May 8, 2009

The Sacred Valley and Ollayantatambo

It is almost 6am in Cusco and I can't sleep, I am in the business center all by myself with beautiful classical guitar music in the background and Alberto, the man from the hotel cleaning the room.

Yesterday was another amzing, incredible, peaceful, goodness filled day. It is hard to describe, you will have to come to Cusco to feel for yourself. Something about the people, the air, the hills, Cusco is all up and down, some streets like the hills in San Francisco and you walk everywhere, maybe it is the release of extra endorphins... not sure, this is a place I know I want to come back to one day in the future.

Our day started with a 45 minute ride in the van with our guide, David. We headed through the Sacred Valley to the famous Pisac market. Pisac is a small town outisde of Cusco, the market is both food and arts and crafts. We stopped for about 90 minutes, all of us were able to get some Peruvian goods. I was able to photograph some of the locals at the market and the colors and faces amazing characters. Cindy had the famous white corn, I wish I could remember the Quechua name. There are stands in the market where they sell fresh cooked corn on the cob, the kernels the size of the end of your pinky finger, huge. The other fresh staple available is fresh squeezed orange juice.

The Sacred Valley is beautiful, there is a river that weaves through the valley, the mountains surrounding the area filled with colors, terraces, jagged edges, so colorful, all the time speaking the grand presence of nature to your eyes and soul. We saw farmers with plots of corn, cabbage, all the local grown beans and potatoes. We saw pigs, horses, cows, chickens, donkeys. The pace of life just enough for the people to live and be cognizant that a relationship with nature is key, being part of a community is important, and keeping customs and tradition alive paramount.

We had lunch at the Maisales Restaurant in Urubamba, it was outdoors, they had 2 musicians playing beautiful Andean music. Most of these places out in the country are geared for tourists buses who are stopping along the way. The owner of this locale is best friends with someone I work with back at Cox in Atlanta. I got to meet the owner, Edgar, relay the hellos from Tony and his family, he was gracious in welcoming us to his establishement.

After lunch we headed to Ollayantatambo Archilogical site. It is hard to describe in words, again like a mini Machu Picchu. The place was a mid point in the Inca world between cities, where they stored all kinds of supplies, food, weapons, textiles, etc. The ruins that we saw were again amazing terraces nestled in the mountains with look out posts and all. Perhpas like a supply fort in the early days of America. We walked up to the very top which was a bit scary, the view from the point of the ruins a full 360 degree circle of the surrounding area. Anyone at the view point from above could certainly be aware of anyone getting close to the area.

Our guide David provided wonderful, current and historic information not just about the site we visited, but the role it played in the overall Inca world. At the same time he talked at length about details specific to geography and how the area was layed out and populated by the Incas, how the geographic mapping of the cities was exact distance from one city to another, how if all viewed on a flat grid all formed a figure of a cross. Again he has 20 years of knowledge as a tour guide, what he shared makes you marvel at the science, the genius, the skill, and the humaness of the Inca people. I am definitely going to go back home and read more about all the information David shared.

We were back at our hotel about 4pm, headed out to the Plaza by the hotel, wandered until we landed at the Inka Grill for dinner. At night the Plaza de Armas is all lit up, the lights in the plaza competing with the lights from the surrounding hills in the city of Cusco. It was cool in the evening, we all had to wear sweaters or jackets, but not too cold to make the walk uncomfortable.

Tomorrow we are doing a 3 hour city tour with David and then we are off to explore the city on our own. I think the group is going to walk to the San Blas district known for its art galleries and local artisan workshops.

Kisses to Maddie and Morgan.