Excerpts from the Lonely Planet – Peru:
Legend tells that in the 12th century, the sun god Inti looked down on the earth and decided that the people needed organizing, so he created the first Inca, Manco Cápac, and his sister-wife, Mama Ocllo. They came to life on Isla del Sol (Sun Island), way over in Lake Titicaca, with a long walk ahead of them. Inti gave Manco Cápac a golden rod and told him to settle in the spot where he could plunge it into the ground until it disappeared: this would be the navel of the earth (qosq’o in the Quechua language).
And so Cuzco got its name. Locals can point out the place where the rod allegedly went in – it’s on a hill overlooking the bus terminal.
When Manco discovered the place, he quickly subdued the natives and founded the city that was to become the center of one of the Americas’ greatest empires. And people have been here ever since: Cuzco is the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America, and the continent’s undisputed archaeological capital.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Cusco, for some reason, has been one of those cities that I have always wanted to see for myself. At times I’ve often wondered why it’s taken me so long to get there. My imagination was always tweaked by the thought of a city where the streets rise steeply in all directions from the central plaza, and where a visitor must spend some time acclimatizing before it’s possible to explore the upper regions.
However, after spending five weeks in Quito, Ecuador at 2,850m (9,405ft) and finding I was still struggling to breathe in the thin air, I was more than a little concerned about how I would handle Cusco at 3,400m (11,200ft). For that reason, we had booked a hotel in the city for three nights before we set off to explore Machu Picchu.