February 17th, 2008 – by: sissanoel
Communal bath system at Pisaq, Sacred Valley.
Quite a long day today, our guide was late and we seemed to spend a lot of time sitting on the bus when we should have been doing something. It later turned out that GAP had bought the wrong day ticket for the Incan sites for the trekkers, luckily the four of us staying in Cuzco got the 10 day pass and ours were fine. Because of the delay in leaving, we didn´t make as many stops as we were going to on our way through the Sacred VAlley - initially a couple of photo opportunities and a small local market where we bought our little niece a cute backpack with people and alpacas sewn onto it. Our first real stop was at the Inca ruins at Pisac
, perched high up in the hills.
Guinea pig breeding centre, Sacred Valley.
You can walk up to the main site, but we took the bus (thank goodness) and then had a brief half hour walk around the site (because of the earliery delays). The citadel lies on a plateau and is surrounded by steep cliffs, cut deep into one is an Incan cemetery - hundreds of holes like wasp holes cut into the cliff for the mummies to rest. Unfortunately these have been plundered by people looking for treasure (not very successfully, because we were told that Incans were not buried with gold and silver, just everyday items). YOu can also see working water channels and communcal baths here and loads of finely built walls. Next stop was the village of Pisac, where we walked around the markets for half an hour. The tourist market is huge, but full of the usual tat, but the local market was more interesting - fruit and veggies, hot food, clothes, implements and even an old lady selling vegetable dyes for wool.
Ollantaybambo Incan ruins.
We bought a couple of wooden spoons, just perfect for Melissa´s cooking (and to beat Noel if he misbehaves too much, the wooden spoon threat always worked on us as kids!). Drove on for quite a while before we reached our lunch stop at Urubamba
. The location was lovely, in an old estancia building which had been restored and re-designed as a restaurant and shop. We got a huge buffet of western and local dishes and stuffed ourselves silly. In the garden was a huge, colourful parrot that could speak in English and Spanish, so that kept us amused while waiting for the bus. Next stop was a traditional Incan maize beer brewery - the process looks pretty simple, just grind the germinated maize, chuck in a pot, cook it for a while, strain it through a cloth and drink.
Walking up the Incan ruins at Ollantaytambo.
Tastes bloody awful, but perhaps you get used to it - you can even drink the strawberry flavoured one if you´re in the mood. The lady also had a shed full of guinea pigs, being fattened for eating (not for the faint-hearted pet lover). We played a game here which basically consisted of trying to get a coin into various holes, with top score being for the person who gets the coin in the frog´s mouth. This game is very social here and bets are laid, it´s like the Peruvian equivalent of darts.
Our final stop, and where we stayed the night, was Ollantaytambo - this town was built around 700 years ago, and is still used today with original cobbled streets, water ways and buildings. The fortress lies above the town, towering over it up the mountain. the citadel was a temple and a fort, and is the site of one of the few Spanish losses early in the piece. There is a large ceremonial area at the top which was never completed, but has massive stones weighing around 350 tonnes. These were moved from the quarry across the river by a log and pulley system, dragged by hundreds of men. Apparently these religiously significant stones had to be accompanied on their journey by priests and musicians sitting on top, so that must have added to the job somewhat for the poor men pulling the things! Climbing the steep staircases here just made us more grateful that we are not doing the Lares trek, although the view from the top of the fort is incredible. Spent the rest of the evening wandering around town - bought a small wall tile from a local ceramics co-operative to add to our collection, and had dinner at a local restaurant. The food was delicious, huge servings and the chef was a character - he was really tall, with a shaggy moustache and a jaunty white chef´s hat, and kept coming out to make sure everyone was happy with the food. We were, but even if you weren´t, we don´t think you would have said anything because he was too big! While we were eating, a parade went past with people in colourful costumes, dancing to the accompanying band. Apparently it is something to do with carnival, but our guide didn´t really know anything about it (!).