Yesterday we spent a full day exploring the many Inca ruins that can be found in Cuzco. We started with a horseback ride from lower Sacsayhuaman to one of the sites at higher elevation where many Inca tunnels can be found. During the time of the Incas, the city of Cosqo (now Cuzco) was built in the shape of a puma, which was one of three sacred animals that symbolized power to the Incas. Sacsayhuaman was the head of this puma and an important gathering place and citadel. The Incas were extraordinary builders and many of the structures in Sacsayhuaman still remain, despite some destruction from Spanish conquistadores and the degradation that comes from time, tourists, and earthquakes. Throughout Sacsayhuaman you can find Inca tunnels, which form a labyrinthine underground maze that was used not only for strategic purposes, but also to store mummies (mummification was a regular practice of the Incas). Though these tunnels have been studied by archaeologists, it still isn´t known where some of them lead.
There are several important Inca sites within Sacsayhuaman—there´s Tambo Machay, the sacred ´Temple of the Waters´; Puca Pucara, an Incan hunting fortress; Qenko, an important huaca (or ´sacred place´) that was used for both important sacrifices and spiritual communication; and then there´s the Temple of the Sun, which is considered the most important shrine in Sacsayhuaman and contains the zigzag megalithic walls that form the jagged teeth of the city´s puma.
Although we were able to get to a few of the sites via horseback, we did a fair amount of hiking to explore some of them more thoroughly. Thankfully, the majority of us have acclimatized to the altitude by now, so it wasn´t too difficult to accomplish this even though the highest point of Sacsayhuaman (Puca Pucara at approx. 12,800 ft) looms a few thousand feet above the city of Cuzco.
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