Sunday, October 07, 2012

Peru: Sacred Valley including Pisac, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo

We had another restless night but it's the altitude that makes sleeping difficult sometimes.  We had our breakfast (yes same as the previous days) and were ready for the driver at 7:50am. Today was a long day - 8:00am-7:00pm. We boarded the bus at 8:00am but did not actually get out of the city for another 90 minutes because we were picking up more passengers and there were huge amounts of construction on the roads.
Our first stop today was at the top of a mountain to take a picture of the Rio Urubamba (River) (also known as the Rio Vilcanota and also known as Rio Vilcamayu) also known as Sacred River. It's the same river but depending on which region it runs through, it changes names and depending on which language Quechua or Spanish, it has different names. This is the same river that passes through Aguas Calientes where the Rio Aguas Calientes connects and it's the same river that runs along the train tracks to Machu Picchu.

Uruamba River (and Robin)

Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley
Soon after, we arrived at Pisac and saw a demonstration of jewellry making using silver and different stones and shells like abalone. The vendors are very clever. They walk you through a narrow passageway to get to the demonstration area and when you are done and ready to leave, the passageway is closed and you have no choice but to walk through the jewellry store and of course a market with many vendors selling the same things. I have to say again though, they are not aggressive at all. If you say no, they'll offer it at a lesser price but they won't be upset if you don't buy. I've travelled to other places including India where they're rude and angry and will run you down if you don't buy something.
The bus was waiting for us right beside a traditional bakery and of course we all bought pan (bread) and empanadas. Fabiola, I know your mom makes great empanadas but these ones here are some of the best I have tasted and I have tasted them in parts of Chile as well. They make them here with corn, quinoa and regular flour and the have sweet ones with fruits or savoury ones with chicken, meat, cheese or veggies. They are like a pizza pocket but way better (I've never actually eaten a pizza pocket so I am guessing here) or for some of you who like Middle Eastern, they are like donairs. The smell of fresh bread is not to be resisted and baking it in a traditional clay oven makes for a very delicious and unusual flavour so we all walked into the bus with something to eat.
Clay oven
We then went to the area that the guide wanted us to see. There were Inca Ruins at the top of the hill and similar terraces like we saw in other places that the Incas used to cultivate over 17 varieties of corn. Some of the terraces are still being cultivated the same way but most of them are now being preserved as historical sites. We also saw the top of the ruins that had similar gables as those in Machu Picchu. And there was the cemetery like none I have even seen. Not that I have a thing for cemeteries (considering that I go for a walk every day with my walking partner Barb) but these are highly unusual. They are holes in the mountain. They are no longer open to the public because of grave robbers.
Incan terraces

Incan Terraces

Gabled buildings
Incan terraces
Ollantaytambo terraces
Peruvian woman and her baby

Peruvian worker taxi

Incan cemetery

After that, we drove for another hour to get to Urubamba where we had a After that, we had a traditional Peruvian buffet lunch of alpaca stew, hot peppers stuffed with veggies, roasted Andean potatoes, different kinds of salads, fried chicken, alpaca heart kebabs, rice, roasted corn, potato stew, quinoa soup, and an assortment of desserts. We had to be selective about the things we tried because it would be impossible to try everything and not feel like you were going to explode. What they did have that I really enjoyed was a kind of pine slice like we used to get in Guyana but instead of a nice pine drink to wash it down, we had chicha morada - the drink made with purple corn, ginger and pineapple juice. Equally good.
We left Urubamba about 2:30 and headed for Ollantaytambo (sounds familiar? that was the same town that we picked up passengers with the train to Machu Picchu). There we say some more terraces but this time instead of walking down and then up like we had to do yesterday, we had to walk up and then down. The guide said that there were 200 steps to the top and we would do them 65 steps at a time and then have a rest. Well he was a big liar! There were nearly 300 steps and if you think that's easy to do even with stopping twice, well let me tell you, it is crazy hard because what I didn't mention was that the altitude is about 9000 feet so besides being winded from the steps, factor in that your lungs can't get enough oxygen at that elevation. I did it but it was hard. And then we had to walk down the same amount of steps. That should not be hard but the place was over run with tourists today (because of the bus strike a few days ago, some of the trips to the Sacred Valley had to be postponed. I tried taking pictures with no one in sight, but that was impossible.
Did I mention that we had to walk through another market to get to those terraces. Yes indeed but the women were dressed in traditional clothes as is their custom in this area (unlike those in Cusco who walk around with a lamb under their arm and ask you to take a picture for which you have to pay them 1 sole.

When we were leaving Ollantaytambo, I saw a few things that I thought were somewhat amusing so I decided to take the pictures. The first was worker a taxi (go figure). The second was a sign in front of a restaurant advertising breakfast. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. A bit of wine, a bit of beer and some bread to the garlic for breakfast. Hey I'm willing to try anything -except perhaps guinea pig but I am trying to build myself up for it.

After Ollantaytambo, we headed for Chinchero to see how traditional weaving is done (same as yesterday). We were served Munya tea which is a Peruvian wild mint tea good for altitude sickness.

Another interesting observation: Many houses seem to be unfinished but for those that are finished, there is a cross and two ceramic bulls at the top. Apparently, the cross symbolizes that the owner is Catholic and the two bulls are for good luck given by the God Father to the owner of the home. That way, the owner will always be prosperous. I wonder if the God Father (in the movie) has a falling out with his godson if he'll pull a God Father stunt a la Marlon Brando? Okay maybe that wasn't so funny.

Back to Llipimpac Guest house for a well deserved rest from the 12,000 foot elevation and very cold conditions at Chinchero. I'm going to sign off now and get ready for another eventful day tomorrow. We get picked up at 8:45am.


1 comment:

  1. Today's pictures is amazing the river running between the mountains, the clay oven of which i am familiar with,the fireside that looks like it is made out of clay also, the design of the landscape but what looks more interesting is the homes it seems to me like a dug out from the mountains and the homes are also clay, good pictures.


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