Well my two weeks in Cuzco have basically been the most incredible two weeks abroad ever (and I´ve done my fair share of traveling). Some highlights:
1. Machu Picchu. Words nor photos cannot describe the beauty of this incredibly well-preserved site. The entire day I spent at Machu Picchu was perhaps one of the greatest days of my life. You know the mountain you see in the background of every Machu Picchu photo? Yeah, I climbed to the top of it and witnessed the most spectacular views I have ever seen. Seeing the mist gradually dissipate and unveil Machu Picchu and its surrounding mountains from the peak of the Wayna Picchu was absolutely breath-taking. I felt as if I was a god among men standing on top of Mount Olympus. The ruins themselves were also marvelous. I spent the rest of my day simply walking from structure to structure and resting every now and then to take in the gorgeous mountain views. Numerous residential structures, royal structures, a central plaza, and a sacred area were a few of the main areas. The site is massive and you definitely need to spend an entire day there.
2. Horseback Riding. Horseback riding on a clear, sunny day from Sacsahuayman to Puka Pukara to Tambomachay to the Temple of the Moon and then Qénko (all Inca ruins) was awesome. As I went from site to site, I saw beautiful views of the Cuzco city area. I passed a few villages that still spoke the ancient Inca language of Quechua. The ruins themselves were also pretty cool to see-Puka Pukara is fortified hilltop fort with wonderful countryside views, Tambomachay is a very well-preserved Inca resting place with windows and stairways, Qénko was the site of Inca animal sacrifice, Sacsayhuaman, the most impressive site, was a religious site for the Incas that is comprised of three levels of walls with perfectly aligned stones.
3. The Pre-Columbian Museum and Inca Museum. The Pre-Columbian museum is probably my favorite musuem in Cuzco because of the beautiful artifacts that are wonderfully displayed. I saw various spondylus shell necklaces, Chimu wooden scultpures, vibrant Nazca, Mochica, and Wari ceramics. I learned a great deal about the material cultures of the Pre-Inca and Inca societies. The Inca museum was also pretty impressive, showcasing Inca aryballos, ceramics, idols, and weapons. The lighting wasn´t very great but the artifacts were still pretty cool to see.
Those are some of the major highlights but I am leaving out quite a bit (the night concerts, the festivals, the various markets, and the multiple people I met.
Currently, I´m in Puno and I have met up with my project team (its a very small team, now its about 6 members but it will soon be nine). Yesterday we checked out the survey area and it is fantastic (there are Late-Intermediate period pukaras, chulpas, and slab-cist tombs everywhere). The main site we are focusing on is Machu Llacta, a well-prserved post-Tiwanaku collapse fortified site. My indenpedent research project focuses on the chulpas and slab-cist tombs in the area. I hope to analyze them and chart their positions in a GIS (which we have at the project house yeauhhh) in an effort to determine if there are any spatial relationships. My overall goal is to acquire data that will help me assess the social stratification in the area. We commence on Monday. IM STOKEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD