Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Ollantaytambo Travel Blog› entry 32 of 36 › view all entries
Cusco is one of those places that still remain a favourite destination while being overly touristy. If you say you've been to Peru, people will ask you if you've been to Cusco. It's really just a given, seeing as it's the biggest closest city to Macchu Picchu (which I would have to say is one of biggest drawcards of South America, let alone Peru).
It's actually a lot smaller than I anticipated, but quite lovely with lots of old buildings, both pre-colonial and colonial. The streets are mostly paved and incredibly slippery. Our day was spent exploring the city and its big artesan market, then out for dinner with the tour group at a restaurant that specialised in local highland dishes.
The following day, we were herded onto a bus and drove to a weaving market. Lots of women wearing traditional dress and weaving, with plenty of things to buy and llamas for photo opportunities. We eventually made it to the impressive Andean ruins of Pisac. Lots of Incan terraces and pre-Incan foundations are left standing on the hillside. Pisac is also home to the biggest Incan burial site; their graves are built into the side of the mountain. We then had a wander around the colonial town of Pisac, down in the valley, where we also had lunch. By this stage (day 4 of the tour), several people in the group were sick, although the worst off was Steve, a stylist from LA, who spent most of the afternoon throwing up liquid into a plastic bag at the back of the bus.
Our siesta on the bus was (rudely) interrupted by a stop at a ceramics place. We were given a demonstration of how tough their ceramics are - you can whack a nail in and bash them on hard surfaces and they won't break. The designs were nice - bold and colourful Inca representations of animals and other things. We then stopped at a chicha brewery. Whil waiting for the previous tour group to finish up, we played this curious frog game. There's a brass frog with its mouth open, sitting on a small wooden table. On the table there are a few holes, covered by flippy metal doors. You have to stand several metres away from the table and toss little brass coins onto the table.
Chicha is a fermented corn drink quite popular with the locals. It seems pretty easy to make: the corn kernels are left in water overnight then put under plastic to germinate. After 3 days, they're crushed and strained into big pots, and left to ferment for awhile before being drunk. It has the appearance of milky beer, with head, and tastes quite sharp and almost sour. I can't imagine it ever having the western popularity of beer though.
Our last stop for the day was the ruins at Ollantaytambo which sit just oustide the town of the same name.
Andean culture has three animals to represent their three world: the condor, for the world above; the puma, for the world in which people dwell, and the snake, for the underworld. The Andean cross has four sectors, with three steps in each sector, representing condor, puma and snake; the past, present and future; work for the government, the community and yourself; and love, wisdom and knowledge. I think a lot of people in our group empathised with this element of Andean culture.