09.28.2008 - 09.30.2008
You didn´t think I was actually going to write a travel blog about Peru without making a reference to "The Emperors New Groove", did you? If you are reading this right now and have not seen the movie, I strongly reccomend you stand up from your computer chair, exit whatever building you are in and head to the nearest video store, for you are missing out on a brilliantly hilarious slice of life.
During the time in Cusco, we got to stay in what felt like a palace, also known as Torre Dorada. When we arrived tired and itchy to Cusco, they were there waiting for us at the train station, a driver and another staff member who spoke very good English. We rode into the quiet, residential area of the city and eventually came to a stop in front of what would become our home for a few days. The sound of a crackling fire drew me into the smiling faces around us as we entered the reception area of Torre Dorada. A wonderfully kind gentleman who also spoke English sat us down and told us of their free taxi service, gave us a map and information about the area, recommended many places to see and eat and introduced us to the owner. We then headed up to our room, took nice, warm showers and fell asleep in the delightfully comfy beds.
Exploring the streets and sights of Cusco filled the day. Inca foundations rest under colonial spanish influence all over in this place. The heaviness seems to take form not only in the buildings, but in the people as well. I looked into the eyes of the countless people begging for us to give money in one form or another and saw a desperation and oppression. Along the streets there was great contrast of beauty and sadness. After wading through this sea of contrast, we entered the cathedral on the plaza. What a strange emptiness that filled me as we stepped out of the streets and into a grand building filled with gold and silver. It was glorious, but not in a joyful way and I felt God was robbed, for He should be seen in the smiles of people rather than in a gold altar in a dark building. My heart was very troubled.
The next day, we again entered these troubling seas as we headed out to the sacred valley to tour Chinchero and Moray. Chinchero was our first stop in this gorgeous valley. Here there were more Inca ruins to explore, but the crumbling walls only seemed to match the atmosphere of this town. Seemingly emotionless people wandered by, children peered out of doorways without smiling and injured and starving dogs were abundant. As my sister was talking to a dog whose ribs were visible, had a limp and wheezed as it breathed, I walked down the street trying to calm the ache in my heart, peered into another church building filled with gold and flowers and almost threw up. We went on after this to have lunch in Urubamba with our driver and then carried on to Moray. The ruins there were quite impressive, large circular terraces that look like an ampitheatre, but are believed to have been an Inca crop labaratory.
The ruins we saw on this day were amazing and the awe I have for the Incas is grand, but the highlight of this day came from children. Before we left the states, both Jen and I purchased several boxes of crayons, markers, pencils and pens. As we drove from sight to sight, we came across children walking many miles along hot dusty roads home from school. Our driver stopped numerous times and we hopped out to give these supplies to the kids. They reacted with surprise and gratefullness. I will never forget one little boy, whose eyes grew wider than I knew possible as we handed over a $1 box of markers and he exclamed, "MUCHAS gracias!".
As we headed back to Cusco in the late afternoon, I had many emotions flooding my mind. I actually did ponder upon The Emporers New Groove, believe it or not. There is a natural tendency, I think, when watching that movie to be pulling for Pacha, the humble peasant and his family, not for the greedy Kuzco, who can only focus on himself and his summer home with a pool. There is a desire for the innocent to be protected, for selfishness to fall away and for all to be loved and appreciated. I felt all of those things on these days.
Are you still reading this without watching the movie? What did I tell you?