Thursday, May 21, 2009

Perfect stone work, a dead woman and alpaca meat!!

Saying that today was a action packed and long day would be an under-statement. We woke up at 5 am and went for breakfast, and then left for our trip to the Sacred Valley which is nestled in between the Andean Mountains, following the Urubamba River.

We first stopped at Sacsayhuamán which is about a 20 minute drive from Cusco. It lies at an altitude of 3,701 metres. The stonework here is truly the best example of Inca stone construction. The perfect blocks and stones, some weighing over 200 tonnes, with perfect round corners, make this style of Inca Temple, almost indestructible to any major earth quake. This is the place where they still have the famous festival June 24, called the Inti Raymi and it celebrates the Winter Solstice. The Spanish of coarse, took many of these giant stones to build some of the churches in Cusco.

Off to the Sacred Valley...but getting there was tough, as there have been major protests and strikes by the farmers in this area. The government wants to privatize the small creeks and streams, and charge huge taxes on these poor farmers. They blocked many of the roads with large boulders and rocks. We were lucky since the protests ended yesterday, but all the debris is still on the roads, which already aren`t the safest or widest roads, which hug the cliffs of the mountains, with over 1000 ft drop. There is also a lot of broken glass, since if you tired to pass the protesters this past week, they would throw rocks at the cars and trucks passing by. The amount of glass, would suggest that Peruvians can be good baseball players.

The first place we visited was Pisac, which is the location of some amazing Inca agricultural terraces, hugging the Andean cliffs. It is right on the Urubamba River, and on the top of the mountain are 4 separate ruins. By this time in the day, which is late morning, the sun was already incredibly strong, and it took us about 1 hour to hike up the mountain. It sure wasn`t easy, as the high altitude was literally stealing every breathe we tried to take. In the end, the journey up was really worth it. We will post pics as soon as we return.

We also went to the famous market in Pisac, back down the mountain in the village. The market takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. We ended up walking the many stalls both in the art & craft section and the food section. We did buy some really cool Inca, Andean and Peruvian souvenirs. Let`s hope we have room for them in our house. I think we already bought 4 masks!! lolol

After the market we took off to explore Ollantaytambo, which is dominated by the massive Inca fortress above the small village. There are huge steep terraces the guard the fortress, along with the beautiful Andean Mountains in the background. Another hard hike to the top, but again well worth the trip and lack of oxygen. There is also a small market at the bottom of the ruins. We opted to walk around the market for about 30 minutes, which ended up being even a better idea, since right after we left, about 5 minutes from the town, there was a huge accident, and we saw one car with a broken windshield. We thought it was hit by a falling boulder or rock. We were pretty shocked to see what really happened about 10 metres past that. The car had hit a woman, who was obviously dead on the side of the road...pretty gruesome sight, kind of one of those things that makes you think of life in general, and how much longer we all have!

We finally got back to the hotel in Cusco about 7 PM. We decided to go out for dinner, to this nice little restaurant about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. It is called Inca Fe...get it, Cafe, Inca Fe...hahahaha.... :) I had the Alpaca meat, which is an Andean Specialty, while Aneta got the chicken. The Alpaca meat was really good, so far my favourite dish in Peru.

Anyway, it is around 10 pm here, and we need to go to sleep...

So maybe tomorrow, I'll want to settle down. Until tomorrow, I'll just keep movin' on....

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