Exploring the sacred valley

Trip Start Nov 05, 2009
Trip End Apr 26, 2010

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Im afraid that I cant beat the Machu Picchu story so all will seem quite dull from now on Im sure!

Because of our very unexpected extended stay in Aguas Calientes we unfortunatley missed doing our trek in to the Andes and seeing more of the Sacred Valley. To make up for it, after spending a day or so in Cusco, we decided to head off into the sacred valley for a day of exploring.

We caught one of the little minibuses that act as an informal public transport system here and regularly ply their way along the valley. We got off in the middle of nowhere hoping that as the Bible (sorry lonely planet) said there would be taxis waiting to take you along through the hills to some of the Inca ruins. Sure enough there were and we had a young lad whisk us off into the mountains, picking up his brother on the way, along with his massive vat of pesticides to no doubt liberally douse his potato crop. Must remember to avoid all potato products in peru.

We passed lots of traditionally dressed locals with their herds of donkeys and goats...so nice to see people wearing the traditional outfits not purely for the benefit of daft tourists wanting to have their photos taken with them in Cusco. Yuk!

Moray was a our first stop and is the site of a vast Incan ruin which is composed of a series of concentric circles of terraces within a sheltered bowl in the hillside almost 3000m above sealevel. Yet another example of the ingenuity of the Incans as there is almost a 5 degree difference from the top of the terraces to the bottom, so many kinds of plants can be grown all in one relatively small area. It is thought that the Incans used this is a kind of agricultural laboratory that was used to cultivate resistant and hearty varieties of plants high in the Andes.

Next stop was Las Salinas which are a series of salt beds created originally by the Incans and are still in use today. A very salty spring emerges from the hillside (had to dip my finger in and have a taste and yes it is very salty!), and the Incas cleverly built terraces to capture the flows and harvest salt. In the rainy season, the pools fill with earth-toned water of varying hues, and in the dry season the water evaporates, leaving a plentiful salt residue to be harvested and sold for food and cosmetics. The salt beds extend right along the valley and look incredible when you look down upon them.

We made our way to a town called Pisac where there was a weekly market being held, which was fascinating and full of very characterful people. There were some ladies making the local speciality - Chicha beer made from corn. It is traditionally made by old ladies who chew the corn so that enzymes in their saliva break down the corn into its constituent sugars. The balls of chewed corn are then laid out to dry and used to make the beer. Supposedly old ladies are best at this because they don^t have any teeth and so their gums don^t break down the corn too much. I haven^t worked up the courage to try it yet...funnily enough old ladies spit doesn^t really appeal to be perfectly honest.

On our way back to Cusco we travelled alongside the river that had flooded and we saw the devastation that had occured right along the valley. Peoples houses had just been completely flattened, crops ruined and there were many people living in tents along the roadside. It really brought it home once again that we just had a few days inconvienience where as these peoples whole lives have been effectively destroyed. Very sad to see.

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