We were lucky enough to have a day and a half in the Sacred Valley with our guides. We drove towards the Sacred Valley in the afternoon, stopping first at Chinchero. The town was quiet, so we got out of our car and wondered up the streets through town towards the ruins. There was not another tourist in site, and we had it all to ourselves. When we got to the church-yard, we had spectacular views of the surrounding terraces and mountains. I could tell I was going to love this area! We then hopped in the car and took the "shortcut" to the Moray ruins. It was a shortcut by distance, but a rough, dirt road that certainly was not quick. However, we were able to see miles and miles of farmland and people working in the fields. It reminded me a lot of Montana, with the occasional Inca ruin thrown in.
We got to the Moray ruins and got out and walked down and around the whole ruins. They are really incredible ruins, a terraced "bullseye" built in a natural depression in the ground. It almost looks as if there was once a lake there, that drained centuries ago. Vidal explained that the Incas used the different terrace levels to grow different types of food. Each level varied in temperature, and they had figured out which crop would do best in each temperature. We walked all the way to the bottom, and Vidal was right. The temperature did change!
The next day, we started our day at the Ollantaytambo ruins. These ruins overlooked the town of the same name, and were in the perfect location to view all three river valleys that met in that spot. We hiked up, and learned from Juan how perfectly these ruins were built. Every stone was cut to fit perfectly with the stones around it. There was not a crack or space to be found. These ruins were used as protection for the surrounding villages, and the Incas even used their skills to flood the surrounding valleys when fighting the Spanish.
We then got in the van and drove to the Maras salt terraces. There were thousands of pools of drying salt lining the hillside, and the salt is still being used and sold to this day. The Incas had discovered salty water running from under ground, and built this complex system to catch the water in various pools where the water could evaporate and the salt be harvested. The same system is still being used. We were able to walk along the edges of the pools and see how the water was running through the canal system and how they diverted water into a pool when it was ready to fill. It was quite impressive and oddly beautiful!
We then drove to this beautiful little church-yard in the middle of the Sacred Valley to set up our lunch. While our guide and driver were setting up lunch, Monika and I noticed a little girl playing volleyball against the wall of the church. We both love volleyball and asked her if we could join her. After more than half an hour of peppering with her, we sat down to our hearty and beautiful lunch. Rolls, fruit, pasta and meat all laid out for us under a shade-tent. What a great treat!
After lunch, we drove to Pisac, where we were able to spend an hour or so in the traditional market. The colors and smells were abundant in that market! There were traditional blankets, shirts, scarves, jewelry, along with all sorts of other goods that you could buy. It was mother's day weekend, so I bought my mom some earrings (and a pair for myself) and headed back to meet up with our group. We then headed up to the Pisac ruins, which were situated high up on the hillside above where three river valleys met. Again, this was a great place for defense, as you could see for miles in each direction. We hiked up and all around the ruins, and watched as the sun started to go down on the valleys below.
What a great day touring around the Sacred Valley! I think I could have spent another day or two just in the sacred valley. Not only are the ruins fascinating, but the mountains surrounding the sacred valley are rugged, covered in glaciers and reach thousands of feet above the valley floors.