Today we toured the “Sacred Valley” which includes many small towns with interesting historic sites.
On the way there we stopped at Awankancha, a conservation project to save the native people’s ancestral process of weaving. The site is associated with 14 communities (420 families) who weave the highest quality pieces. Weavers from the different communities rotate thru the site making pieces in their communities style which is then offered for sale with the proceeds going to help all the communities. The site has many Llamas, Alpacas, Vincunas, and Guanacos. The wool is sheared, cleaned, spun, then dyed with natural dyes obtained from plants and minerals. The whole process is done according to the ancient techniques and the colors where phenomenal. Several weavers worked while we watched, what a fascinating and intricate process.
Next we went to Pisac which is known for it’s ruins as well as it’s market. The photo above was taken here. This site is built on a mountain and has several areas, some for housing, some for ceremonies, and some for astronomical observations. I found the aqueducts and fountains particularly interesting. We did stop at the market, but had less than an hour for me to practice my bargaining skills, which was a bummer.
After lunch we went to Moray the site of the Inca’s agricultural experimental center. Terraces used by the Incas can be seen everywhere in Peru. Actually, experiments show that using the ancient agricultural techniques can be more effective than today's agriculture, at least on the slopes of the Andes. In Moray there is a very special form of terraces. These terraces are concentric circles. Circular terracing, which at first glance looks like a huge amphitheater, forms a giant bowl. There are actually two bowls at Moray, one of which is much larger and more restored than the other. Stone stairs built into the terrace walls allow visitors to walk down to the very bottom level. The different levels of terracing each have their own micro-climate which the Incas used to their advantage. They were thought to have used Moray as an area for testing the optimal growing conditions for their crops. With this information the Incas could determine which areas were best for growing crops and ultimately where they should settle. Pretty advanced technology, eh? The Incas developed 14 different types of corn and 400 types of potatoes!
After Moray we went to Salineras. The Salineras de Maras, or Inca salt pans have been used for 600 years. The site is stunning. It consists of thousands of mismatched white squares plotted along a steep green to brown hillside. The small plots are filled with water and upon evaporation a crystallization process takes place and salt can be panned out. The water comes out from the hillside, we dipped a finger in to taste, yes it was SALTY!!! The plots are allotted to the citizens of Maras and each one gets a certain number of the plots to which they keep the profits of the salt that is packaged out and sold. Families pass the plots down from generation to generation like heirlooms.
After a full day we arrived at Ollantaytambo. Juan promised to show us the ruins here tomorrow. My first priority here was to go to the drug store for cold medicine, yes, I caught a nasty head cold. Nice timing, huh, considering that tomorrow we start hiking. Hopefully it will pass quickly.