Sacred Valley of the Incas

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Flag of Peru  ,
Saturday, October 8, 2011

We finally arrived in Cusco from the Amazon Rainforest after our flight was delayed a couple of hours. We had some free time in Puerto Maldonado so we were able to have a wander around town and markets. We didn't get to Cusco until after 4pm cause of the delayed flight (thunderstorm). The altitude gave me a bit of a headache as we walked around town with the guide, or maybe it was more because I was tired and dehydrated. The altitude in Cusco is 3,300 metres and it is a very beautiful town with most of the main square built by the Spanish in the 1600’s. The town is supposedly shaped like a Puma as part of the Inca culture of worshipping the Puma. It strikes me as a very special place and although bustling with tourists, it has a chilled vibe with lots of history (Cusco was the first settled town in South America, and the capital of the Inca Empire). I ate Alpaca that night – very tasty, like lamb. Guinea Pig is the main local dish in these regions!! None of us are yet to try it, but I think we might share a plate of it at some point. Oh and a really bad thing happened to one of the women in our tour group after dinner – all her savings and mortgage accounts got cleaned out! She went to withdraw cash and her card wouldn’t work. I told her it was frozen by the bank and she should check it out. When she checked her internet banking, everything was gone - $5k savings, and her surplus from her linked mortgage account! She was distraught, but the bank has covered it all, but her accounts are still frozen. Worst still...last night on the way back from Machu Picchu, she either lost her passport or had it stolen from her side jacket pocket!! She now has to fly back to Lima to get a new passport from the Aust Embassy. She’ll be able to re-join the tour group tomorrow night. crazy and such bad luck, but fortunate to be able to get a replacement passport so quick!

Another early morning start the following morning to start our full day tour of the 'Sacred Valley of the Incas’. Melissa ‘accidentally’ set the alarm for 530 instead of 630! So I was robbed of a full 1 hr sleep. A small bus was our transport for this tour, and yet another tour guide. First stop was a Wildlife Shelter for injured animals – saw Puma’s sleeping, a condor that tried to nibble my shoes, and I bought some llama products...including an awful beanie that might end up as someone’s Christmas gift. The scenery is spectacular, the best I have ever seen. Rolling mountains, crystal clear rivers, stone walls and cobbled streets. We then stopped at the Pisac ruins for our first real taste of Inca heritage. Amazing that the Incas brought these huge stones up to the top of these mountains and set up towns literally on cliff edges. When the Spanish arrived in the 1530’s, they looted the towns and forced all the Inca’s to move down to new settlements that were established in the valley’s – very sad for their culture.

We then headed to the temple/fortress of Ollantaytambo, which has enormous terracing that was used for crops and surrounded by temples and remnant buildings. Great views over the town too. The Incas did not use any mortar between rock blocks and it is amazing how the blocks fit together so perfectly following their polishing and smoothing. It interests me though that the Incas were doing this in the 13-1400’s but European culture was so much more advanced with construction of places like the Westminster Abbey and the Vatican. I guess it is the isolation of Sth America versus the melting pot of Europe with so many cultures sharing knowledge and trying to out-compete their respective architecture.

We stayed the night at Ollantaytambo. A very old town that reminds me of Pompeii. All the buildings around the main square are built from rocks – it was great just wandering the streets and alleys. Very cold here though and the accommodation is very basic – the shower was terrible, the hot water was generated in the actual shower-head via some odd contraption that had electrical leads coming out of it. I had about 10 blankets on my bed. The others kicked on with drinks at the local bars, but Melissa and I were responsible and I went to bed relatively early in anticipation of Machu Picchu the next day.
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