The Sacred Valley

Another beautiful day in Peru. Our morning started with a morning drive to the Sacred Valley on the way we visited Awana Kancha llama/alpaca farm plus fibre and weaving business.

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After several of us got into serious trouble in the shop 🙂 we pulled out and headed for Mirador Taray a view point overlooking the sacred valley. Magnificent!

Our final stop for the day was the market town of Pisca. Got some awesome photos until the wind came up and started blowing stalls apart.

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Headed back to Cusco and out for a dance theatre this evening.

Cusco and the Sacred Valley 2

What an incredible day! We got picked up early and headed to the sacred Valley. It is an ecologically varied valley with a number of microclimates present. It is also stunningly beautiful. Our first stop was Chinchero View Point were we overlooked a number of snow covered mountain peaks surrounding the valley.

Dropping down into Chinchero we took some time to visit a family of spinners and weavers who showed us how they spin and dye wool from alpacas with vegetable and insect dyes.

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Taking the back roads along the way was wonderful – the farming and natural beauty was all around us and not a car in sight.

Our next stop was the archaeological site of Moray which is thought to be from the 1400’s. The site wasn’t discovered until 1932 when a group flew over it in an air plane. It is thought that several families lived there. The terraced bowls were built in natural depressions to create micro-climates for vegetables and other crops. Experiments by scientists in Lima have shown that potatoes grown at the bottom of the bowls were it is warmer, grow much faster and produce much more than those grown up top.
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Maras – a salt producing area was our next stop. Springs come through the mountain and pick up salt from mineral deposits deep within the earth. The salt springs are captured in several hundred shallow pools were salt is produced by evaporation. The process takes about a week until the salt can be collected.

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Uruvamva was our stop for another excellent Peruvian lunch lunch – this is considered the gateway to the sacred Valley.

The Archeological park of Ollantay Tambo was awe inspiring. A series of terraces and walls culminated in an Inca temple of the sun. This was a religious site with some priests living in the buildings.

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After a hike through the ruins we headed back to Cusco stopping to try some corn beer on our way. The men got the straight stuff, women get theirs flavoured with strawberries which was fine by us as the straight tasted horrible. After visiting the home guinea pig colony we headed back to Cusco and a nights rest. More tomorrow….

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Cusco and the Sacred Valley Day 1

A beautiful stroll down cobbled streets led us to the main square and the Incan Museum. The Inca civilization stretched from Columbia to Argentina in the 1400’s and at it’s height numbered 8 million people. 1.2 million Incas remain today. Cusco was the central part of the Incan Empire – Cusco means literally golden palace. Most of the gold ended up melted down into spanish coin following the arrival of the Spaniards. Incredible art objects became spanish dubloons. Inca places of worship were built over by Catholic churches. Major earthquakes which occur every three hundred years have destroyed many of the spanish built churches revealing the Inca remains below. Due to the building practices of the Incas their buildings were much more resilient to big quakes.

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In the museum we were fortunate enough to watch local weavers at work and see some incredible pottery and textiles. Our next visit was to Qorikancha – the Inca temple of the sun. The Incas were accomplished astronomers, had elaborate rituals for the burial their dead and a strong religion based on their gods.

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In the afternoon we took a bus up to a view point about the city which was a warrior training complex called Saqsaywaman. Literally translated this means Falcon scratches. Buildings were built around a huge amphitheatre of sand.

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The base of the structures was bedrock which was carved to accommodate the blocks that were put on top. Here warriors lived and trained. Views to Cusco were breath taking.

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The one anomaly was a beautiful pure white 100 foot statue of Jesus in the building area. The story goes that a Muslim country gave a grant to Cusco earmarked for statues to their gods. Cusco is 85% + catholic so Jesus was the choice. Needless to say that was the last grant money received from that particular muslim country…………..

Tomorrow we drive deeper into the sacred valley.

Arequipa to Cusco

It was the day of the exploding bathroom sinks. Our shoes and pants ended up soaked after an encounter with an Arequipa airport washroom sink. Later that day in Cusco we had another wet encounter in a restaurant bathroom with a faucet whose pressure was a little on the high side……

The flight into Cusco was spectacular! The mountains and then the approach to the city were like nothing I have ever seen. Landing was like threading the needle through magnificent mountains.

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Once we landed we visited gold and textile factories and then had a magnificent lunch in a restaurant on the square. Our afternoon was spent exploring Cusco, it’s shops and parks and then we settled for an early night. This a beautiful, safe city. The altitude is about 11,000 feet and the city setting in a valley is stunning.

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Colca Canyon and the flight of the Condors

After visiting the local market in the town square,

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an early morning start on a glorious cold, windy, sunny day took us along narrow winding roads towards the canyon. Carol got up close and personal with a baby alpaca during one stop along the way as our cameras clicked away.

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As we drove the colours became more spectacular. We could understand why the rainy season makes travel impractical as streams coming down the mountain run directly over the road rather than under them in a culvert. There are also no barriers between the edge of the road and a several 1000 ft drop in some cases – adrenaline production got boosted a couple of times 🙂

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The condors are viewed from an area within the canyon looking down several thousand feet to the chasm below. The colours of the volcanics mixed with various minerals are incredible, with pockets of snow still remaining in north facing crevices. We were lucky and saw several condors soar on the thermals around us. The 9 foot wing span made them hard to miss – beautiful birds. A lovely morning.

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Following the condors we bumped back to Chivay in our mini bus, had another excellent Peruvian lunch and headed back to Arequipa. Tomorrow we fly to Cusco.

Arequipa to Colca Canyon – Peru

Our day started early as we joined 14 other travellers in one of the smallest buses I have ever had the privilege to ride in. The road to Colca Canyon climbed steadily to a Mirador de Los Andes pass in the Andes that was at an elevation of 17,000 feet. Along the way we saw wild vicunas and stopped for some herbal tea (coca, muna and chachacoma) and coca leaves at a small roadside stand.
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The resident alpaca enjoyed the tea leaf residue when we were finished. Once on the road again we reached the summit of the pass quickly.
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Despite altitude pills, large quantities of coca leaves, sugar and water we still felt a bit woozy when we climbed out to take photos – a break from what could truly be called a mini bus.

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The descent into Chivay in the Colca Canyon went smoothly down an extremely steep road with lots of hairpin turns.
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After a traditional Peruvian lunch we drove down the canyon a bit to our hotel the Eco Inn. It was gorgeous – right on the gorge over looking the river. there are 400 volcanoes in Peru, 189 surrounding Arequipa and the area. 7 are active. We saw smoking cones en route and the Colca canyon is home to a number of hot springs. Our walk through the village of Yanque was lovely – we met locals bringing their animals home, saw an ancient burial area in the wall of the gorge and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We head to Colca Canyon proper tomorrow to see the Condors fly.

Arequipa – Peru

Following a harrowing drive to the airport in Lima morning rush hour traffic, we reached the airport, let our heart beats regulate and caught our plane to Arequipa – the second largest city in Peru. Pre-flight entertainment was provided by a group of a very vocal gentlemen whose flight had just been cancelled.

Arequipa factoids

UNESCO World heritage site

Known as La Cuidad Blanca – the white City because many of the buildings have been built from a white volcanic material called sillar.

Situated in a beautiful valley surround by 3 volcanoes, mountains and high desert. 7000 feet high

Our first evening in Arequipa was spent having dinner in a roof top restaurant overlooking the town square. While enjoying a Peruvian dinner of alpaca, local freshwater shrimp and passionfruit juice we watched the evening promenade of the locals and tourists. A diner next to us ordered guinea pig – while the presentation left something to be desired he said it tasted good…. It is cool here in the evenings and the restaurant very kindly provided us with ponchos to ward off the chill.

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The next morning we headed off for a city tour. Our first stop this morning was Carmen Alto a look out where you could see the three volcanos – Chachani and Pichu Pichu are extinct, Misti is still active with the last smoke being observed in 1985.

There are apparently 10 earthquakes here each day. Mostly small – we haven’t noticed any yet -hope to keep it that way. After taking some city shots we went to Janahuara a square filled with palms, artists and surrounded by volcanoes and an ancient church.

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It was a beautiful place. We also tried Cheese Ice cream – delicioso!!!! After ice cream we travelled to visit the Monasterio D Santa Catalina built in 1579. It is a nunnery. In the beginning rich families purchased places for their daughters in the nunnery for 200 gold pieces. Girls were sent there at 12 years of age to ensure that their families received favour in the eyes of The Lord. What the girls thought is unrecorded. This practice was banned in early 1800’s by order of the Pope and entrance fees were waived. Currently 18 Nuns live here and their are 8 novices. A girl must be 20 to enter the convent. The Interior of convent was stunningly beautiful with rich terracotta and cobalt blue colours combined with cobblestone walkways and lush geraniums.

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Our visit to the town square following the convent tour was dominated by pigeons and pigeon caca. I have never seen so much bird guano in my life outside of a seagull rookery, although I hear we are in for a treat with the Antarctic penguins. The square was also full of people feeding pigeons, and flowers. Our guide Mario took us to a local restaurant for an excellent traditional Peruvian lunch. We then walked through the town back to our hotel and are getting ready for our trip to Colca Canyon tomorrow.

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