The Sacred Valley

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South America » Peru
March 30th 2016
Published: June 29th 2017
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Geo: -13.2646, -72.2658

I woke, feeling somewhat rejuvenated, ready for breakfast. The storm had passed. I reached for my phone, to check the time. It was 1.30am. My head throbbed and brain didn't know what was going on. Mild altitude issues? Mini jetlag? Lack of sleep? Not sure. Eventually I drifted off to sleep again, despite loud music and ruckus noise from outside. When I woke again at 7.30, I felt a lot better. We packed half our things into smaller bags, for a night away from Cusco in the Sacred Valley. The rest of our things we would leave behind here at the hotel, where we would return the day after tomorrow.

We all gathered in the lobby for breakfast around 8.30-9. Toast, eggs, fruit and my favorite, mini banana pancakes. We all piled onto a minibus with our guide and headed east from Cusco towards the Sacred Valley. We'd make a variety of stops along the way at lookout points and little communities along the way, to learn about crafts, skills and trades.The first notable stop was a textiles and weaving display. Here we saw how the locals made clothes, shawls, fabrics and blankets. It was really fascinating and impressive how they managed to create the variety of colours that Peruvian garments are famous for. For instance, what looked like a stark white piece of cactus or flower bulb could be broken apart to produce a vivid purple paste. Mixing that with say some leaves would produce orange and so forth. We of course had some time to browse their goods before heading on to another stop.

Driving along, we noticed a few large poles topped with a red cloth coming from small buildings. These poles denote that the venue is a local bar, where people go largely to enjoy a specialty drink called ChiChi. We stopped at one of these places for a demonstration on how it is made. Theres basically a orange flavour and a strawberry one, with most preferring the latter. These are generally served in a litre glass for 1-2 PRS, and contain about 1-2% alcohol. So you need a large session to feel the slightest tipsy. Locals frequent these bars in groups and generally buy in rounds. At the end of their session, to settle who pays the bill they'll play a coin toss game. Taking a dozen coins, they'll flip them at a board with a golden frog in the middle to try drop coins into slots and score points. Lowest score pays the bill.

We stopped for a home style lunch at a little town which consisted of a potato soup, peppers and llama stir fry. We also made subsequent stops at a pottery maker and chocolate maker. The pottery craftsman was very skilled and impressive, working ornaments and kitchenware into a variety of shapes and styles with minimal effort. The chocolate wasn't bad either, we enjoyed a sample choc-peanut bar for just 5PRS.

Finally we arrived at the town of Ollantaytambo in the heart of the Sacred Valley. The town was beautiful and a spectacle in itself, nevermind the towering mountains and Inca ruins overlooking it. Like Cusco, the town sported little squares and cobblestone streets, narrow alleys and lanes, cafes, a KwikEMart (Apu style), and many restaurants. It all felt clean and quaint, with a lively buzz about it.

We checked into our hotel for the night, Tunupa Lodge. At first impressions it seemed a nice place, resort like and they even rolled out two llamas in the entrance as a greeting party. It'd turn out to be probably my worst night ever in a 3 star hotel, but more on that later.It was 4pm and time getting on, so after check in we set off to do a "training hike" for those doing the Inca trail. Our destination was a set of Inca ruins high in the mountain. We walked accross town and from the start of the trail it was a 25minute staircase straight up. Everyone managed to get up the top without too much difficulty, some found it easier than others. I was surprised I found it alot easier than expected. At the top we walked through old Incan ruins of some granaries with a watch tower above us. From here we were treated to spectacular panoramic views of the area and Ollantaytambo below.

Once back down, we stopped in town for some bottled drinking water (tap water not drinkable in Peru), a local beer (Cusquena) and returned to the hotel. The group headed out to dinner at a local restaurant together. Nat and I had shared some chicken and llama whilst others had pizzas. This would be our last group activity together. The rest would do the Inca Trail. Nat and I would do a variety of other activities in and around Cusco, mostly a range of half day hikes at many different Inca archaeological sites.

Back to the hotel, for an unpleasant evening. In short, the rooms were small and very plain, 3 single beds and a wooden chair. No TV (not that we cared). First up our toilet broke on 4 pieces of toilet paper. There was no signage whatsoever paper needed to go in the bin. It hasn't been an issue anywhere in South America for us so far or at any 3 star hotel iv been to worldwide. There was no signage to this effect. The staff member who did a 30 second plunge to fix this was extremely rude despite us trying to be friendly. Wifi just outright didn't work at all. The shower took 8 years to remotely heat with no pressure and a mould encrusted ceiling. Curtains kept out zero light and hallway light illuminated the room (even after I turned a couple off). Beds were uncomfortable and rickety. To say walls were paper thin were an understatement. They seemed to amplify sound, you could hear someone cough miles away. The crowning touch was a stampede in the room above til 1am and starting again 5am. It sounded like people jumping and running on a basketball court. A thunderous stampede that would give us zero chance at sleep.

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