ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Cusco and Sacred Valley

FAREWELL TO THE INCAS, Cusco, Peru

After the 4-day Inca Trail, we had one final full day in Cusco. We started off our day with visiting Qorikancha, the colonial church and convent of Santo Domingo that built upon the stone walls and foundations of the richest temple in the Inca empire, the Inti Wasi, or the Sun Temple.  Qorikancha in Quechua means “Golden Courtyard”.  Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the famous Inca Emperor who expanded the Kingdom of Cusco into the mighty Inca Empire, and was probably the one who ordered the construction of Machu Picchu, transformed much of Cusco into his capital city and erected the Inti Wasi as the most important temple of the empire.   Pachacuti decorated Inti Wasi with gold vases, gold statues, gold ornaments, and walls covered with sheets of solid gold.  Much of the gold was given to the Spanish as ransom money for Atahualpa, the last emperor of the Incas.  Inti Wasi was looted and destroyed by the first Spanish conquistadors.  The Spanish colonists then spent almost a century building the Church of Santo Domingo over the walls and foundations of Inti Wasi.  Much of the church was damaged by earthquakes throughout the centuries, though much of the Inca foundations and walls remained intact because of their magnificent craftsmanship.

After Qorikancha, we strolled along Pampa de Castillo and picked an eatery to try some of the local delicacies. It was lunchtime and the restaurant was quite busy. There were only three things in the menu.  We ordered one of each and a large bottle of Inca Cola.  The dishes included adobo de chancho (Peruvian slow-cook pork in a soup/sauce made with jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and spices), chicharrones (deep-fried chunks of pork served with corn, mint leaves, potato and onion), and the truly awesome caldo de gallina (chicken soup with real taste of chicken).

After lunch, each of us did some shopping at Kuna, a local knitwear fashion brand with a good collection of alpaca garments.  Then we walked over to the Cathedral (Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus). The Cathedral actually consisted of three different churches, Iglesia del Triunfo, Cathedral and Iglesia de Jesus Maria.  We entered the Cathedral through Iglesia de Jesus Maria. The three churches were good examples of colonial architecture, with lots of silver treasures and historical artifacts. Famous paintings include the Quechua’s version of The Last Supper (a small feast with Andean ceremonial food), and the oldest surviving painting in Cusco that depicted an earthquake in 1650.

We couldn’t resist but went for another round of lucuma milkshake at Mercado San Pedro. After the drink, we took a taxi to the district of San Blas one more time to shop for jewellery and souvenirs. We didn’t get any jewellery, but instead, a few souvenirs including t-shirts and two small water-colour drawings.  On our way back down from San Blas, we strolled pass the alleyway of Hatunrumlyoc to admire the Inca stonework one last time.  This was once the palace of Inca Roca, then converted to a grand colonial residence, then a archbishop’s palace, and now, Museo de Arte Religioso.  Each stone of Hatunrumlyoc was smoothed, shaped and fit together by hands, without any use of mortar.  Given the splendid stonework, the Incas and the Quechua people were truly master builders of their time.  It was hard to imagine that their empire lasted for only 100 years. Within a century they built all these palaces and lost cities on the Andes such as Machu Picchu.

Since I needed more rest to deal with my fever, I decided to called it a day and returned to Ninos 2 Hotel, while my friends went out to Plaza de Armas to meet up with our Inca Trail group for a dinner gathering.  They brought back a bowl of delicious chicken soup for me that truly brightened my mood and whetted my appetite.   Since we landed at Arequipa, it had been 13 days traveling in the Peruvian highlands.  In the next morning, we would left the Peruvian Altiplano for Lima.

01Nino’s Hotel 2: across from our room there is the facilities for street children supported by the hotel and other donations.

02Entrance of Nino’s 2 Hotel

03Entrance of the Qurikancha.

04Urban view of Cusco from Qurikancha.

05Reconstructed Inca temple structure with original materials.

06Colonial ceiling panels at Qurikancha.

07Outdoor garden of Qorikancha.

08Outdoor garden of Qorikancha.

09Adobo de chancho, chicharrones, and caldo de gallina

10bAtrium of the eatery.

10aLive music at the eatery.

11  Staff preparing chicharrones near the eatery entrance.

13Plaza de Armas of Cusco.

14The Cathedral of Cusco.

P1030461The Cathedral of Cusco.

15_01  After the two churches, we strolled around the Plaza de Armas area, and found our way through some of the alleyways that are still flanked by Inca stonework. The first alleyway we walked through was Loreto.

P1030469   Walking to Mercado San Pedro again.

16Mercado San Pedro.

17Magnificent Inca stonework at Hatunrumlyoc.

18A courtyard of souvenir shops at Hatunrumlyoc.

* * *

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.

* * *

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


INKA EXPRESS, Puno to Cusco, Peru

After visiting the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca, we were finally acclimatized to the high altitude of the Peruvian Altiplano.  We were on the move again.  From the lakeside city of Puno, it would be a full day of bus ride in the mountains to reach the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco.  We took the prearranged Inka Express, a service popular among foreign visitors for that journey.

The Inka Express bus exited Puno, then reached the regional hub Juliaca after an hour on the road.  Another hour of bus ride took us to the town of Pukara, where we visited its colonial church and Litica Archaeological Museum.  Famous for its pre-Inca stone carvings and steles from the Pukara culture dated back to roughly 100AD, the museum was an interesting stop to learn more about the Quechua people prior to the Inca times.  Beside the museum, the colonial church at Pukara was an architectural gem.

By the time we reached Abra la Raya, we were finally leaving Puno Region behind and entering Cusco Region.  At about 4,350m, the Abra la Raya pass was a popular stop for photos, tourist souvenirs and washrooms.  The next stop came at Raqchi, where we were caught in a short but heavy rainstorm.  As the rain subsided, we followed our Inka Express guide out to walk around the archaeological site of Raqchi, checking out the ruined Temple of Wiracocha and the circular stone storehouses.

Once on the road again, we were soon told by the guide that some sort of civic strike was going on ahead in the town of Sicuani.  We soon found out what the strike was meant for us when our bus stopped behind a long queue of trucks.  Our guide made all passengers to get off the bus, carried our backpacks and walked forward on foot.  Soon we reached the picket line blockade where burning tires and construction debris piled up in the middle of the road.   After about twenty minutes of walking with all our belongings on a dusty road, our guide told us to stop by the curb and waited for our Inka Express bus to pick us up again.  Our bus driver somehow managed to find a short cut to get around the picket line and reunite with us.

We arrived at the main square of Cusco just before dark.  Before going to our hotel, we went to the office of Peru Treks to pay for the remaining balance of our Inca Trail trekking tour in three days’ time.  After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we went to a restaurant called Los Toldos to finished off the day with grilled chicken and fruit pizza.

1Inka Express leaving the Puno bus station.

2Leaving the central area of Puno.

3Passing by a giant slide while leaving Puno.

4Street scene of Puno.

5.JPGLeaving Puno and Lake Titicaca.

6Arriving at Juliaca, the largest city in Puno District.

7Roads in Juliaca where trucks were often seen on their way to or from Bolivia.

8Roads in Juliaca where trucks were often seen on their way to or from Bolivia.

9Arriving at the town centre of Pukara.

10Pukara church was a pleasant treat from the colonial past.

11Beside the Pukara church was the interesting Litica Archaeological Museum.

12The interiors of Pukara church.

13At 4,338m above sea level, the pass of Abra la Raya lies at the border between the districts of Puno and Cusco.

14The short walk to the service toilets at Abra la Raya was freezing cold and super windy.

P1020717-2_01A souvenir vendor took her llama out for tourists to take photos.

15At 92m x 25.5m, the Temple of Wiracocha at Raqchi was one of the largest temple in the Inca Empire.

16The circular store houses at Raqchi.

P1020720After we encountered some sort of strike that blocked all road traffic on the highway, we had no choice but to carry our backpacks and walked for 20 minutes to get to the other side of Sicuani.

P1020729At Los Toldos restaurant in Cusco, we could finally indulged in a relaxing meal of grilled chicken and fruit pizza.

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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


PERU TRIP 2010

In the next little while, we will engage in recollecting the delightful memories of our journey to Peru in 2010, and post our travel photos to document our first ever travel experience in South America.

In September 2010, with two of our best friends, we made a trip to Peru.  Like many others, the iconic picture of Machu Picchu emerging from the mist of Andes represents our first impression of Peru. Through pre-trip research, we learnt that this South American nation actually has much more to offer than just a postcard image: the Andes mountains, Amazon rainforest, Lake Titicaca, Nazca Lines, ancient cultures, fabulous cuisine, etc.

With Peru’s friendly people and breathtaking scenery, our Peruvian experience was a great introduction to the fascinating continent of Latin America.  For almost three weeks, we made a small loop in Southern Peru, starting from the national capital Lima, then southeast to the colonial gem Arequipa and the mighty Colca Canyon, further east to Lake Titicaca and the peaceful Taquile Island, then west to the Inca capital Cusco and the ruins and villages of the Sacred Valley, trekking the famous Inca Trail with the grand finale at Machu Picchu, and returning to Lima to complete the loop.

The Peru trip was not our most challenging journey, but it is certainly one of the most remarkable and delightful travel experience we have had, especially when we could share the wonderful moments with our two travel buddies.

10PE15-32High up on the Andes, the lost city of Machu Picchu in front of Huayna Picchu captivates everyone’s imagination.

Peru Map_01Our route was a classic tourist loop at the southern part of Peru, taking in Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Inca Trail, and Machu Picchu.

* * *

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