We were off for our tour to the Sacred Valley at 7:45 in the morning, our tour guide Ariel keeping us entertained with great humour and information about the area, as well as bits of the Quechan language. For example, it doesn't rain cats and dogs here, it rains llamas, alpacas and sheep. Ha! Ha!
In the days of the Incas it was originally a 20 day walk from Cuzco to Machu Pichu. Now, we can take a bus and a train the whole way. Unless you are two middle aged adventurers like Marianne and I who are determined to do the 4 day hike!
Our first stop was in Pisaq, which is known for silver and ceramics. Ariel explained that it is very difficult to know when you are getting good silver in the town markets, and instead took us to a good silver shop, where Marianne and I both bought some lovely pieces. (Good thing they take Visa!). The main dish in Pisaq is llama head soup.
Along the way we saw llamas, alpacas and picuyna.
Alpaca (smaller than the llama, like a big sheep, very soft coat)
Picuyna. This animal is protected by the government.
Local people make their own adobe bricks to build their own homes. Along the way, we saw people making these bricks by hand and leaving them in the sun to dry. The people living away from the cities live very simple lives, growing their own gardens, keeping a few animals, and living very cheaply but, according to Ariel, happy.
Along the way, we stopped in a small market to do some quick shopping.
The Sacred Valley is so called for a couple of reasons, first because the river that runs through the Sacred Valley was called Wilkumai in Inca times, which means wise river. But, most importantly, the Inca people built on the mountains for astronomy and protection, it was the Spanish who began building in the valleys. The Sacred Valley is perfectly aligned with the milky way, which was thought to be important for the afterlife.
The Incas were incredible architects, who built amazing terraces to prevent erosion and landslides. We saw several ancient cities today including Urabamba, Calca, Olyantambo and Chinchero. These ancient cities still have many terraces and stone structures still standing. Some of the stones they used were up to 7 tons, and they were perfectly cut to fit into the next stone, with notches much like lego bricks so that each stone fit perfectly into the next. These stones were moved from a rock quarry on the next mountain several miles away. Amazing!
Terraces with stone structures on top.
Tomorrow, we are off to hike the Inca Trail, a 4 day, 3 night adventure, where we will be sleeping in tents high up in the Andes with no electricity and no wifi. It drops close to freezing at night, so if we make it back alive, I will have several posts to add in 4 days.