Jan 16th 2011
After a good night sleep, and some good dreams, I am feeling almost fully recovered, which is good because of the long day ahead. I have booked the Sacred Valley Tour, a cost of 30 soles (about $10 US), pick up is at 8.30am and we expect to be back only after 6pm. Yesterday at Sacsaywaman I had picked up the big ticket for 130 soles ($47 US), you need one of these to get into the monuments.
Pisaq and Market
The tour would cover around 200km and finally pulled out of Cusco at 9.30am. There were some spectacular views along the way and I was amazed at how the people farmed on terraces on the sides of the mountains with only minimal erosion. Our guide Paul explained that a lot of the terraces were still from Inca times.
Our first stop was Pisaq, a picturesque town with a fantastic market. I picked up a few things after some tough bargaining and then bought some maize (not sweet corn) on the cob from a street vendor, delicious especially with the chunk of andean cheese to go with it. The ruins were 3 miles away up a steep hill and our driver stopped for 2 young lasses from America who had been hiking up after their taxi left them at the bottom. They were very cool, one from Seattle the other from Eugene. Paul, our guide, invited them to join the first part of the tour for no charge, and we chatted merrily about their volunteer work in Ollantaytambo. I gave them my contact info as the one was very interested in visiting me in Ecuador. Unfortunately I never heard from them and am not sure if I wrote something down wrong (blame the altitude) or if they lost it. I never got their info.
Paul sat and chatted to me about the region and its history and about the flowers amongst other things. I still could not make it up the ruins and stairs made me quite flustered. So sitting and enjoying the view was the next best thing. And what a view.
Next stop was Urubamba for lunch, 20 soles ($5 US) for a buffet lunch. I had brought some sandwiches and knew I wasn’t hungry enough to spend 20 soles and hardly eat, blame the altitude. I grabbed some water and a coke (suggestion of Paul’s) and found a table. According to Paul the tabs I was taking for altitude sickness changes the pH of my body and creates and interesting reaction to coke. Woo hoo it wasa party on my tongue, the bubbles are intensified. Due to lots of tourists and limited tables I offered to share mine with a couple. They turned out to be from Brazil and she worked for a South African co. By the end of lunch we had exchanged information in case either of us headed to the others country.
This has to be one of my favorite stops. This beautiful town has preserved its Inca urban planning and many still live in original Inca houses. There is a wonderful charm about the place and the ruins are spectacular, at least from the bottom as I once again opted for breathing rather than the view. Paul loaned me a book on flowers along the Inca Trail and I sat in a corner and was amazed at the variety.
Paul pointed out the old Inca grain storage, high on the hill. they used the altitude to keep the grain fresh, removing doors to prevent humidity and therefor molding and also adding a special menthol herb to keep insects out. Quite ingenious.
Chinchero and an Approaching Storm
Our final stop was something completely different. Also the highest altitude in the tour, almost 3800m (12467ft). Here you will find many colonial buildings built on top of Inca ones, including a beautiful old church with Inca foundations and stunning artwork.
We arrived just as the skies began to darken and a few wayward drops fell. It looked as if the heavens were about to open, but luckily we seemed to have just missed it. The storm must have been chasing us all along and now returning back to Cusco, we circumnavigated it.
Introduction to Anis Liquor and Lasagne
On the bus trip home we had someone giving us a run down on Anis Liquor, made from anis seeds it had a wonderful licorice flavor and if they had smaller bottles or I wasn’t flying I may have taken one.
Back in Cusco, I went in search of a Korean place I had seen but it was closed. So I headed back to my old faithful, Nuna Raymi’s and decided on Lasagne. It was officially the best I have ever had, layer after layer of meat and cheese sause, I think there may have even been a noodle somewhere. And fresh Andean cheese to grate over. Spectacular.
Relax with me tomorrow as I play catch up and try avoid the Canadian.