The Heart of the Sacred Valley

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
Trip End Jun 16, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Incas couldn't have had bad knees. They must have been a very mighty people to have built all these structures, worked and lived amongst them and fought to protect them as well as conquer other groups of people.  We are in awe.  Before we came here we saw pictures and watched some videos and none of those enabled us to understand what we now have experienced. 

As I write this blog entry I am sitting on a rooftop deck of the hostal in which we are staying.  I am surrounded by mountains many of which have people who are as small as ants clamouring around the immaculately laid stone ruins. Jim is one of those ants…able to climb the vertical stairways even after Machu Picchu.  Not me.  I am saving my knees for tomorrow when we do a 6-hour long hike of Moray and the Salineras.

The sun is bright and intense up here in this village of Ollantaytambo nestled in the Sacred Valley. It is the end of the dry season so, especially in the afternoon, the winds pick up and big wafts of dust sweep across the sky. 

This morning we travelled up the mountains to a small village called Patacancha which sits at about 12,500 feet above sea level.  There we were introduced to a group of women who are part of a weaving coop supported by an NGO called Awamaki who, amongst a number of projects, are trying to encourage sustainable tourism in the area.  We saw how the women dye their yarn, spin it and weave it.  They are mostly using alpaca.  They proudly spread out their work for us to look at and perhaps purchase. I found it difficult to not buy something from each of them.

We also were invited into one of the women’s home to see how she lives and cooks.  Mercedes proudly showed us how she has hot running water; this is achieved by a metal pipe running up the back of her wood burning cooking space which heats up the water and holds it until she turns on her tap.  According to our tour guide, Shauna, this is quite a luxury.  We sat in her adobe built kitchen with 'cuys’ (guinea pigs) hiding in the corners but free to run around and eat the scrapings from potatoes and carrots.  A chicken scurried amongst us, finding the corn grinder and picking away at the leftover granules of corn. Mercedes allowed us to take a few pictures with her and although reluctant to smile at first, had a gorgeous warm and loving smile when she relaxed and had some fun with us.  We really enjoyed this outing!

Our trip to Moray, an experimental 'farm' of terraces that the Incas used to test how crops grew at different temperate zones and the Salineras, a 1000+ year old complex of salt mining that came from one salt water spring, was exciting.  First I lost (probably stolen) my camera.  Bummer! We passed through the town of Maras that was celebrating St. Francis Assisi and got stuck behind a parade of dancers in traditional costumes (no pics as they were taken on my camera).  After exploring Moray we hiked through the fields downhill to the Salineras.  Our directions were a bit difficult to follow given the lack of landmarks to identify the pathway.  We found ourselves far to the south of where we were intended to be and with the help of the only person we could see far in the distance, we were set straight.  We came to the brink of a ravine which opened to the spectacular site of the salt mines.  After further exploration of these salt mines, we hiked down the valley further to the town of Urubamba where we flagged down a car which drove us back to Ollantaytambo.

During our final evening in the little town, we went to say goodbye to the artists Cala, his wife and beautiful children and were greeted with big hugs.  As much as we wanted to buy some of their art, it is just too early in our journey to be making those decisions. We will wait and see; maybe later we will go online and see if our favourite paintings are still there. We ate at a fantastic restaurant (Puka Rumi) enjoying the cozy atmosphere and a pair of very gifted musicians.  Art, including culinary art, is such an important part of culture and the human experience. Hey everyone, support the artists of the world!  They bring so much joy to life.
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Angie on

You seem to be where you're meant to be. The photos are stunning!

Sue Walker on

How amazing what stunning real life shots. Thanks for sharing your journeys with us, We look so forward to your updates, take care of those knees Donna!
Love Sue xo

Margy on

Peru is magical. We stayed in Urabamba for three days and visited the lab and the salt mines. Love the pictures. I think Jim should go to work for National Geographic.

Kathi on

Your tales and photos make me smile. Every time, I travel with you. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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