I had really been looking forward to this day – because in the book that we read before the trip about the last days of the Incas, Sacsayhuaman (and Cusco) actually plays a fairly prominent role. From my memory of the book, I believed Sacsayhuaman to be some sort of fortress on a hillside near Cusco that Manco Inca had retreated to when the battle wasn’t going his way. They described three imposing walls that the Spaniards had to overcome.
This morning we visited Sacsayhuaman. Before leaving the hotel – we were able to buy some Wari slingshots from a coop or school that Ernesto contacted.
We took a bus up to the top, visited a few locations, and then walked down the hill into town. Ernesto described Sacsayhuaman as a temple to the god of lightning and thunder. At the very top – there was an interesting maze-like construction with some tables that served as operating tables for the Incas.
We had a chance in a large field area to get our sling shot lessons. Ernesto demonstrated again and he gets a nice whip-like cracking sound going. Then those of use who had purchased slingshots spaced ourselves out and…well…mostly made ourselves look like idiots 🙂 A few of us got it going…not so much me. But I’m sure I looked fierce while doing it!
Sacsayhuaman did have three sets of walls. These walls were part of the temple – the Incan temples are rarely (or at least what we saw) enclosed buildings – it was more the whole area. The three walls were shaped like lightning bolts – part of the way that they honored the god. The rocks were huge – at least they were rolled downhill from a quarry a few miles away (in contrast to the boulders at Ollantaytambo which had to be brought up hill). I think Ernesto said that these boulders were limestone.
There were some great views of Cusco from here as well. And one, in particular, of the city center
Once down the steep hill, we got to do some silver shopping and then we were on our own until dinner! We had a very quick lunch (Ernesto’s only suggestion for fast was fast-food locations, so we sadly dined at KFC – but we did have a comical language situation trying to communicate to the cashier). Then we dashed to our chocolate making workshop!
The session was overcrowded – but it was still reasonably fun. We learned all about cacao beans, roasting, peeling, grinding, etc.
They had us each grind a few beans into a paste and the person who made the finest paste won a prize – here are my (left) and Derek’s (right) entries:
Derek did an awesome job and won the contest! I tried my best – and she said mine was close – but I just don’t have the same muscle I guess.
We made two different kinds of hot chocolate – Mayan and Spanish. The Mayan was pretty much just paste, pepper, water, and….fresh blood! They tried to con us into believing that they were going to prick someone’s tongue to put a few drops of blood in the mixture, but they were just joking. Derek offered himself up as the guinea pig after one of the kids chickened out:
None of the kids really liked the Mayan drink – no (or not very much) sugar. I thought it was okay and interesting. The Spanish version of the hot chocolate tasted much more like we would be used to – so this was a much bigger hit. It had chocolate, milk, and lots of sugar in it. What’s not to like?
The final part of the workshop was to make our own chocolates. They had prepared the chocolate ahead of time(apparently it takes 24 hours to turn the chocolate paste and sugar into the liquid chocolate that we are familiar with). We all got to choose molds and then they had a whole slew of things that we could put into each piece or bar. Nuts, espresso beans, mint, sprinkles, cinnamon, salt, etc. I made some bars and Derek made some cups. They did not give us guidance as to how much of the seasonings we should add – so it was definitely a blind guess as we sprinkled our salt, mint, or cinnamon into the mold.
We had to wait a couple of hours for the chocolate to set in the fridge – so we took that opportunity for a quick dash to the Machu Picchu museum. (As a side note – we slowly ate through our chocolate stash once home – their chocolate was 70% cacao, so pretty dark. But the base chocolate is delicious – they had talked about the different kinds of cacao beans and how some are bitter and some are naturally sweeter and that they use a kind of bean that is sweeter – you could definitely tell in the taste).
The dinner at the hotel tonight was a blast – we did the white elephant game and it was really interesting to see what everyone bought. The stuffed guinea pigs made from alpaca fur were some of the hottest items (amongst the kids). There were a lot of knit socks, some hats and gloves, and other knick knacks. It was funny to see the range of items – there were definitely some good bargainers there and some, well, less-skilled ones.
All in all, another great day.