middle of a parade and all thoughts of seeing Saqsayhuaman are forgotten. It turns out to be a Catholic festival that the Spanish brought in to try and replace the Inca celebration of Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun. Inti Raymi is a huge annual event in Cusco celebrating the winter solstice. Everyone gets together for street parades and parties before a re-enactment of the traditional Inca celebration at the Saqsayhuaman ruins.

The first thing I spot is a HUGE statue being carried along but about 30 men, and they are dancing as they carry it! A few steps forward, a few back, everyone dressed up in suits and mostly smiling despite the fact it must weigh a ton or two. I ask someone in the crowd what’s going on and they explain that these are sculptures of Catholic saints that usually reside in the cathedral, once a year they get blinged up and carried around the town followed by marching bands, colourful dancers and some very odd costumes that I couldn’t seem to find explanation for!

For me this is the best thing about travelling, coming across something I wasn’t expecting. I did make it to Saqsayhuaman and loved it there but my highlight of the day was without a doubt hanging out at the parade, having a chance to chat to people and bust a few (terrible) dance moves."

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