Friday, September 8, 2006

Cusco to Sacred Valley

8th Sep 2006
Departed hotel in Cusco at 8:45 a.m. in nice Mercedes Benz Tourista van. We were shocked when the tour guide started our day by giving us a refund for the 55 soles that we had to pay for a taxi from the airport in Lima the first night. Lima Tours really has their operation down pat and we would recommend them highly to anyone planning a trip to Peru.

First stop at a small farm to see alpacas and lamas and vicunas, all of which are part of the camel species. The Peruvians call the vicuna "walking gold" and it is illegal to corral them. The sheared fibers from one animal would be worth about $700 US.

We saw women dye and weave the fibers. The women start learning the weaving process at the age of seven. It is amazing to watch them do this and see the patterns evolve to whatever they want to depict at that moment. The colors and shapes of the hats worn by the women weavers tell what area of the country that they are from. They still make the yarn from alpaca hair just as was done 600 years ago. The yarns are all vegetable dyed to many, many colors. The final color of each batch of yarn is determined by which mineral is added during the final stage of the process to set the dyes. No chemicals are used.

Then we stopped at a town to see a local market. Lots of chickens and trout and vegetables and many souvenirs for sale. The local people were walking around eating corn-on-the-cob cooked in the husks. This was huge white corn that they pick off one kernal at a time and eat with their fingers. It looked really delicious but we didn´t try any. There are 2,000 kinds of corn in Peru and 5,000 kinds of potatoes. Most of these are attributable to the Inca. Other cultures domesticated animals, the Inca domesticated vegetables and plants.

Our tour proceded with an hour´s drive to Ollantaytamba to see another Temple of the Sun; this one is called the Unfinished Temple because all work on it ceased when the Spaniards arrived. We climbed terrace steps to the top to see the single wall which was completed before they arrived. There were 3 or 4 huge stones which had been prepared to construct the second wall but were abandoned in various places before reaching their intended final destination. This complex is on the top of one mountain, but all the stones were from a quarry on top of another mountain across the river. The average stone weighed 90 tons and they did all this by hand.

BTW, this river in the Sacred Valley is the beginning of the Amazon River. It changes names many times before it finally is called the Amazon.

Climbing this complex was difficult for Judy; didn´t bother Bill a bit. Judy´s heart was pounding and she was breathing hard. Quadraceps hurt going up and knees hurt going down. There were only 5 people in our tour today. One woman didn´t even attempt to climb. The altitude at the base level of the site was enough to make her sick, and our tour guide administered oxygen to her.

There were numerous Winter Soltice (June 21 down here) marker points built into this complex by the Inca. It still amazes us that these people knew how to determine seasons like this.

On adjacent mountains we could see remains of storehouses. The Inca wars usually lasted 7-8 years and they had to keep a supply of food for the soldiers during these wars. The storehouses were built at high altitudes to utilize the colder temperature to preserve the foods.

The town of Ollantaytamba is built on the same underlying stone walls placed there by the Inca more than 500 years ago. Newer stone upper structures have been built on top of the older walls and floors. The aquaducts built by the Inca are still in use throughout the town.

After we were all totally exhausted from climbing, we had a beautiful lunch at Sol y Luna Resort. The food not only was delicious but was almost too pretty to eat. All the meals we have had in Peru have been outstanding. Today´s luncheon was served outside where we enjoyed gorgeous views of the Andes mountains in perfect weather.

Our hotel for tonight is the Casona de Yucay, a refurbished old hacienda owned by a socialite in Cusco. Simon Bolivar stayed here in 1825.

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