ruins around cusco
Next stop: Cusco, and old friends.
I hate to have to admit this, but I'm a bit jaded on the ruins front. After ancient Mesopotamia I can't help but wonder why the Incas didn't figure out how to stack stones until 600 years ago, but maybe I set my expectations too high. But there is actually a ton more to see in and around Cusco than Machu Picchu - the Incas were still super-prolific stone-stackers, plus there's cool mountains and rolling hills and llamas galore. And everything has cool names (Quechua is a very cool-sounding language). I highly recommend taking at least a few days to explore, if nothing else because you can only buy entrance as a pricey-ish package deal, so use it or lose it! I'm only showing the highlights here, because... these are all I got around to see.
First, there is Sacsahuamán, seen below with Cusco in the background - because it's actually just a short hike up from the city! It's actually just some walls with a view, but what is particularly impressive about Incan walls is how perfectly they carved the stones to fit together, with who-knows-what technology. Plus if it's windy you can get some pretty dramatic gusts up on that hill - great time to pose for those shivering supermodel-style Christmas card photos.
Then because of limited time, we chose to go for Moray (that circle thang) and the salineras (salt fields). We took a combi/colectivo out a bit and then hired a car for S/.60 (about USD$30) between the two of us to take us around for the next 2 hours to the two different sites and wait. Moral of the story: bring more friends because then it's cheaper to split. Even though I'm more of a sweet tooth, I have a strange affinity for naturally-occuring salt deposits. Plus you can always grab a giant chunk and bring it home, and then you can season at least one tomato salad by Argentinian standards, harhar.