ultramarinus – beyond the sea

2010 Peru

WAYLLABAMBA TO PACAMAYO, Inca Trail, Peru

After spending the night at Wayllabamba, we began hiking after an early breakfast outside of our tents, where the staff of Peru Treks set up a long table and plates of pancakes.  After breakfast, one by one we picked up our day packs and left Wayllabamba behind.  We were told that the second day of Inca Trail would be the toughest, as we would reach the highest point of the entire trek, Warmiwanusqa or the Dead Woman’s Pass.  Before reaching the pass, we would need to go through four stages of uphill hike, with a total of about 1,100m of ascend in one morning.

Not sure when did we find ourselves followed by a friendly dog from Wayllabamba.  We went through the first stage of ascend without much troubles.  A 15-minute break with snacks and drinks was the reward after completing the first uphill hike.  The second stage of the ascend took us through a dense forest and hundreds of uneven steps, some of which belonged to the original Inca Trail where the Incas traveled hundreds of years ago.  The second stage of uphill hike ended at an open valley, where dense forest gave way to grasslands and alpine tundra.  A long table was already set up by our guides and porters at the valley, where we enjoyed our second breakfast of the day.  Soon we were on our way on the third stage of the uphill hike.  It was a nice walk through a highland valley, in the embrace of mountains and glaciers.  In the valley, a wild llama walked alongside us with its head up.

At the end of the valley, the last stage of ascend was made up of sloped path and steps leading all the way up to Warmiwanusqa (Dead Woman’s Pass).  At 4,200m, reaching the Dead Woman’s Pass has always been one of the the most daring feat of the Classic Inca Trail.  Luck was on our side.  It was clear, warm and sunny when we reached Dead Woman Pass, which is usually foggy and windy.  We were among the first ones in our trekking group arriving at the pass.  Fog approached Dead Woman Pass as we waited for our group.  After everyone arrived, Freddie led us up a rocky slope where each of us placed a piece of stone which we picked up from our camp site at Wayllabamba onto a large rock, forming a small vertical pile of stones. He and another porter took out a bottle of rum, and we held a small ritual paying respect to the “pachamama” (Mother Earth).

After the small sip of rum, one by one we descended the other side of Dead Woman Pass. It was a 600m downhill hike to our camp site at Pacamayo (Pakaymayu).  At the camp site, Freddie gathered all the cooks and porters and introduced them to us one by one.  It started raining after we arrived at Pacamayo, and the rain lasted all night.  We were just so lucky of not suffering from a drop of rain while we hiked.

5090385044_f268fa33eb_o_01Early morning breakfast at our camp site at Wayllabamba.

01Farewell to the sleepy village of Wayllabamba.

02We rested and snacked below an exotic tree.

04The second stage of ascend took us into dense forest.

05Steps were uneven throughout most of the second stage ascend.

07Second breakfast was awaiting us by the time we reached the open valley.

08A wild llama walked alongside our shoulders for a bit as we walked through the valley.

09Halfway up the last stage of ascend to Warmiwanusqa (Dead Woman’s Pass) took us face to face with splendid mountain scenery.

12Almost reaching the Warmiwanusqa (Dead Woman’s Pass).

14After 1,100m of ascend, we finally reached Warmiwanusqa (Dead Woman’s Pass) just after noontime.

15After some snacks and a sip of rum, our descend began at the other side of the Dead Woman’s Pass.

13It was a 600m descend to the campsite at Pakaymayu.

17At Pakaymayu, our guide Freddie (front right) introduced us to each of the fantastic cooks and porters.  Without their support, our trek would simply be impossible.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru

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KM 82 TO WAYLLABAMBA, Inca Trail, Peru

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Peru.  In order to reduce trail erosion, the government sets limits of 500 trekkers per day and a handful of companies that can provide guiding service.  Most people go for the Classic route, starting the trail from Km 82, reaching the highest point at Warmiwanusqa (Dead Woman Pass) on the second day, passing by Andean cloud forests and Inca ruins on the third day, and ending the trek at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu at sunrise on the fourth day.

At 05:30, a 4×4 from Peru Treks came to our hotel in Cusco to pick us up for our 4-day trek. They took us first to Ollantaytambo for breakfast, and then to the trail-head at Km 82, the starting point of the Inca Trail. At Km 82, we left our rented sleeping bags, mats and warm clothing to the porters. With a small day pack of personal belongings, water, broad brim hat and a pair of hiking poles, we followed our guide Freddie to embark for a full day of challenge.  As we departed for the hike, a tourist train ran ahead of us into the valley  towards Machu Picchu, taking a train load of tourists (70% of visitors of Machu Picchu) who rather skipped the magnificent Inca Trail to reach the lost city in about three hours (train + shuttle bus).

Our trek started off with an easy hike into the mountains. After some uphill walking, we arrived at the first Inca ruin Patallaqta. It was an Inca settlement for ancient travelers and soldiers located at the intersection between two valleys. Our guide Freddie called this the Valley of the Wind, because of the constant strong wind.  An optional climb up a hill gave us a better view of the terraces of Patallaqta.  We continued to hike towards our camp site of the first night at Wayllabamba.  Along the way, we get glimpses of the Cordillera Urubamba.  After about 12km of hiking and a few resting spots where water and gatorade were sold, we arrived at Wayllabamba in mid afternoon. The camp site has a great view to the Cordillera Urubamba.

At Wayllabamba, we were assigned with our tents, one tent for two people.  We settled ourselves and took a short break.  Our guide Freddie, porters and some local villagers decided to play a game of football (soccer) on an open field.  I joined them for the game but retreated after playing for about 30 minutes.  It was extremely tiring to exercise on high altitude, no wonder I was the only one from our trekking group willing to join the game.  After the game, we went to get water at a nearby village, and passed by a community church as we headed back to our camp.  At night, the entire group (16 of us) and the guides had dinner in the dinning tent.  The meal was very impressive given we were high up on the mountains.  We got to have a good sleep to gear up for the toughest challenge of the Inca Trail, the 1100m climb to Warmiwanusqa (Dead Woman Pass) in the next morning.

01Tourist train rushing ahead of us at Km 82.

02Beginning of the Classic Inca Trail near Km 82.

03The Kusichaka Valley led towards the magnificent ruin of Patallaqta.

04The ruin of Patallaqta, at the intersection of Kusichaka River and Willkanuta Rivers.

05Patallaqta was once an important Inca settlement in the Sacred Valley.

06Snow-capped mountains of Cordillera Urubamba often came to sight.

07The community church near our camp site at Wayllabamba.

08Our camp site at Wayllabamba.

09A nearby settlement from Wayllabamba where we could use the toilets and get water.

10The mighty Andean peaks dominate the backdrop of Wayllabamba.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


SAKSAYWAMAN, Cusco, Peru

In Quechua, Saksaywaman means viaiable hawk.  Standing above the northern end of Cusco, Saksaywaman is the perfect place to admire the impeccable Inca stone construction.  Huge boulders weighting from 25 to 200 tons were used in Saksaywaman to construct the famous stone walls constructed without the use of mortar.  Stones were shaped and placed together precisely by Inca craftsmen, and the joints so tight that not even a knife blade or a piece of paper could fit in.  Despite its fortress appearance, Saksaywaman was in fact a religious complex back in the Inca times.

We arrived at Saksaywaman by taxi.  The sky was grey and it seemed that rain would be inevitable.  We quickly walked around the ruins.  Not much interpretation information was presented at the site.  Nevertheless, we were amazed by the magnificent Inca construction and its simple but monumental stone walls.  As we wandered around the site, we reached a spot by a cliff overlooking the city of Cusco.  The vista from the lookout was gorgeous.  Despite strong winds, we stayed there for quite some time to take photos and checked out every small details of Cusco from a birdeye’s view.

Rain clouds were approaching fast.  As planned, we decided to walk back down to Cusco.  Via steep stone steps of Calle Palacio, we quickly descended to the city as it began to rain.  Soon we were reaching the door of Museo de Arte Precolombino when rain poured down heavily.  We decided to visit the museum partly to avoid the rain and partly wishing to know more about the pre-colonial cultures of Peru.  Museo de Arte Precolombino is an excellent place to understand the history and art of many pre-colonial Peruvian cultures, including Nasca, Mochica, Huari, Chimu and Inca.

From Museo de Arte Precolombino, it was only a few minutes’ walk to Jack’s Cafe, where we had a cheerful early dinner.  We were all getting excited about the upcoming Inca Trail trek.  Next morning, the 4×4 from our trekking agent Peru Treks would come to pick us up early in the morning to officially kick off our 4-day trek towards the Andean lost city of Machu Picchu.

1Monolithic stone masonry at Saksaywaman.

2Monolithic stone masonry at Saksaywaman.

3Rain clouds were approaching as we wandered around Saksaywaman.

4Magnificent stone works at Saksaywaman.

5Distant view of Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.

6Distant view of Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.

7By the time we left Saksaywaman, the rain was about to start.

8We quickly walked down the lane towards Pumacurco Street.

9Heavy rain soon dominated the skyline of Cusco.

10Walking down Calle Palacio towards Museo de Arte Precolombino.

11Walking down Calle Palacio towards Museo de Arte Precolombino.

12Display at Museo de Arte Precolombino.

13Display at Museo de Arte Precolombino.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru

 

 


LUCUMA MILKSHAKE & PLAZA DE ARMAS, Cusco, Peru

Soon we were back to the Central Cusco, the historical capital of the Inca Empire and the major heartland of tourism in Peru.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage since 1983, both the splendid remnants of the Incas and the dazzling architecture of Colonial Spain captured our imagination ever since we entered the city.  Five centuries ago in 1533, Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cusco and sacked the city, converting the marvelous Inca capital into a colonial city with Roman Catholic churches and convents, many of which still remain standing today.  With the Sacred Valley and the lost world of Machu Picchu within close proximity to the city, at about 3,400m above sea level Cusco serves as a crucial base for all tourists to acclimatize before trekking the Inca Trail.

Back in Cusco, we decided to try out a glass of fresh juice at Mercado San Pedro.  Cusco’s central market was just a short walk from Plaza de Armas.  The covered market was quite large, with all kinds of produces, food products, dry goods, cafeteria, and juice stalls.  From a juice vendor, we ordered a lucuma drink with milk. Lucuma is a subtropical fruit native to Peru with high level of nutrients. We made one order but the woman ended up giving us three glasses because at San Pedro juice is ordered by jar, not glass.  On our way out of the market we also bought a few tangerines.

After San Pedro, we returned to Ninos Hotel for a short break, then we headed over to the Australian owned Los Perros restaurant for lunch.  The restaurant was only a stone throw away from the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas.  We walked around the square, stopping at some of the most iconic colonial architecture in Cusco, including Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus and Cusco Cathedral and admired the historical fountain at centre and stone arcades around the plaza perimeter.

In mid afternoon, we hopped on a taxi for the hilltop Inca citadel of Saksaywaman.

2On our way to Mercado San Pedro on Calle Santa Clara.

1Iglesia de San Pedro just outside of Mercado San Pedro.

3Fruit vendors at Mercado San Pedro selling all kinds of local fruits.

4The vendor preparing our lucuma milkshake.

5Tranquil back streets near Hotel Ninos.

6Wooden balconies were common sights in Cusco and other Peruvian cities.

7Cobble stone street in Cusco.

8The Cathedral of Cusco.

9Sagrada Familia Church beside the cathedral.

10Fountain at the centre of Plaza de Armas.

11Fountain at the centre of Plaza de Armas with mountains in the backdrop.

12Plaza de Armas of Cusco.

13 Arcades were common around Plaza de Armas.

15Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús by Plaza de Armas.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


CHINCHERO SUNDAY MARKET, Sacred Valley, Peru

In the morning, we took a collective van from Cusco to the village of Chinchero (3,782m).  We went specifically for its renowned Sunday Market.  Despite touristy, the Chinchero Sunday Market is also famous for its community market where locals from villages around the area come to shop and barter.  We entered the market through a white-wash archway.  Immediately we arrived at a long aisle of vendors selling souvenirs and artisan textiles.  We wandered in the tourist section of the market for a while, then walked over to the semi-covered section of the market where locals gathered for grocery and other daily merchandises.

After exploring the Chinchero Market, we encountered a group of election campaigners dressed in traditional clothing and masks parading right outside the market.  It was only days before regional election would take place for all districts in Peru. Before Chinchero, we had bumped into election campaigns at many other villages, towns and cities throughout our trip.

On the upper part of Chinchero behind the market, we found ourselves visiting a weaving cooperative organized by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.  Dozens of local women displayed their textile works for sale.  We lingered in the centre for a while.  At the end, we came out with a piece of handmade textile as souvenir.  Although we found the small cobble stone streets interesting, we didn’t stay long at the old quarter of Chinchero before heading back down to the market square for our return journey.  On our way down, we saw half a dozen of local women dressed in traditional costumes watching the election campaign parade.  Loud music and chatting continued to fill the streets of Chinchero as we found our way back to the spot where we hopped on the van for Cusco.

1The archway marks the entrance of the Chinchero Sunday Market.

2A woman wearing traditional dress and a red felt hat, montera.

3In the Chinchero Sunday market, we saw many women wearing red sweater and red-felt flat hat. The crimson of the their clothing was really eye-catching, and so as their pleasant smiles.

4Hat is an important in the Andean culture. Peruvian women wear hat of different styles and decorations, representing their tribes and heritage.

5Vendors selling all kinds of tourist souvenirs, including chess and flutes.

6At the touristy half of the market, there were many textile vendors displaying their colour fabrics.

7The other half of the market, semi-covered with thatch canopies, served as a community market.

8-2[Left] Gourd carving is a traditional Peruvian art with artisans using gourds to tell stories, both personal and communal. [Right] An artisan proudly presenting his handmade jewellery.

10A girl, holding fresh flower in hands, was taking a nap against a mount of colorful yarns.

11Walking through the aisle between rows of semi covered stalls in the Sunday Market and watching the locals barter and shopped for grocery was an interesting experience.

12The semi-covered section of the Sunday market was like a grocery market where locals could find a variety of fruits and vegetable.

13-2Children were everywhere in the market, helping out the mothers at vendor stalls or grocery shopping.

15The loud speaker from the election campaign parade caught people’s attention.

17We stepped aside as the election campaigners with masks marching on the street.

16From the market, we found our way to the old quarter of Chinchero.

18A weaving cooperative organized by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.

19The stepped lane with a drainage channel in the middle near the weaving cooperative.

20View of the campaign parade from the upper part of Chinchero.

21Local women watching the parade from a distance.


SALINAS DE MARAS & MORAY, Sacred Valley, Peru

After Ollantaytambo, we headed back to Urubamba, the largest town in the Sacred Valley.  At Urubamba, we hired a taxi for the Salinas de Maras (Salt Pans of Maras) and Moray, the archaeological site Inca terraces.  The drive to the remote Salinas de Maras was full of breathtaking views of the Urupampa Mountain Range at the opposite side of the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley), including Mountain Ch’iqun at about 5,530m above sea level.

Salinas de Maras is a salt mine of roughly 3000 small pools along the hillside of a mountain.  Each pool yields about 150 kg of salt per month.  The pools are fed by a hotspring with a high concentration of sodium.  As the water evaporates, crystallized salts are left behind for harvest. This salt mine has been in operation since the ancient times.  Little has changed for the past hundreds of years.

After Salinas de Maras, our taxi driver drove us to the nearby Moray site, an Inca ruins of remarkable circular terraces. The purpose of Moray was unknown, but most archaeologists believe that the circular terraces of Moray were once an Inca outdoor testing lab for agricultural experiments to study the effects of different micro-climates and soil conditions on crops.

We stayed at Moray for a short while, but didn’t have enough time to venture down to the bottom.  We lingered at the top of Moray ruins and the nearby area to take in the magnificent scenery of Urupampa Mountain Range until the sun began to set.  Standing at over 3500m elevation, many peaks stood in front of us across the Sacred Valley on the Urupampa Mountain Range were over 5000m above sea level.  We were grateful for ending our day of the Sacred Valley with such a peaceful scenery, a moment of cool breezes, fast moving clouds, fading sunlight, and majestic Urupampa Mountains.

We returned to Urubamba for the return bus ride back to Cusco.  Upon arrival, we were all hungry and tired.  We decided to treat ourselves a delicious dinner at one of the most well known tapas restaurants in the city, the Cicciolina.  Under the atmospheric setting of Cicciolina, we had one of the best meal of our entire trip.  This was the place where we took the courage to try a “cuy” dish (guinea pigs).  On the Andes, guinea pigs have long been a source of meat since ancient times.

1On the road to Salinas de Maras with Mountain Ch’iqun as the backdrop.

2Our taxi is approaching the salt mine, Salinas de Maras.

3The scene of a myriad of salt pools at Salinas de Maras was quite stunning.

4Staff could be seen working at the salt pools at Salinas de Maras.

5A water channel that diverts the salty water into the pools.

6The water channel that feeds the different salt pools.

7A water channel that diverts the salt water into the pools.

8Shadow of the mountain was cast onto the pools.

9The Salinas de Maras with the Sacred Valley in the distant.

10The various shades of earthy colours of the salt pools at Salinas de Maras.

11As the water evaporates, crystallized salts are left behind for harvest.

12Moray, an Inca ruins near the village of Maras, was an ancient outdoor testing grounds for agriculture.

14As evening approached, we had no choice but to embark on our return journey to Urubamba.

13We were at the elevation of over 3500m, embraced by mountainous scenery including the Urupampa Mountain Range across the valley.  As evening approached, we bidded farewell to the breathtaking scenery of Mountain Ch’iqun and the Urupampa Mountain Range and headed back to Cusco.

15Back to Cusco, we headed to the guidebook-recommended Cicciolina Tapas Restaurant to end our long day with an exciting meal.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


PISAC & OLLANTAYTAMBO, Sacred Valley, Peru

To many, the lost city of Machu Picchu and the Inca capital of Cusco represent the biggest tourist highlights of Peru.  Arriving in the Urubamba Valley (or Sacred Valley of the Incas) where Machu Picchu, Cusco and several other famous Inca sites are located felt like we were  entering the heartland of the Inca Empire.  We spent our first full day in Cusco exploring the nearby Inca sites in the Urubamba Valley.  From Cusco, we took a regional bus to the town of Pisac. Pisac serves as the gateway of the valley from Cusco. Our primary destination in Pisac was the Inca ruins on the hilltop.  From the bus drop-off, we hired a taxi to take us to the hilltop.  The taxi ride took about 20 minutes.

At the hilltop where the ruins sat, we could truly admire the Inca’s fabulous agricultural terraces.  Set against the mountainous backdrop, the agricultural terraces dominated the steep hillsides. Top of the terraces lie a series of ceremonial platforms, temple and citadel overlooking the valley.

After the visit to Pisac, we hopped onto a minibus to Urubamba, and from Urubamba, we took a collective van up to the village of Ollantaytambo, the starting point of the famous Inca Trail and home of another famous Inca ruins. At the main square of Ollantaytambo, we went to the Hearts Cafe for lunch.  Hearts Cafe was another charity establishment, this time, by an English woman and her NGO Living Heart, which engaged in a number of children and community projects in the Sacred Valley.

After lunch, we climbed the steep steps to the top of the Inca ruins, the Terraces of Pumatallis which offered a spectacular view of the village of Ollantaytambo. In addition to religious purposes, the massive Terraces of Pumatallis also served as a fortress during the resistance against the Spanish conquest.

After Ollantaytambo, we continued our visit of the Sacred Valley. We took a local bus and returned to Urubamba, from where we hired a taxi for the Salinas salt pans and the Inca terraces of Moray.

1Early morning at Ninos Hotel, a charity establishment founded by a Dutch woman in 1996 to help the street children in Cusco.

2Our quadruple room Carolyn, named after one of the street children at Ninos Hotel, was located on the upper level.

3Agricultural terraces dominate the hillside of the mountain where the Inca ruins sat in Pisac.

5There were footpaths connecting to other parts of the ruins and Inca terraces in Pisac.

4Inca ruins in Pisac lie atop the agricultural terraces.

6This gateway at Pisac presented a fine example of the mortar-free stone masonry perfectly fit together with hand tools, a common construction feature in many Inca structures.

7A stone retaining wall at the Inca ruins in Pisac.

8Inca terraces in Pisac.

9We had lunch at Hearts Cafe near the main square of Ollantaytambo.

10The terraces of Pumatallis in Ollantaytambo witnessed some fierce battles against the Spanish during the twilight moments of the Incas.

11 View of the village of Ollantaytambo from the Terraces of Pumatallis

12Terraces of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

13The stone works and steep steps at Terraces of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

14Magnificent Inca stone work at the terrace of Pumatallis, Ollantaytambo.

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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru