People and Places of Sacred Valley, Peru

After spending a day in Lima, I was hoping for more of a Peruvian cultural experience but landing in Cuzco and driving through the suburbs, it seemed like Peru may be a country full of modern concrete.  We were to stay in Urumbamba for a night before heading to Machu Pichu and convinced our driver to take the Chinchero route.  First stop, a visit with the weavers of Chinchero.  The place had tourist trap written all over it but this is one time I did not mind.  The mountain people are so beautiful, one could just keep watching them.  A beautiful young woman speaking fluent English walked us through the entire process of extracting natural dyes, cleaning Alpaca wool in natural soap, dyeing and weaving.  The air was thin and we gladly accepted our first cup of coca tea.

I was enamored by the beautiful handmade textiles and starting plunking away some hard earned dollars when half way through I realized that a good portion of the textiles being sold there were machine made in some factory (probably in China), at which point we made a hasty retreat but not before i captured the colors.

Our driver now took us to an overlook from where we could get the first glimpse of Incan ruins and the town of Chincero but alas it was to visit one more of the weaving farms.  We politely declined to enter and witnessed some unpleasant exchange between the farm lady and the driver.  She was disappointed that we had spent all our budget at the first farm.

Ruins at Chinchero

Next on the itinerary were the Salt mines at Maras and agricultural laboratories of Moray.  We chose Moray as our first stop.  From atop, the mezmerizing terraces were a geomteric delight.
We merrily climbed down with every intention of watching the cloudy sky as three other tourists did, but the thin air got to us and we barely made it past the first level.  This was our first experience with the walls up close and personal and the ingenuity of the design was not lost on us.  If Moray was so well built, we could not wait to get on the train to get to Machu Pichu.
clockwise:  View from the top, close up of the terrace, further details on the terrace access steps, three tourists at the bottom
While we were struggling to get back up to the ticket booth at the top most level of the laboratory, our driver was summoned back to the hotel and we had to cut short our trip.  Maras was put on hold until our return from Machu Pichu and unfortunately never happened as the bridge to Maras was damaged when two tourist cars tried to cross over on a one way bridge….

More on the trip to Machu Pachu in another entry…..

But I continue here with the rest of the sacred valley….

From Urumbamba we took a taxi to Ollantaytambo.  Once again it was cloudy and gray when we left Tambo Del Inka but by the time we reached the square at Ollantaytambo it was pouring.  We braved the rain with our nonbreathable parkas and took the ironic climb up to the Temple of the Sun and back down to the Banos del na Nusta (Princess’ Bath)…which a Princess amongst us trespassed to and slipped on the slimy floor (lesson: never cross the do not enter ropes!).  Just like their Incan ancestors carved on rocks, Modern Quechuas carved into the vegetation.  You might see a local family on their day off walking around the ruins.  Do not forget to check out the grain storage houses at the bottom of the ruin.  There are trails that go around to the back of the mountain which we did not get to due to the rain.  The night before, we had heard the most beautiful music played at the El Alburgue restaurant by a blind harpist…we found him again playing the harp at the entrance to the ruins.
Water channels running down the terraces at Ollantaytambo ruins, Temple of 10 windows, angry man on the cliff, temple gate
Vegetation at Ollantaytambo


Wrapping up Ollantaytambo we headed back to Urumbamba to walk around town, get some fruits at a local fruiteria and enjoy the most amazing spa experience at Tambo Del Inka, two and a half hours of hydrotherapy and massage..ll for around $110 US….wish i could go back just for that spa experience.

The next morning was reserved for a return to Cusco and this time instead of going through Chinchero we took the Northern path through Calca.

Urumbamba in Valle Sagrada, Pisac

After dropping off our luggage in Cusco we returned to Pisac to explore the beautiful market and the Pisac Ruins.  It was a Sunday market and was filled with locals coming down from the highlands.
Whereas the men in our party found themselves on the balcony of a second story juice bar, my friend and I explored the colorful foods and people of the market.  We skipped the comfort of a restaurant and parked ourselves on a picnic bench eating the way the locals did.
Two Indian women eating lunch made by two Andean Women!
Fruits, Vegetables, Handicrafts, Dyes, Wool and even Photographic models….. all available for the right price.  My favorite was a little boy sitting amongst a pile of veggies..I bet his mother will never have to nag him to eat his veggies, he knows where they come from and what they taste like.

Market Vendors and Shoppers

A family that modeled for me for a small price

 After exploring the market for a couple of hours (where my friend got tricked out of 50 liras but she got them back!),  we took a taxi up to the Pisac Ruins (it is a strenuous hike up and from what we understand a great walk down but as if on cue the rain gods decided to pay us a visit once again).
While the ruins are like any other the spring blossoms here were unique.  From the ruins you can also see burial caves across the water fall and stream.  Wet and tired we returned back to Cuzco…

Burial caves in the distance, a closeup fothe burial caves, Incan philosophy of building in sync with nature

More to follow on Machu Pichu and Cuzco….


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