The Sacred Valley

May 6

Onward through the Sacred Valley! We hopped on our tour bus through the Sacred Valley (which stretches from Cuzco to Machu Picchu), and stopped at Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero.

We first stopped at Pisac, where each Sunday a huge market is set up, and people come from all around to sell their wares. The town is practically taken over by the market, and also manages to squeeze in large clay ovens for baking delicious empanadas. All around us, there was Spanish and Quechua being spoken, along with a smattering of foreign languages courtesy of the magnitude of tourists. Men and women are dressed in traditional highland dress, and rush from stall to stall both buying items and bartering their own for others. After enjoying a satisfying empanadas and strolling through the market, we reboarded the bus made a pit stop to see various species of alpaca before continuing on to Ollantaytambo (also called Ollanta for short).

The village itself had been inhabited continuously since the 13th century, making it a good example of Incan city planning, and is surrounded by two massive Incan ruins. When the Spanish conquistadors came to Peru to try and take over, this is where the Inca retreated to. While initially taking a strong stand against the Spanish, the invaders quadrupled their efforts and ultimately caused the Inca to retreat further. Although at that time it was used as a fortress, the dominate use of Ollantaytambo was as a temple.

At the top of many terraces rested a ceremonial center with extremely well-built walls built with great skill and precision.

The incan symbol of the chicana (sometimes referred to incorrectly as the Andean Cross), was found frequently throughout the ruins. The stones used in its construction were obtained from a quarry 6km away, proving to be a similar feat of strength as that of the Egyptians.

After the impressive terraces at Ollantaytambo, we drove to Chinchero (which translates to “rainbow”). This spot was selected as the Incan palace for its solitude and gorgeous scenery (which frequently included its namesake in multiple directions).

The ruins were partially destroyed and built over by the Spanish – although in its own right, the church there is interesting and characteristic of the time period.

After spending some time in the ruins and the church, we went to a weaving demonstration where we saw traditional Quechuan women dyeing and weaving alpaca and wool into elaborate rugs and other handicrafts. After a long exhausting day, we headed back to Cuzco to eat, and finally sampled a local drink called Algarrobina that is made of a fruit liquor, rum, milk, and a raw egg. I wes skeptical but it really just tasted like a spiced milkshake 🙂 Gnight! Tomorrow’s our last day and then we’re heading back to the states.

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