Cuzco and The Sacred Valley

Cusco Travel Blog

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Terraces and buildings in Pisac
My first impressions of Cuzco, after walking around the main plaza and the central area, was what a hassle it was to move around and accomplish anything. Every step you take you are constantly hounded by people trying to sell you things, from postcards, paintings, sweaters, and tours, to massages and meals in restaurants. Their is one alley, known as gringo alley where there restaurant promoters compete voraciously to get you inside their restaurant. If one offers free nachos the other offers free nachos and garlic bread, then the other offers that plus free drinks, and then the other counters with talk of a fireplace, it just goes on and on. Then there are the guys trying to sell you drugs of all sorts, quite openly as the police walk the main plaza at the end of the alley. The shear number of tour companies is also simply amazing.
Ruins of the temple in Pisac
After talking with many of them I came to learn that most of them work together to form groups of people for the various tours, they communicate over the phone and via instant messanger networks over the internet. It becomes confusing because not all of them work together and they will never tell you who they work with. This becomes very frustrating when you are walking around and trying to compare the different prices and operators, you always hear something different. In the end, the hike that I wanted to do, from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu, wasn´t possible because no one else was interested in the same route and they would go with only one person. It being February the Inca Trail was closed so I settled for visiting Machu Picchu on my own.
The ruins of Ollantaytambo
But that was easier said than done. I arrived in Cuzco on Sunday and there was much talk of the strike that was supposed to happen all week. The strike was over the government´s talks about privatizing the operation of many of the tourist sites and ruins around Peru in order to further develop them for tourism. The people of Cuzco are opposed to this for many reasons, and had decided to show the government their disapproval. On Monday protesters stopped the trains from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, but otherwise things were normal through Wednesday, although there was much uncertainty over whether there would be transport on any given day.

On Tuesday I took a day tour to the Sacred Valley, solely for the convenience it provided in terms of transportation. We left at 6:30am because they thought the road would be blocked by the strikes later in the morning.
Ruins higher up on Ollantaytambo
We first visited Pisac, where there is a large fortress and some religious buildings on the mountain overlooking the town. Unfortunately, the tour only visited one part of the site, leaving the other and more interesting part untouched. From there we proceeded to an overpriced lunch at a touristy restaurant on the way to Ollantaytambo where there are some very nice ruins of temples, terraces, and dwellings set into a hillside near the town. The town itself is very nice with old Inca streets complete with water canals and buildings built on top of the original Inca foundations. Across the valley from the main site there is another small site set way up on the mountain. This part is very picturesque and is atually free to visit. There is a steep trail leading up there from a street in the town and you can climb up to the ruins and you will almost certainly be there on your own.
Ruins on the other side in Ollantaytambo
Past the highest part of the ruins there is even a cave which proceeds for quite a ways into the mountain, gradually narrowing; probably used by the Incas for something or another. The highest and seemingly more interesting part of the main ruins in Ollantaytambo are off-limits for whatever reason. Leaving Ollantaytambo we proceeded to Chincherro where this is a truly amazing church built on top of an Inca temple. The inside of the church has intricately painted wooden ceilings and walls and has an immense amount of character and atmosphere to it, sadly it was prohibited to take pictures inside. After Chincherro we returned to Cusco without any incident or delay from the strikes.
Looking down on Ollantaytambo


With no plans for hiking I set out for the train station to get tickets to Aguas Caliente, the village at the base of Machu Picchu. I was able to get a ticket there for Wednesday night but they would not sell me a return ticket for Friday because they said there would be a strike on Thursday and Friday and no transportation anywhere. So I bought one for Saturday, hoping that I might be able to change it in case trains were running on Friday, worst case I would be stuck in Machu Picchu until Saturday morning, not a bad place to be stuck at all.
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Terraces and buildings in Pisac
Terraces and buildings in Pisac
Ruins of the temple in Pisac
Ruins of the temple in Pisac
The ruins of Ollantaytambo
The ruins of Ollantaytambo
Ruins higher up on Ollantaytambo
Ruins higher up on Ollantaytambo
Ruins on the other side in Ollanta…
Ruins on the other side in Ollant…
Looking down on Ollantaytambo
Looking down on Ollantaytambo
The Ollantaytambo ruins from groun…
The Ollantaytambo ruins from grou…
Typical Inca street with canal in …
Typical Inca street with canal in…
The ruins opposite Ollantaytambo, …
The ruins opposite Ollantaytambo,…
Inside the ruins
Inside the ruins
Looking through the ruins to the O…
Looking through the ruins to the …
A window to the sky
A window to the sky
Ruins of a lookout up on a cliff i…
Ruins of a lookout up on a cliff …
Plaza de Armas in Cusco
Plaza de Armas in Cusco
Looking down on the Pisac ruins
Looking down on the Pisac ruins
Inca statue on the way to the bus …
Inca statue on the way to the bus…
Cuzco: giant cell phone tower righ…
Cuzco: giant cell phone tower rig…
Cusco
photo by: Vlindeke