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Posts tagged “Inca

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

 

 


AFTERTHOUGHTS, Inca Trail, Peru

We reached Aguas Calientes after a 20 minutes bus ride. As the gateway to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes is a very touristy town. The Urubamba River and the large boulders reminded us the flood and landslide that closed down the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu for two months from the end of January 2010.  When the flood hit a little over half a year before our trip, over 2000 tourists were stranded at Aguas Calientes waiting for evacuation by helicopters.  Little trace from the flood remained by the time we set foot at the town at the end of our Inca Trail journey.

We had little to do in the town, and I was not feeling well at the moment with a bit of fever.  So we pretty much stayed at the restaurant for the entire afternoon while other members of the tour group went to check out the small market and souvenir shops in Aguas Calientes.  We were all exhausted and waiting for the train ride back to Ollantaytambo at 7:45pm.

Two packs of “local” chips bought across the street from the restaurant became our “supper” on the train.  The train took us to Ollantaytambo in about two hours.  From there, Peru Treks arranged a bus that took us all back to Cusco. By the time we reached Cusco it was almost midnight.  We bid farewell to the Peru Trek team and headed back to Ninos Hotel for the night.  That concluded our 4-day Inca Trail experience.

01The Urubamba River in Aguas Calientes.

02Frequent shuttle bus runs to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes.

03All businesses in Aguas Calientes depend on tourism of Machu Picchu.

04The railway track runs right in the middle of Aguas Calientes’ main street.

05We waited at the restaurant arranged by Peru Treks until late afternoon.

06I wasn’t feeling well towards the end of the Inca Trail journey, and spent most of the afternoon resting at the restaurant.

08Two packs of “local” chips were all we had for dinner after the remarkable Inca Trail journey.

* * *

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


MACHU PICCHU IN BLACK AND WHITE, Inca Trail, Peru

Situated at 2,430m above sea level on a mountain above the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca royalty.  Abandoned before or around the time of the Spanish Conquest, the lost city was not known to the Western world until 1911 when American Historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu. Compared to the early 20th century when most buildings in the site lay in ruins, today many parts of Machu Picchu have been restored for everyone to admire.  Much research has been done over the past century, but according to the UNESCO, many of the mysteries remained resolved.

As UNESCO puts it, “the Inca City of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is the articulating centre of its surroundings, a masterpiece of art, urbanism, architecture and engineering of the Inca Civilization. The working of the mountain, at the foot of the Huaya Picchu, is the exceptional result of integration with its environment, the result from a gigantic effort as if it were an extension of nature.”  While we wandered around the site, we could truly witness the powerful integration of manmade architecture and natural landscape.  The stepped terraces, temple structure incorporated into natural rock formation, and the stone pyramid all reveal the same story of harmony between Machu Picchu and the natural world.  For us this feeling was very powerful, especially after we had firsthand experienced of the Andean landscape from our three days on the Inca Trail.

01Temple of the Sun

02Mummy vault (royal tombs) at Temple of the Sun

03Alternative entrance to the Temple of the Sun.

04Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock and Guardhouse at the top.

05Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock

06Stone quarry at Machu Picchu

07A viscacha on an Inca wall.

08Principle temple at Intiwatana Pyramid (damaged by earthquakes)

09View from Intiwatana Pyramid.

10Terraces at the side of Intiwatana Pyramid.

11East urban section

12Lane going up to upper section

13East urban section

14East urban section and the Huaya Picchu.

15Overview of Machu Picchu with llamas.

16Inca Bridge and original Inca Trail

* * *

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

 


MACHU PICCHU, Inca Trail, Peru

We validated our tickets and got a souvenir stamp onto our passport at the main entrance of Machu Picchu, then our guide Freddie led us into the site once again.  We walked past the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock and sat down at a terrace where Freddie gave us a talk about Machu Picchu.  Then Freddie took us to the Temple of the Sun, where former Inca priests observed the sun, performed sacrifice rituals, and stored the royal mummies at the mausoleum.

Lastly, Freddie took us to the Main Temple and then Intiwatana Pyramid, a high point in Machu Picchu where the Incas studied and worshiped the stars.  After some last words on the Inca astronomy, Freddie and his assistant Miguel left us to freely wander around the ruins on our own.  They left for a restaurant at Aguas Calientes where the space was reserved for Peru Treks.  All members of our group, including our friends, dispersed all over Machu Picchu.  We decided to take a break at the entrance cafe before climbing up to the guardhouse once again to take a few more photos of Machu Picchu under the sun.  At the lookout, there was a few funny looking llamas grazing the lawn.  After a few minutes photographing the friendly llamas, we ventured further out for 15 minutes to see the Inca Bridge.

Back to the lookout, we saw another llama standing on a terrace behind a stone wall peeking at the passing tourists.  We slowly walked back to the main entrance and hopped on a bus for Aguas Calientes, where our friends, Freddie and the entire group waited for us at the restaurant reserved for Peru Treks.

01Main tourist entrance of Machu Picchu.

78330034More tourists arrived as bus loads of people were transported from the train station at Aguas Calientes below Machu Picchu.

78330035Terraces of the Ceremonial Rock and the surrounding mountains.

04Tourist in Machu Picchu.

05One of Freddie’s sessions explaining the history of the lost city.

06Temple of the Sun was built upon a natural rock, with the mausoleum situated underneath.

07Mummy vault (royal tomb) at Temple of the Sun

08Doorway to Temple of the Sun.

09Damage to the stonework of the Main Temple by occasional earthquakes.

10The Intihuatana stone on the top of Intiwatana Pyramid.

11Terraces on the side of Intiwatana Pyramid.

12View towards the Terraces of the Ceremonial Rock.

13Llama, Machu Picchu, Una Picchu and Huayna Picchu (mountains behind Machu Picchu).

15Urubamba River down at the valley bottom.

16The Inca Bridge and part of the original Inca Trail, 15 minutes walk from Machu Picchu.

17Curious llama peeking out from the ruins.

18Llama in the ruins.

14One last classic overview of Machu Picchu before we left the site.

* * *

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


WINAY WAYNA TO MACHU PICCHU, Inca Trail, Peru

Last day of the Inca Trail. We got up super early and joined the queue marching towards Machu Picchu.  At 05:20 the gate of the final stretch of trail opened and we went in as a group to hike the final 5 km.  Despite a little wet, we hiked in a relatively quick pace and felt quite excited.  Our destination was Inti Punku (Sun Gate), where we were supposed to get a glimpse of early sunlight shining on the legendary lost city.  Though the night of heavy rain brought us another morning of mist, so that scene of golden Machu Picchu at dawn never happened for us.  At least it wasn’t raining when we arrived at Inti Punku.  We only stopped briefly for a drink, took a few pictures and continued our way marching towards Machu Picchu.

Before entering the legendary ruins, we stopped at the guard house to have a closer overview of Machu Picchu.  We stood at the Terraces of the Ceremonial Rock near the guard house and waited for the fog to lift.  Magically it did happen in front of our eyes.  We could see first the ruins and then later Huayna Picchu, the iconic mountain behind the lost city.  After some moments of excitement, we descended to the main entrance.  At the main entrance, we used the toilet, stored our day-pack, and had some morning snack before heading back in to Machu Picchu for a tour with our guide Freddie.  And then the dog appeared again, which had been mysteriously following our group since we left our first camp site two days ago.

01At 5am, we woke up to a grey sky of clouds and fog.

P1030118Clouds and fog was still present, but the fog seemed lifting a little by the time we reached Inti Punku (Sun Gate).

03Lush green mountains around Machu Picchu.

04Llamas and the Terraces of the Ceremonial Rock near the Guardhouse.

05From the guard house, Machu Picchu stood right below. We sat on one of the terraces to wait for the fog to lift.

06Our group among other trekkers waiting for Machu Picchu to emerge from the mist.

78330024Machu Picchu in the mist.

07Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu in the mist.

78330027Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu after some minutes of waiting.

08Entrance tickets into Machu Picchu.

10And here is the dog that had been mysteriously following our group since we left our first camp site two days ago.

* * *

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

 


PACASMAYO TO WINAY WAYNA, Inca Trail, Peru

After a night of rain, it was cloudy and foggy throughout much of the day while we trekked through the cloud forest.  This third day of the Inca Trail saw us went past mountain passes with the highest at 3,950m, passed by several Inca ruins, wandered through the Peruvian cloud forest, and descended 1,000m down to the Winay Wayna campsite at 2,650m.  The dramatic difference in altitude allowed us to experience the distinct environment between cloud forest and tropical woodlands.  After a day of hiking in the humid forest, where heavy mist lingered around tree canopies, we were delighted to reach Winay Wayna, our last campground before reaching Machu Picchu, in late afternoon.  Similar to the previous two days, our guide Freddie was always enthusiastic on explaining the history and legends about everything we saw along the way.  That evening, we had another rainy night.  The campground at Winay Wayna was fully packed with trekkers.  We were told that hot showers (fees required) were available, but we rather waited another day until we arrived back at Cusco for a well-deserved hot shower.

01 Mountains and mist were the first things to greet us in early morning.

5090437132_21417b7677_oIt was cloudy and misty throughout much of the day.

2The misty landscape was poetic and picturesque.

3One of the first Inca ruins we encountered was tampu Runkuraqay.

4At certain moments, the scenery looked more tropical than the Andean highlands.

5Qunchamarka was another decent Inca ruin down at the valley.

10Sayacmarca (3,600m), another impressive Inca ruin that we actually climbed up for a visit.

11Sayacmarca could be translated as “Town in a Steep Place”.

12After climbing about 100 narrow and steep steps, we reached the main platform of Sayacmarca.  We sat down at one of the terraces in the complex, where our guide Freddie explained to us some brief information about the site.

13Similar to Machu Picchu, Sayacmarca was first discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in early 20th century.

6The third day also saw us walking on some section of the original Inca Trail.

7Ferns, moss and tropical trees were common in the cloud forest.

8Misty path in the cloud forest.

5089808991_124f794f1e_oPhuyupatamarca, “Town in the Clouds”, was another prominent Inca ruins along the Inca Trail.

14Just as its name suggested, Phuyupatamarca was truly a “Town in the Clouds”.

15Winay Wayna (forever young) was the last Inca ruin we visited before reaching the campground.

17Overlooking Urubamba River, the ruin and the campground at Winay Wayna (forever young) was impressive and very popular.

* * *

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


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


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


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


FARMING TERRACES, Colca Canyon, Peru

We should have spent more time in the Colca Canyon.  Our 2-day local tour allowed us very little time to enjoy the natural scenery of the magnificent valley, except stopping at lookouts along the way to and from the Cruz del Condor.  If time allowed, we could have done one of the hiking tours that reach the very bottom of the canyon.  At twice the depth of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, the bottom of Colca Canyon is much warmer and more humid than the top.  The Colca Canyon is largely covered by pre-Inca farming terraces.  For over a thousand years, Andean farmers constructed agricultural terraces to cultivate potatoes, maizes, and other crops in the shallow soil on mountain slopes.

After Cruz del Condor, our tour bus stopped a couple of times along the road for us to appreciate the Colca Canyon.  Farming terraces carved into mountain slope, but not all were planted with crops.  In fact, many terraces, especially the higher ones furthest away from the valley, looked like as if they had been abandoned for centuries.  The stepping profile of the abandoned terraces revealed a fading trace of human manipulations to the rough and mountainous terrain along the Colca River in precolonial times.

It was already noontime by the time we arrived at Chivay.  After lunch, we bid farewell with the rest of the tour group who would return to Arequipa.  We, on the other hand, would switch bus and continue our journey over the Andean highlands to the city of Puno, where we would begin our next phase of our Peruvian journey, the Lake Titicaca.

1Locals at a mountain village at the Colca Canyon.

2Agricultural fields on a plateau in the  Colca Valley.

3[scanned positive slide] Agricultural fields and farming terraces beyond.

4[scanned positive slide] Agricultural fields on a plateau overlooking the depth of Colca Canyon.

5Cactus is common in Colca Canyon.

6Farming terraces were everywhere.

7[scanned positive slide] Farming terraces all the way down to Colca River.

8Farming terraces of Colca Canyon.

9[scanned positive slide] Farming terraces of Colca Canyon.

* * *

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


DAY 28 (1 OF 2) – EL FUERTE, SAMAIPATA, BOLIVIA

El Fuerte, a pre-Inca archaeological site at a hilltop overlooking the town of Samaipata, is the main draw for foreigners to this sleepy hill town.  Listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, El Fuerte contains one of the world’s biggest stone carving.  On a gigantic rock surface at the hilltop, pictorial and geometric carvings were made by pre-Inca cultures.  The carving began at around AD300 and continued over generations for various purposes, from ritual services to astronomic and weather observations.  The Incas added two wall structures with mummy burial niches and a sun gate when they conquered the area and named Samaipata as a provincial capital.  The Spaniards then came to occupy the site as a military fort and built a few Andalusian houses on the site.  Apart from the sheer gigantic size of the stone carvings, the superimposing of symbols and architecture from various cultures offers a unique character to the site.  In recent decades, there were numerous rumours about some sort of mystical energy of the site.  Some even imagine the site being used by extraterrestrial to land their spaceship.
Following a raised boardwalk and a loop trail, we spent about 2 hours at El Fuerte to contemplate its unique history and take in the glorious views from the site.
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Read other posts on Samaipata & Santa Cruz, Bolivia:
Day 27.2 – Night Arrival, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 28.1 – El Fuerte, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 28.2 – Town, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 29.1 – Finca la Vispera, Sampaipata, Bolivia
Day 29.2 – Garden Cafe at Finca la Vispera, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 30.1 – Cloud Forest at Amboro National Park, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 30.2 – Starry Night, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 31.1 – Goodbye, Samaipata, Bolivia
Day 31.2 – Centro, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought