DAY THREE: SACRED VALLEY (PART II)
We woke up in Ollantaytambo, I don’t know how we managed to make it to our hotel the night before. We passed out during the 2 hour train ride from Aguas Caliente to Ollantaytambo. We’re on pain from the long hike in Machu Picchu mountain, but we have no regrets. After breakfast, our taxi driver awaits us. This is the same taxi driver from Sacred Valley (Part I). We purchased a tourist ticket which allows us to enter about 16 Inkan ruins in the Sacred Valley….this is going to be a long day.
We visited the Ollantaytambo ruins. This is a beautiful town and is the only Incan town that is alive in all of South America. Working Incan aqueducts can still be seen in the city.
Our next stop was the archaeological site of Pisaq. This site is on top of a hill and it has lots of terraces, it was another Inca laboratory. The Incas developed over 300 varieties of potatoes that only grow in this region. Pisaq is also the biggest pre-columbian cemetery. In the picture below, you can see holes in the mountain. Those holes were Inca tombs. Unfortunately, the Spaniards raided and stole the gold and artifacts in those tombs. Supposedly, farmers were the inhabitants of this site and they deviated the river so that they could have water for agriculture. There are vestiges of houses, you can see a window in the pictures below. What a view!! We bought a “choclo” (boiled corn) and they serve it without salt or lemon but rather with a piece of cheese, it was delicious.
We stopped at the famous Pisaq market. You can find textiles: hats, gloves, etc. and different kinds of souvenirs, along with rings, earrings, and necklaces made out of silver mined from the nearby mountains.
Driving through the Sacred valley in our first day in Peru, I noticed that there were several houses that had two bulls and a cross on the roofs. I’ve never seeing anything like that. I wondered what that was for, or what its meaning was…I decided to ask a vendor in the market. She told me that this is a custom from the region. The two bulls represent marriage between a woman and a man. The cross represent Christianity, the rooster is dawn and in the pot they can burn incense if they want to. Below you can see a miniature sample that I found in the market, it’s made of clay.
After some shopping, we stopped at a sanctuary, where abused animals are taken. Some animals are prepared to be re-introduced into the wild. The Incans domesticated the alpacas and the llama. The vicuña is cute but it is super aggressive so it has not been domesticated. On the photos below you can see from left to right: vicuña, alpaca, llama and the famous Andean condor. The first three are distant cousins of the Egyptian camel.
We visited Tambomachay, PukaPukara, Q’enqo (amazing views of Cusco). All ruins of the biggest Pre-columbian empire in South America…the empire of the Sun.
Saqsayhuaman was the last ruins we visited this day. When the Incans founded Cuzco, the city was shaped like a cougar. Saqsayhuaman is the head of the cougar. This was a huge religious center. It took the Incans 90 years to finished it, while the Spaniards destroyed most of it in a short time. Tons of rocks were moved and cut. The fit was so perfect that there was no need for cement or mortar.
After visiting so many Inca ruins, I have more respect for the Incas. They were capable of creating a huge empire in this inhospitable environment. They developed new species of potatoes, studied the stars, founded beautiful cities, and created a society that was rich, and just. It is unfortunate that they didn’t develop a writing system, otherwise we would know more about this amazing empire.