Al Valle Sagrado - Chinchero

Trip Start May 11, 2006
Trip End May 21, 2006

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

As usual, we are all up early. I have purchased a box of Raisin Bran (made in Mexico) to supplement the carbohydrates of a continental breakfast. We are all packed and ready to go when our driver/guide for the next two days, Antonio arrives. We will be travelling in a Toyota HiAce 12-passenger mini-van, which accommodates us and our luggage quite comfortably.

The exit from Cuzco takes us to the highest point on our trip, 3,762 mts (12,350 ft) on a road that ascends through the outskirts of the city. At each curve the view is more extensive, until at the top of the pass one can see the whole of the Cuzco valley, past the airport and into the mists of the distance. On the other side we see the snow-covered peaks of the high Andes, with Nevado Sawasiay at 5770 mts (18.930 ft) standing dazzling on the far horizon.

The road winds through rich agricultural land carefully tended by its Quechua smallholders. Llamas and alpacas abound, as do sheep and goats. Much of the farmland is given over to barley and potatoes. Inca terraces and irrigation systems are still in use, though some of the hillside fields are so steep you wonder how they can be ploughed.

Our first stop is at the village of Chinchero. Chinchero has a rich monumental and cultural heritage. Its main square has a huge Incan wall decorated with ten large trapezoidal niches, the remains of an Inca palace, and impeccable cultivation terraces. It is also where we find one of the most significant colonial churches of Cusco erected on stone foundations with baroque altars and profuse wall paintings. A colourful Sunday fair rounds out the main attractions.

Upon arrival at the main plaza we are astonished to see a host of local ladies dressed in their finest costumes sitting patiently on folding chairs in front of a podium and a huge pile of colourful gift baskets. This is Mother's Day, and in Chinchero, it is celebrated with immense gravity.

The speeches are interminable, as is to be expected, but we arrive just when the organizers are preparing hot chocolate to be distributed amongst the ladies. Miryam immediately sees there is a serious problem, as the organizers are all men, and they haven't a clue how to get the draft from the large containers where the chocolate has been prepared to the small paper cups that will be offered to the ladies. With female ingenuity the problem is resolved, and Miryam, Cecilia and Charlotte end up carrying trays with cups of hot chocolate to the grateful mothers, without spilling a drop.

Because all the mothers are at the celebration, the market is not too impressive, but we wander around the village and explore the fascinating Inca remains. We attempt to enter the church, but it is so full of worshipers we can only peep through the door at the magnificent native artwork inside. The views of the countryside and the surrounding mountains from this vantage point are stupendous.  
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