The group got up early on Tuesday to bid one last farewell to our hosts before heading off to Cusco, exchanging warm embraces in the chilly winter mountain morning air.
Along the way to Cusco we took many stops. One of the favorites was a local zoo, where we encountered many local (and exotic) species, including spectacle bears, llamas, alpacas, pumas, condors, deer, ocelots, monkeys, and of course, cuyes (guinea pigs).
We visited many ruins on the way to Cusco, most notably the Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman. Situated high above the city of Cusco, this site demonstrates the scale and precision of Incan stonework. Massive stones were placed together without mortar and have stood for hundreds of years. In some places these master builders used uniquely shaped blocks to incorporate images of animals into the walls.
Upon arrival in the city, we enjoyed a wonderful buffet lunch at a local restaurant before exploring the city. We took tours of the Inca museum, el Convento De Santo Domingo, and La Catedral de Cusco. These sites displayed combinations of Incan architecture and culture combined with modern Spanish influence. For example, there is a large painting of the Last Supper in the Cathedral that resembles many other depictions of this famous gathering, but with one exceptional detail: the main dish on the table is cuy (guinea pig).
Many of the buildings in Cusco are built on top of Incan foundations due to their resistance to earthquakes, which decimate the city roughly every 300 years.
The group took a brief rest at the hotel before heading out to our last dinner in Peru. In addition to a delicious Peruvian meal, we were treated to professional dances and music. Many students joined in the fun after putting down their forks.