I am behind already on this blog. On Sunday morning (Nov 25) we rose bright and early for a great buffet breakfast, quick hotel check out, and meet-up with out guide Hilda for our adventure to the Sacred Valley. We began with a stop at the remans of Tokampata, the first Inca palace, with a beautiful 16th century San Cristobal church and a large plaza overlooking the city of Cuzco. In the plaza were small groupings of pretty girls dressed in traditional Peruvian garb, llamas in tow, hoping we would pay them to take a picture (little did we know these would be the first of hundreds over the next couple of days). Then we walked through Sacsayhuaman, an archeological park where beautiful Inca walls have been excavated, vast open fields with terraced hills. It is our first view of the incredible stonework made by these people, huge boulders carefully carved to fit perfectly together without mortar. The ancient city of Cusco was laid out in the form of a puma, the animal that symbolized the Inca dynasty. The belly of the puma was the main plaza, the river Tullumayo formed its spine, and the hill of Sacsayhuaman its head. Wow.
Next stop - the llama project where we see and learn about the 4 different kids of llamas (all part of the camel family!) They are adorable and come right up to us to eat the long grasses we have to offer (as provided by the project). There is a new weaving project here now too, begun by the same woman who started the one in Chinchero (but that's tomorrow). It is fascinating to watch the women work the looms they have strapped around their waists. There is a 10 year old boy doing complicated patterns quite well - not as well as the older women but well enough he is getting a lot of attention in this project. There is a good bathroom here which we both makeuse of even though it entails walking through a rather large sales room FULL of woven and knitted stuff, kind of like a Macy's.
On our way to Pisaq we learn "Andes" comes from the word ANDENES which means terraced. Then we drive on to Pisaq where we walk through the ruins for more than an hour, past beautiful walls and homesteads bulit on the mountainside, even through a tunnel the Incas carved through the stone that was in their path, It is interesting how they truly worked with the land and not against it. There are ceremonial areas with huge slabs for sacrificing animals or humans - as you get closer to the temple the stonework in the walls is even more perfect, smooth and polished and perfectly joined. Even the combination of sizes, and the niches incorporated into the walls are believed to be in place to protect them in the event of an earthquake.. I love this place.
Lunch is back in town in the niddle of the Pisaq Marketplace in a nice, simple restaurant. We eat fantastic quinoa soup and sufed peppers, and even try Inka Cola (ick). After lunch there is a tedious project to find me a nice Peruvian blanket, just right and not too expensive -- the market is huge and I would be lost still today if Hilda had not caefull kept an eye on me. Thanks you Hilda! In the end I bought a *rug* and we left!
Did a quick tour of the Pakaritampu Hotel and still am not quite sure what people were complaining about - but then on to Chicha!! Our last stop today is at a little home of a woman who has 1) a big courtyard full of several of the frog - coin toss games the kid all love 2) a room full of guinea pigs running aorund (ignore the fact they are being bred for the next special feast) and 3) a tiny kitchen with many pots a boiling... the chicha. We all have a taste - hm - followed by a taste of the strawberry kind. Fun!
Our hotel - the Libertador Valle Sagrede is wonderful - lush endless gardens, rivers of water flowing through. One night is not enough here! The satelite is out so there is no internet (thus the belated blog) but it hardly matters in a place like this. Monday we head back to Cusco via Chinchero, then head to the mountians to begin the trek on Tuesday...