Days 4-6: From the Sacred Valley to Cusco

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 4
We woke up on to another beautiful morning on our last day in Urubamba (although we love it here and have been invited back to volunteer if we can find the time). Rachael and I had breakfast in the garden and already started to discuss that what we can get rid of to pare down our backpacks. In the end we decided to give it at least a couple weeks before we start giving away excess clothing. After breakfast we chatted with Alejandra about plans for the rest of our trip and she gave us tips on how to navigate the buses between towns. Then at her insistence we left to hike the salt mine at Maras.

Las Salineras is a 2 hour hike that starts on what feels like a goat path up the mountain. Thirty minutes into the hike we turned the corner from desert landscape to see the beautifully terraced, bright white salt ponds. You get to walk along the ridges between ponds, which made Rachael a little nervous, and watch local families harvesting the salt from their allotted pond to sell at market. After our morning at the salt ponds we headed back to llama pack to say goodbye and find the bus to Ollantaytambo.

The collectivo to Ollantaytambo was a half hour drive and cost a whole $1.40 CAN for the both of us. We were sad to leave Urubamba but as soon as we got off the bus and started to walk through town we were both smiling ear to ear. Our hostel is nicer than any hotel I have been in, with a balcony that overlooks huge Incan ruins built into the side of the mountain. It has the look and feel of a Swiss ski town in the summer and we got to have our first pisco sour of the trip, the official drink of Peru. After an authentic dinner of lomos saltados we went back to the hostel to drink wine on the balcony as the sun set over the ruins.

Day 5
Our first Incan ruins of the trip were the ones right behind our hostel at Ollantaytambo. You can read as much as you want but it is still hard to believe the way the massive stones are carved to fit together like puzzle pieces without the need for mortar, and how steep the slopes that the Inca built on are. We were both blown away. We spent a few hours exploring the ruins and took a few hundred pictures before checking out of Hostal Iskay and grabbing a bus into Cusco.

Walking from the main square in Cusco uphill to the next hostel with our backpacks was exhausting, especially at 11 600ft. Since that walk nearly killed us, we felt like we deserved a drink so we went to an Irish pub that Rachael spotted off the plaza for a couple beers and an awesome dinner. We knew that we found the right place when we walked in to a room full of Brits watching premier league soccer on TV. Apparently the pub is owned by an Irishman and is a favourite among expats in Cusco.

The first hiccup of our trip finally came when we went to go pay the balance of our Macchu Picchu tour, which had to be in cash and was due that night. We learned a valuable lesson in withdrawal limits in foreign countries and bank fees per withdrawal. We know better now and have to work on finding ways around that.

Day 6
Today we thought we would have a relaxed Sunday and go take in the market at Pisac. It is a huge Sunday market that is very popular around Cusco where local men and women sell crafts, art, hand woven clothing, and food. We arrived at the market dressed appropriately to wander and barter with the locals and maybe have a nice lunch, I in my vans and a flannel shirt and Rach in a dress and sandals. We got to the market, walked through once, and then climbed 5km up the face of a mountain instead.

Our bus to Pisac was an hour drive from Cusco and full of locals, the trip went very smoothly except for an adorable little Peruvian girl who developed a crush on Rachael. It was very cute for the first 5 minutes as she tickled, poked, and smiled at Rach but for the last 40 minutes of the drive it did get a little annoying. How do the only two white people on a jam packed bus be stern with a 6 year old girl without getting kicked out on the side of the road? We endured, and if that was our biggest problem with public transportation so far then we're doing pretty good.

The ruins at Pisac were a lot more impressive than we thought they would be and even though we went for the market, we both knew we were climbing them as soon as we looked up. Apparently it is recommended that you take a cab ride up around the back of the mountain and to the top and walk down, but up we went on foot. It was the hardest hike that we've done yet but well worth the feeling of reaching the top, both the ruins and the view were beautiful. We met two really nice guys along the hike and talked to them both about our trip. One was a retired travel agent from Toronto who is finally going to all the places he had been sending people to for years and the other was a young guy from America who is in Peru working for a health based NGO. Both had some great tips and between the two they may have us convinced to change our plans a little, going up to Lima and traveling down the coast. We'll see.

Our next blog entry will be a little late as we leave tomorrow at 5am to start our hike up the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. We will be out of contact for 5 days as we realize a dream we've had for years now. I'm sure that our guide will be proud that we prepared today with a grueling hike up the ruins at Pisac instead of resting, but we'll chalk it up to training. We also ended the night with a delicious Mexican meal... which might not have been smart.
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Dorothy Mahon on

Ahhh !!! Love it !! The hostal looks so nice - I would not hesitate trading my office space for that right now! ;)

Denise on

Wow thanks for sharing Matt....looks like a blast. Excited for your next adventure...have fun!!

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