ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Travel

DAY 1:WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh, India

At the hotel driveway, we were welcomed by the host of Hotel Ladakh Greens with white khata scarfs.  After many hours of traveling, we were more than happy to check in our hotel room, our temporary home for the next six consecutive nights.  After a cup of refreshment tea, we decided to take some rest at the hotel.  At about 10:30, the sky cleared up and the sun had long been up.  WiFi Internet wasn’t working at the hotel.  We put on our shoes and couldn’t wait any longer but to go out and explore Leh.  Heading out the hotel’s poplar-lined driveway, our aim was to walk to the town centre to visit its main bazaar.  At the high altitude, the sun was bright and strong.  The temperature was warmer than we thought.  We walked slowly along Fort Road towards town centre.  Under the brutal late morning sun, we felt dry and tired, partly because of the red-eye flight, partly because of a slight reaction from the high altitude, and partly because of the arid and dusty environment of Leh.

For about 15 minutes we passed by many souvenir shops and hotels along Fort Road, until reaching a crowded restaurant near town centre then we realized that we were a little hungry.  We stepped in the popular Gesmo Restaurant and decided to grab a bite before continuing our walk to the bazaar.  The restaurant was fully packed.  Fortunately at the first table by the entrance sat Sophia, a Spanish tourist who invited us to share the table  by the window with her.  A young lawyer from Spain, Sophia came to India for volunteer work at Dharamsala.  She had already volunteering and traveling alone in the country for two months.  While she was almost done with Leh and almost ready to move on to somewhere else, we two newcomers were delighted to gain some travel tips from Sophia.  We had a good time chatting about traveling in India and Spain.  At the same time, we had our first thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup).

After lunch, we came across Dzomsa, an interesting shop near the main bazaar.  Right by the entrance stood two water containers for tourists to refill their water bottles.  Local treats like apricot and seabuck berry juices were particularly popular.  Other than drinks, dried fruits, tea leaves, spices, nuts, apricot kernel oil, and other handcrafts were also on the shelves.  From Dzomsa it was only a short walk to the main bazaar, the lively commercial centre of Leh.  Popular with locals and tourists alike, the main bazaar offers everything from souvenirs to local produce.  Unfortunately much of the market street was under extensive road paving work when we were there.  At some spots, walking in the main bazaar was like wandering in a dusty construction site.  It was just our first day in Leh.  We were in no rush to check out every single shop in the bazaar.  We took our time wandering in the town centre, absorbing the atmosphere of the busy market scene.

DSC_3382Outside of our hotel gate, Lower Tukcha Road was a sleepy lane with local homes and hotel complexes.

DSC_3384Intersection at Lower Tukcha Road and Fort Road which connects to the town centre of Leh. There is no proper street sign so the little grocery store with a distinguishable wooden storefront became the landmark for us for direction.

DSC_3387From our hotel to the town centre, it was about 15-minute walk. Under the bright afternoon sun, the unpaved road turned golden. It was soft and pleasant to walk on until a cloud of swirling dust rose from the dirt road when motorcycles and cars drove by. Under the harsh sun, every pedestrian preferred to walk under the shade.

DSC_3388As approaching the town centre, we had a better view of the earth-tone Leh Palace and the red and white Namgyal Tsemo Gompa prominently standing on the rocky hill.

DSC_3393Before arriving at the main bazaar, we stopped by Gesmo Restaurant for lunch.  According to the guidebooks, Gesmo Restaurant had always been a local favorite. When we arrived there, the restaurant was fully packed with locals and travelers. We met a Spanish traveler, Sophia, who invited us to share a table by the window with her. Sophia had been traveling in this country for over a month. She shared stories of the travel and we shared our upcoming travel plan. We were happy to start off the day with a pleasant chat with like-mind people sharing the same passion and curiosity for traveling the world.

DSC_6398Near the main bazaar, small food and drink shop Dzomsa is a delightful stop for  juices of local fruits, organic snacks and spices, and souvenirs. Right by the entrance of the store were two larger water urns filled with portable water. With less than 8 rupees, visitors could refill their water bottle. It was a great environmental alternative to bottled water. There were also two large buckets collecting plastic bottles and used batteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was hot and dry outside. We took a little rest in the store and tried the most popular juice in town, apricot juice (left) and seabuck berry juice (right). For unknown reasons, we always presumed that the orange, thicker one would be the apricot juice and the one with the grape juice colour would be the seabuck berries juice. When we asked the storekeeper, we were told that it was actually the other way around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe store was simple with wooden shelves along the wall displaying the store staples such as mint tea, home-made jam, dried fruits, crunchy roasted apricot kernels, the precious saffron spice etc. We were happy to have found this store.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main bazaar were getting a facelift. Paving work and renovation of different scale were underway everywhere, especially the area near the main mosque Jama Masjid. Winter in Leh is extremely cold with heavy snow, so construction work can only be done in the short summer months.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATourists and locals walking by one of the buildings along the main bazaar.

DSC_3398Colourful prayer flags could be seen all over the market area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking at Jama Masjid’s end of the main bazaar with Leh Palace at the background.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal shopkeeper under the shade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal farmers took various kinds of seasonal vegetables for sell in the bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA passerby in the main bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main bazaar was a great place for people watching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany buildings around the bazaar were under construction or renovation.

DSC_3418The young street performer walked by and caught many people’s attention.

DSC_3436The Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.

DSC_3444Leh is like an oasis in a desert. Looking beyond cars and houses are bare mountains surrounding the city, reminding us of the harsh climate of this arid region.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

Advertisements

DAY 1: ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh, India

After 5 hours and 50 minutes on a Jet Airways plane from Hong Kong, we arrived at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at 16:30 local time.  The next connecting flight to our final destination Leh was scheduled to depart at 5:40 the next morning.  We decided to spend the night at Delhi Airport, where armed security guards were presence 24 hours. Dealing with money exchange, dropping by an eatery to taste our first chicken biryani, chilling out at Costa Coffee in the arrival hall, lounging on the chairs in the departure lounge among other local travelers, and reading magazines that we brought along, the 13-hour layover in Delhi Airport seemed passing quickly.  At around 2:30 in the morning, we joined the queue for domestic transfer check-in, hoping that the weather up on the mountains would be fine and our flight would depart on time.  The boarding gate of our flight was at the far end of a deserted waiting area.  It was a long walk but we had plenty of time.  As boarding time approached, more travelers arrived at the gate, most were local travelers except a few Western tourists.

This short-haul flight from New Delhi to Leh is considered by many one of the finest flights for mountain scenery.  Although we were seating on the side with windows facing the morning sun, the glare didn’t diminish our excitement over the views of the mountains and occasional glaciers passing below us. For about 15 minutes the plane cruised through the Indian Himalayas.  Before landing, the plane meandered through the Indus River Valley and made the final turn over the Tibetan monastery (Spituk Gompa) on a rocky mount at the end of the runway.

Our flight, Jet Airways 2368, landed on the runway of Leh Airport at around 7:05am, a little earlier than scheduled.  We stepped out of the aircraft, breathed in the crisp air and alighted the air-stairs with great excitement.  After roughly twenty hours from leaving Hong Kong, we finally made it to Leh, the central hub of Ladakh at the altitude of 3600m. On the runway, we could clearly see the distant mountains, different shades of brown in this arid world.  After picking up our backpacks from the luggage belt, we headed out of the small Leh Airport and immediately spotted a driver holding up a sign with our names.  Sooner than we thought our taxi had sped through the winding and bumpy roads of Leh and reached the poplar-lined driveway of our guesthouse Hotel Ladakh Greens.

DSC_3325Feature decorations at the passenger arrival hall in Delhi Airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe small eatery at the arrival hall of Delhi Airport where we had our first Indian meal.

DSC_334015 minutes of mountainous landscape before reaching Leh.

DSC_3342Not much snow was presence because of the summer season.

DSC_3362The sky wasn’t particularly clear when our plane approached Leh.

DSC_3373Mountain view from the runway of Leh Airport.

DSC_3375Outside Leh Airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPoplar lined driveway into our guesthouse – Hotel Ladakh Greens .

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 

 

 


LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India

Another journey begins…

Bounded by Himalayas to the south and Karakorum/ Kunlun Mountains to the north, for 900 years Ladakh had been an independent kingdom deeply rooted with influences from neighboring Tibet.  On one hand, the jagged, mountainous Ladakh was a profound Tibetan Buddhist society where lamaseries flourished in almost every corner.  On the other hand, centuries of being a trading outpost along the Silk Road between Tibet, Xinjiang and Central Asia opened Ladakh to other Asian influences especially the Islamic culture.  It is the charm of such a unique melting pot of traditions and cultures of Central Asian highlands that led us to make a short trip to this high-altitude desert in Jammu and Kashmir State of Northern India.  Ladakh’s breathtaking scenery of arid moonscapes, snow-capped mountains and picture perfect blue sky was just another reason why we were so keen to reach this magical “Land of High Passes”, a remote snow county in India where thick snow and -40 temperature virtually close off the region for many months of a year.  After years of dreaming to visit India, we finally made up our mind to take Ladakh as our first taste of the Indian Subcontinent.  It was late June when much of India was baked in Pre-Monsoon heat of 40+ degrees, except high up in the Himalayas where even forces of the mighty South Asian Monsoon cannot reach.  For six full days, we stationed at Leh, the ancient capital of the Ladakh Kingdom, and explored the landscapes and nearby lamaseries in the Indus Valley.

mapLocation of Ladakh in Northern India.

6_DSC_3575Like many travelers, we took the ancient city of Leh as the base to explore the nearby villages and monasteries of Ladakh.

5_DSC_4771_01Throughout Ladakh, we saw how the traditional local culture cope with the modern age.

3_DSC_4484Outside Leh, Tibetan lamaseries rise above the Indus River Valley against the dramatic backdrop of Ladakh’s arid mountains.

4_DSC_3936_01Inside each lamasery, Tibetan Buddhist monks continue their century-old traditions to pursue for a simple way of life and spiritual enlightenment.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 


SHANGHAI, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It has been more than a decade since we last visited Shanghai. That year, the 88-storey high Jinmao Tower was the tallest building in the city before being surpassed by the 101-storey high Shanghai Financial Center in 2008 and then by the 128-storey high Shanghai Tower in 2015. This time, we came to Shanghai with a purpose, not just for sightseeing, but visiting an old friend who happened to be living in the city temporarily as an expat.

Four days was all we got. Short as it might seem; but having someone who knows us well as a host, showing us around the city, made every moment of this trip eventful. During these four days, we checked out Shanghai’s new art scene, meandered through Shanghai’s old and new neighborhoods, sampled a variety of delicious local cuisine,  visited a number of iconic buildings, and the best among all, experienced this marvelous Chinese city with a childhood friend.

 

***

Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China


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


AFTERNOON ON TAQUILE ISLAND, Titicaca, Peru

Once arrived on Taquile, we were greeted at the dock by the father of the home-stay family. We had difficulties understanding each other completely, but we could still communicate with simple facial expressions and hand gestures.  Our host suggested us to take our time to walk uphill to the village centre, while he would go ahead of us to prepare our lunch at a village restaurant.  Since we weren’t totally acclimatized to the 3,800m altitude, we took our time and slowly walked uphill from the dock to the village centre.  The journey took less than half an hour.  We walked along through terraced farmland ascending from the dock to the top of the hill. The view was gorgeous along the way, with terraced farmlands everywhere along the slope of the island.

Soon we reached the plaza at the village centre, where we found our host.  He led us to a local restaurant and ordered each of us a dish of local trout.  After lunch, our host guided us to his home where we would stay the night.  We were introduced to the host’s family.  Then we dropped off our bags and followed our host to the island’s elementary school where some sort of festival activity was going on.  Standing behind rows of local spectators, we watched groups of Taquile students engaged in some kind of acting and  dancing performance.  Despite we couldn’t understand Quechua, we enjoyed the funny acting of the innocent Taquile children that made everyone laughed.

After the performance at Taquile’s school, our host took us to the highest spot on Taquile, where the ruins of an ancient buildings still remained.  After the visit, we wandered around Taquile on our own until the sun was set. We followed the main path into the village.  Along the way, we were greeted by the villagers, most of them with a smiley face.  In late afternoon, we walked pass the main village square once again, where the pink Artisan Centre stood.  Taquile is renowned for their textile art.  In 2005, the UNESCO declared the textile art of Taquile as one of the world’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  The centre was closed for the day.  We would come back the next day to check out the textile art.

In the evening, we dined at our host’s place with three other fellow travelers, two from Belgium and one from France.  In the candle lit dining room, we had a simple meal with soup, egg omelet and rice.  After dinner, the entire host family including the kids performed their traditional music for us.  Away from any electronics and digital devices, the night was simple yet surreal.  Inside the dining room, it was warm and full of music and laughter.  Outside the house, it was freezing cold and extremely quiet on an island in Lake Titicaca at 3,800m above sea level.  Before bed, we took turns going to the toilet hut in the courtyard in front of the house.  The full moon was climbing over our heads as we retired to our bedroom.  Our bedroom was on the upper level accessible only via an external stair.  Wrapped under three to four layers of wool blankets, the four of us had a very soundly sleep until the next morning.

1It was a 20 minute walk from the pier to the main square of Taquile, passing by farming terraces and the boundless Lake Titicaca.  Amantani, another island popular with tourists, stood prominently in the distant.

2The slope of the hills became terraced farmland.

3Taquile is living village and we love the sense of community on the island.

4The host took us a small restaurant in the main square for lunch. He ordered the local trout dish for us. The fresh water fish is slightly pan fired. The meat was sweet and tender. The fish was served with fries, rice and steamed vegetable.

5After lunch, the host guided us to his place where we met his family and left our luggage. He then brought us to the the local school. There was actually some festival performance there.

6Children with traditional costumes were doing dance and act performances.

7We followed our host up to the high part of the island.

8The highest spot of the island stood a series of ruined buildings and our host had no idea when they were actually built.

9School building in Taquile.

10Taquile is a peaceful living village with a great sense of community. Most of the foreign visitors made one-day trip to the island.  After the tourists left with the last boat, the island became peaceful again.

11We love Taquile for its sense of community. Most islanders here would greet us warmly when they walked past us.

12The Artisan Centre at the main square of the island.

13Gateway leading to the main square of the village.

14Photovoltaic panels to supply electricity was becoming more popular when we visited Taquile.

15We passed by the school complex once again before we returned to our host’s place.

16At our host’s place, the four of us stayed at the upper room (the one with the door open). The family prepared new woolen blankets to keep us warm for the night. Accommodation was simple but we had a good night of sleep after all the walking.

* * *

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