July 28, Cuzco, Peru
The last couple of days in Cuzco have been relaxing and fun. Norton Rat's Tavern has a motorcycle theme and has been the watering hole of choice and a great place to catch up with other bikers to find out more about trouble spots and cool places on the highway. Most folks just come here because of it's great location overlooking the Plaza de Armas and they've got the best burgers in town and a good beer selection. Cuzco is completely over-run by gringo's of every nationality and it's a relaxing and fun place to hang out. Many of the restaurants and the buildings in and near the centro have walls and partial foundations that are the actual large granite boulders perfectly chiseled and fitted together by the Inca's well over 500 years ago, which really helps define the character of the oldest city of the America's.
I've met many other tourists but I have to say that the funniest contrast is between the "spiritual explorers", and everyone else. There are probably hundreds of spiritual guides, shaman, and other such guides who are glad to take gringo dollars to provide an "enlightening" experience; some include natural hallucinogenic drugs but most don't. They learn about many aspects of the Inca religion, which emphasizes nature and it's cycles, polarities such as high/low, masculine/feminine, right/left, good/evil, etc. and other more cosmic things I don't know about. What they don't seem to include is one of the most significant of the Incan spiritual practices - child sacrifice.
I've met 3 different "spiritual explorers" and asked each one of them if they knew whether the Inca's practiced human sacrifice or not, like many of the other ancient Latin American cultures did. Every one of them has either said no, or they didn't think so. I've asked other gringo's the same question and every one of them that has been on a guided tour of the ruins around Cusco says yes, they used to sacrifice children. My guess is that the spiritual explorers are picked up at the airport by their spiritual guides and taken to their spiritual locations and spoon-fed carefully selected aspects of Incan spirituality that are spiritually pensive, but inoffensive (leaving out the child-sacrifice detail) and then they start the ritual of rubbing oatmeal on their foreheads. Okay, I don't know anything about the oatmeal it was just a funny visual. Other visitors with standard tour guides hear about the child sacrifices.
Child sacrifice was customary for the Incas during or after important events, the death of a leader, or during times of famine to entice the gods to help things out. It is believed that the children used were in perfect physical condition because that would be the best and most valuable thing the Inca could possibly offer to their gods. These children were dressed in fine clothing and jewelry, taken to the top of a mountain and either strangled, bludgeoned or buried alive. Spanish missionaries reported this practice and recently archaeological evidence has been found to support that claim.
Anyway, I just thought it was a funny contrast between the standard gringos and the spiritual travelers' tour details and it made me laugh while I was putting together the second page of Peru pictures: