The Sacred Valley


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South America » Peru » Cusco » Ollantaytambo
June 23rd 2011
Published: March 25th 2014
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Sacred Valley


Thursday

From Cusco you pass into the Sacred Valley, the Inca's most beloved area. Cusco means navel, it was the centre of their world. The valley is often wide and flat with terraces built on the lower slopes and up the side valleys. It is now harvest time and the people are out in the fields helping each other bring in the harvest. We've only seen machinery up on the mountain heights where the fields are large and unterraced. We stopped Pisac for the markets and to see llamas and at Urubamba for lunch. In this are, the river is called Urubamba, but it changes it name many times before it empties into the Amazon.

At Ollantaytambo (get you tongue around that one), Inca ruins climb up the steep hillsides and here we see the most impressive stone work. The rocks are huge and fit perfectly like a jigsaw.

Friday

We had a 4 hour trip with a local taxi driver, to the salt terraces of Maras and the Moray Inca ruins. We wound up the mountain side then down into a narrow valley on a single lane gravel track, the edge of the road dropping away and us with no seat belts. Before we left he stopped for petrol, a lady came out from a house with a plastic bucket and poured it into a funnel attached to a rubber hose.

At the head of the valley a small salty spring has been diverted to shallow rectangular ponds built on terraces down one side of the valley. As the ponds evaporate, the salt is scraped into bags. After the Inca terraces that are built in rings in a basin. We took a very scenic route back to Ollantaytambo where we spent 2 nights. I was wondering how we'd cross back over the river as I'd only seen pedestrian suspension bridges. Silly me! You can also drive cars over them.

Back at the hotel as I’m removing my boots, I notice that the sole is coming off one of them. This is a disaster but there happens to be a shoe repair stall in the covered market near the village square. The guy is doing a roaring trade repairing and resoling shoes. He is very dour and solemnly sets to work restitching both boots by hand. Excellent work.

Our travel agent rang us to say that the strikers in Puno had closed all travel in and out and we should book flights to La Paz from Cusco in case we couldn’t go there. They were supposed to end on Sunday which would allow us to go. But if they didn’t we should have plane tickets. We agreed that she should buy the tickets, but we still wanted to go if at all possible. Puno is the gateway to Lake Titicaca. We’d met a Dutch couple in our Cusco, travelling with the same travel company as us. When they came to Cusco from Lake Titicaca, they had to take a long detour by bus to get safely past the strikers.

Saturday

Next day we took the train to Agua Calientes, the small half-finished village from where you travel to Machu Picchu. The station borders a very busy market crowded with people. Glancing around as we wondered where to go to find our hotel, Jill spotted her name on a card. Wow, someone was there to meet us. Our Dutch friends spent 2 hours scouring the village for their hotel.

Sunday

We had a very early start to catch the sunrise and beat the tourists and arrived at the viewing spot about 7am. The llamas co-operated and we got some great photos. In fact we got a lot of photos. The Dutch couple had planned to climb Huayna Picchu at 7am but numbers are restricted so they missed out. We later met up with them wandering around the ruins and went back up to the viewing spot with them.

Words really can’t describe this place. We were quite happy to sit for hours looking at the view but there was plenty to see up close and we found a section of Inca trail to walk on. By mid-morning the place is crawling with tourists but by then we’d seen nearly everything.

The road to the ruins is gravel and has a series of switch backs that pass a stair way that climbs straight up. Going back down in the bus I sat beside a young Australian of Peruvian descent who had gone up those stairs in the early morning to climb Huayna Picchu. He described how the path up Huayna Picchu is narrow and becomes indistinct near the top. He took a wrong turn and ended up in a life threatening location, unwilling to go either up or down. He forced himself to go up and survived to tell the tale. On returning to Cusco, we heard that many people have fallen to their deaths from that mountain because the track is so unsafe (on average, one a year).

In the afternoon, we returned by train to Ollantaytambo and picked up our ride back to Cusco.


Additional photos below
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cobbled streets of Ollantaytambocobbled streets of Ollantaytambo
cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo

they look quaint but are shockers to drive on
Rio UrubambaRio Urubamba
Rio Urubamba

this river run into the Amazon


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