Today we had an 8.30 start, very civilized. After a leisurely breakfast we met Raul and Ramondo, our guide for today. First stop was the local market for a look at how the locals shop, it was amazing to see all the fresh produce on offer. They are a one stop shop, everything you need on display. Watching the butcher at work was an eye opener, no refrigeration just hang the carcas and cover with hesian sacking. Quick slice with a sharp knife then finish the job with a hacksaw.
We then had the best coffee of the trip, Raul took us to a tiny shop, only just room for the four of us. The coffee is all single origin organic from local producers. The owner roasts it over a wood fire for a unique taste. The final product is produced using an old lever press Cimbali machine, a true classic. Sensational coffee…
Then it was on the bus and off to Saqsywaman, and yes it almost sounds like sexy woman. This an amazing Pre-Inca site overlooking Cusco, the stone work is unbelievable. How did they move such huge stones over 11km from the quarry over such rugged terrain, some of them estimated to weigh 120 tonnes. The other stuning fact is that the angles along the wall line up to catch the sun at the winter solstice. Such intricate engineering for a civilization that according to some had no written language. We wandered the site for about an hour marvelling at the engineering.
We stopped at a local market in Pisac, the market is full of local handicrafts. We did a bit of shopping here, both getting t-shirts, as well as a couple of water colour paintings. The excess baggage is starting to grow now.
After this we headed on to a local community in the Sacred Valley, where we saw the process of making Chicha, a fermented corn beer. A local woman explained the process then invited us to sample the results. We had small 20ml samples to begin, Helen wasn’t to keen on it. I ended having two large glasses, about a pint each.Now to work out how to brew my own. We followed this with a game of Sapa, the setup is best described as a table with a series of holes in it, the centre hole covered by a frog. The aim is to toss metal disks into the frogs mouth, this is an instant win, otherwise you score points based on the disks you get in the other holes. Might be a woodwork project for my father when get home.
Next was lunch at a local home, amazing food, simple but packed with flavour. All cooked by the owner of the home, a service she does to help supplement the family income. She is also a master chocolatier, making the magic food from raw beans she roasts herself. We tasted the product at varying stages and then purchased a few bars, we’ll have to eat them here so no samples for those at home. You’ll just have to take our word that’s magic.
From here it was on to Ollyantaytambo, a truly inspiring archeological site. Again pictures wont do it justice, the sense of spirituality is just awe inspiring. We looked at the people ascending the steps and decided against it, it was like watching lines of ants. There was no chance to go slowly and take it in, you just had to keep pace with everyone else. Instead Ramondo led us around to the far side where the crowds tend not to go. This was stunning, the way the huge stones are individually carved to fit just one place is unbelievable. The stone masons involved in the project had amazing skills, skills i dont think exist today. The waterways they carved into the rock faces still work over 600 years later. They direct water to various bath sites and altars around the site.
On the other side of the valley buildings can be seen high up on the slopes. One of them is the granary, used for storing grain. We asked why it was so high up, thinking it may have been a way to protect the grain strore from thieving. Turns out it was because it is cooler up higher so it acted like natural refrigeration to help store the grain.
Tonight we are staying in Ollyantaytambo before heading back to Cusco in the morning. Why did i call this blog, Sacred Valley -Are we there yet? Raul was telling us about a previous trip where after travelling throughthe valley for most of the day you lady on the tour asked him when they would get to the Sacred Valley. This was despite him having said where they were several times. He now makes a point to keep repeating this fact.