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A Very Full Day in the Sacred Valley
Machu Picchu Pilgrimage+Manu+Lake Titicaca

Macaw LickMacaw Lick (Molly Quackenbush)
Finally the first day I wake up feeling good, which greatly impacted my energy and mood. (It was a very good idea to bring the antibiotic from home. I got better that much faster, and it greatly facilitated treating the illness, without losing a day of vacation tracking down medical care.) This was my first day to make it down to breakfast, which was a good buffet, including European-style choices.

This was a great exploring day, as we went out to the Sacred Valley. All day as we drove, there was lovely scenery, including snow-capped mountains, lots of pastoral scenes of people with animals, working in fields, etc., very deep valleys down to the Urubamba, and interesting towns to see, plus all the sights!

First we stopped at an animal park, which cares for wild animals that have been rescued from illegal trade or mistreatment. Hairless dog, a puma, another wild cat, birds including the condors ! as well as llamas, and a coati that had half his paws cut off ! It was a sad, but very worthy establishment. They accepted donations for entry, which I gladly supported. I appreciated Edwin knowing about the place, and his support of the cause.

Then to the market in Pisac. It was great. I'm as interested to see the day-to-day life shops on the street and the meat and food products serving the locals in the market, as I am in the souvenirs. Everywhere we went, I was very amused at the little children hanging out with their vendor mothers. They had little if anything to play with or amuse them, but they didn't seem fussy or difficult. One little guy just hanging out on the potatoes was among the adorable faces.

To Moray: Inca terraces, thought to be a place they experimented with agriculture in the small differences in light and temperature at the gradual elevations on the concentric circle terraces. It looked like going to the center of the earth. If collapsed all of the rings would just fit inside each other. Very tricky steps down the terraces, as they are just protruding stones, but going down I really got a feel for the place. Dave went all the way to the bottom. Again, it's so nice to be at our own pace.

We returned to the van to find that the driver had set up our tent for a lunch of chicken roll, (which I couldn't eat because it was undercooked), and the pasta salad which was fine, with some veggies, and a pastry dessert. Fabulous view! Eating out doesn't get much better than this!

On the road out, Edwin knew that the children from the fields would recognize our vehicle. He gives them leftover breads and fruit from our lunch!!! These kids aren't barefoot starving poor, but these things are special treats for them. Edwin sees this as preferable to wasting the food. If I had known, I wouldn't have eaten any of it for lunch. So these little faces at the van door, with such anticipation...for apples and breadsticks! ...I was very close to crying.

Then on to the Salineras, the salt pools, which are quite a view down the valley into which the salty water flows from a spring. The water is collected, then evaporates leaving the salt. Quite the panorama, and extremely interesting. A little craft market leading in had some different things.... a child asleep in a DHL box!

We then went to Ollantaytambo. The El Sauce Hotel was very nice, with great character. Great knitted hat collection on the wall. Edwin says color and pattern are peculiar to location. We had great views of the ruins from our room window. Surprisingly, there was noise from large tractor trailers passing by well into the night. I read later that the road is now the access to the natural gas fields being exploited. There is concern about the impact of all those trucks, (which barely fit through the street), on the ruins and Inca buildings. They are in desperate need of a by-pass!

Anyway, we had an excellent dinner at the Blue Puppy (recommended by Edwin). Teriyaki was a nice change, and well prepared. Luckily we beat the two tour groups that came in. Our experience was that the restaurants have small kitchens and everything is cooked to order, prepared on the premises. Sysco hasn't found them, so food service is slower than what we're used to....take a patience pill. The good part is that everywhere we ate, the food was fresh, and wonderfully unprocessed. (When we got home we realized how unsalty their restaurant food was, compared to ours.)

Now after all of these wonderful sights and experiences, the highlight of the day: exiting the restaurant, we see that the town square is full of people, locals not tourists. The streets are blocked off. What's going on??? Well, as explained by the local woman next to me, whose English was surprisingly good (maybe a teacher ?), it's the annual school parade! All of the children from the local school, by class, (their signs indicate not just grade level) are parading around the square in native costumes. There's a little marching band. Then after they've paraded, each group performs a dance from their folklore. This is great to see! They've obviously worked hard and overall are proud of their presentation. However, as they're doing their dances, I can also see that some of them are really into it, while others can't remember their steps. Over to the side, some of the older boys are horsing around....In other words, these kids are just like the ones I watched for years in my kids' schools. Though the surroundings can be very different, some things are the same all over. And, even better than authentic, this was REAL! It wasn't a show for the tourists. It was a glimpse of life in Ollantaytambo! I enjoyed watching it very, very much! What luck!

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