This morning we hear the train running which means that the strike is over, so the next part of our journey begins. After an early morning breakfast farewell with our wild feathered friends we meet Marco and take the very short walk to the train station. Our luggage once again shows up at the station to meet us and we take the vistadome to Ollantaytambo. We feel a touch of sadness as we leave the tropical cloud forest world behind. We disembark, pick up the remainder of our luggage we left at Packaritampu and meet our driver who will take us to Cusco. We are happy to see that this is our musician/archeologist driver and feel like we are running into an old friend. As we ride he explains that there were still some rocks left in the road from the strike the day before but the police were clearing them out on his way to pick us up and we see some remaining evidence on the side of the road. We tell him we have strikes too and he seems to understand.
On our return to Cusco, we make a stop in Urubamba to meet Pablo Seminario in his workshop and order some ceramics to be shipped home. To see where the clay comes out of the mountains, is hand worked, hand painted, hand glazed and provides jobs for the community made it easy to spend some money here.
We continue the beautiful drive up through the valley, passing by the farmers working their fields and the little towns along the way until we reach the outskirts of Cusco. Just the initial drive to our hotel introduces us to the hills that Cusco is famous for. As we say goodbye to our driver/friend we are met at the reception of the Monasterio. After truly living in the moment of everything we have just done and experienced, I forgot we had chosen such a grand place. To actually have me live in the present and not anticipating the future, I'd say "Job well done, Marco, and Adventure Life". That doesn't happen often.
This place is amazing and the courtyard is warm and tranquil. We're shown to our room and try to imagine a monk living there, although I'm sure he didn't have the luxuries we have. Since we've been reunited with our large bags we left behind when going to Machu Picchu, we remember we brought four bags of clothing for moms and children to donate to the Mantay Shelter that Adventure Life gave us literature about in our pre-travel packet. We have to remember to give them to Marco over the next few days.
We plan on meeting Marco after lunch and we wander off on our own to the Plaza de Armas. This plaza has great atmosphere and we have lunch before meeting up with Marco. He then takes us on a walking tour of the city. We see other plazas and we visit the Temple of the Sun and Santo Domingo. It amazes me that after earthquakes that flattened the monastery in 1950 did their damage, the fantastic Incan stones were left unmoved.
Everywhere we walk we see evidence of the Incan walls. We walk next to one massive wall, which was once part of the "House of the Chosen Maidens" and see the symbols carved into the stones. Then we work our way back to the plaza and sit on a bench while the sun sets. It gets very cool here in the evening so we bid good evening to Marco, go back to the Monasterio, drink pisco sours by the fireplace and eat alpaca burgers (that still counts as local food, doesn't it?) We stop in the courtyard for a view of the nightime sky, the full moon, the Southern Cross, and the pointer stars. Then we go back to our luxurious monk quarters to sleep.