Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 2: Domingo – Sacred Valley

There are many Incan ruins in the general area around Cusco in the region called the Sacred Valley.

We were up at 6:00 to meet with our guide for the day who would take us around that we had arranged for the day before. Except when we met him, he didn’t speak English, so he was a driver and not a guide. We felt a bit cheated, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. So we started driving to Pisac.

As we were driving we stopped to take some pictures, and there was a little girl that came by with some llamas. She picked up the baby llama and moved it around like it was nothing. We all decided she was a much tougher nine year old than we were.

We stopped again along the way at a little zoo with llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas. They were in little fenced off areas and we could walk around and pet them.

Next to the zoo was a traditional textile shop. They took the wool from the alpacas and dyed the yarn there and made the cloths and blankets. The people there were dressed up in old Incan garb.

After these brief stops we got to Pisac, or partridge in Quechua. The town is supposed to be in a partridge shape. It is an hour or so outside of Cusco and has a bustling market and impressive ruins. We first went to the market. There were all sorts of touristy things there, but also regular goods that Peruvians would buy. They have more than 100 different kinds of potatoes and twenty kinds of corn.

I bought a chess set with the pieces being the Incas and conquistadores, some animal finger puppets for the nephews and a niece and some old coins. The girl I bought the finger puppets from had to be less than ten years old. There were a bunch of kids there making money selling things and charging tourists to take pictures with them. Possibly they learned the rudiments of capitalism at the school located on the premise, naturally named after Albert Einstein.

We then drove to the ruins. They were huge. The Incans did not mess around in building stone edifices. The terraces that go up from the river are shaped like a female breast which was a tribute to Pachamama, or Mother Earth (which we learned more about on Monday)

After we got to the first site Tom and Jenny walked back to the beginning, while Destiny and I walked up around the mountain to some more ruins higher up.

There were some more ruins further up, but we headed down since we had already been there for a couple of hours. We missed this statue which I had wanted to see, but forgot about when we were there.

It is said that the cacique Huayllapuma had a daughter called Inquill; who had to get married with the man that could be able to build, just in one night, the bridge over the Vilacmayo River (a very significant bridge for the defense of the place). In spite of the hard work, Asto Rimac, a handsome prince, decided to take the challenge and ask for the hand of the princess. The authorities of the place arranged everything so Asto Rimac could start the work; meanwhile, the princess had to climb a hill without turning round; because, otherwise, she and her fiancé would turn into rock. Almost at dawn, the prince finished the work but Inquill could not stand any longer and turned round thus becoming a stone figure up to now.

Our next stop was lunch at Urubamba which we all thought was included, but it wasn’t, so after a mini-fiasco trying to figure out what was going on we went to eat in Ollantaytambo instead. It was a good choice. Here’s the view from our seats:

Ollantaytambo was an agricultural, administrative, religious, military and social complex. It is a gigantic place, but unfortunately we were short on time and couldn’t climb up to explore the town. Nor could we climb to the ruins we could see from where we ate lunch were separate from the rest of the Ollantaytambo ruins. All we could do was climb a little up the massive, massive staircase and take some pictures. It was one of the few places where the Incans were victorious against the Spanish. When the Spanish charged tens of thousands of Incan warriors rained arrows, stones and boulders at them from above. They then flooded the area via a local river where they had built a cannel. The Incans themselves were not very populous. They comprised about 100,000 out of the population of ten million in the empire. The rest were other natives the Incans conquered. The Incans did not use the bow and arrow, but rather the Amazonian tribes that they brought in. The Spaniards used various tribes to fight with them against the Incan uprising.

After spending only about 15 minutes here, we headed off to Moray. Along the way we had spectacular scenery.

Moray has gigantic circular terraces that the Incas built. When I say gigantic, I mean gigantic. Going down the terraces there are slightly different climates and so this is where (supposedly) Incans experimented with which crops grow better where. It is roughly 150 meters deep and almost in a perfect circle. It’s not certain where the name Moray derives from, but it is probably from a word for corn harvesting or dehydrated potato. We arrived after it had closed as it was getting dark, but the guy in charge let us in for a little bit. We only got to see one of the terracings of the four. It is impossible to understand the size of this from the picture, but the top to the bottom is roughly 500 feet.

As we were leaving there was a mother and two kids who had a couple hour walk to their destination and wanted to know if we would give them a ride. Since we had room we let them in and drove them back to Cusco. I was talking to the woman and she said there was a church in the area they went to in Quechua. She had seen a puma in the area, but they were rare in those parts though.

Here’s the four of us, our driver and a random dog (which are everywhere) before we left. We asked the lady to take the picture, but I don’t think she had used a camera before. Her cell phone toting daughter took it for us.

When got back to Cusco we ate dinner at a place called Chez Maggie. It was tasty and we had a crazy (in a good kind of way) waiter.

We then headed off for bed to get ready for our trek.

My only disappointment in the Sacred Valley was we didn’t have enough time. We barely saw anything in Ollantaytambo, were in Moray only briefly and skipped Chinchero all together. We easily could have spent another day, and probably two exploring just these areas. If you ever go to Cusco, I’d recommend (at least) one day for the city and two for the sacred valley.

Here is Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 Part 1, Part 2, Day 7, Day 8


Nick said...

Estoy celoso.