Stepping up, stepping down in the Sacred Valley

Still acclimatizing for Machu Picchu, we spent the day exploring the so-called “Sacred Valley,” so-called because according to our guide this is a recent name, created for touristic purposes. Nonetheless a lovely, extraordinary place and once the centre of the Inca Empire.

First stop was Awana Kancha Living Museum of the Andes which features llamas and alpacas — marvelous animals — plus artisans showing off their weaving and woodworking skills. Peruvians work hard to maintain traditional skills and it’s worth a visit. Here’s a foot-powered wood lathe:

Foot-powered wood lathe at Awana Kancha Living Museum of the Andes.

It was off to Mirador Taray, a scenic turnout overlooking the Sacred Valley and Río Urubamba. This was the centre of the Inca Empire and is a fertile agricultural zone.

Looking out over Sacred Valley and Río Urubamba from Mirador Taray.

The Citadel of Pisac was our next stop and it looked like a long way up. And it was. Lots of tourists and local school groups trudging up the Inca paths.

Next stop was an opportunity to buy things at the Pisac market. There was a minimum of buying pressure on this trip and that was much appreciated. Some of our group actually looked forward to it so there’s no pleasing everyone. We did manage to scoop up a few Xmas presents so our time was well spent.

Then it was back on the bus for Ollantaytambo, a small and ancient Inca town surrounded by extraordinary and huge constructions. On one side were immense grain storage facilities carved into a cliff side and on the other side were a variety of ceremonial and military sites. This was where the Inca last defeated the Spanish before decamping for a more remote location and their eventual demise. Building at Ollantaytambo stopped when the Conquistadors arrived and there is a trail of enormous stone blocks leading back to the quarry five kilometers away. The Wall of Six Monoliths is believed to be about twenty percent of a planned temple. We picked our way back to the bottom, our guide paid off a finely dressed young boy who jumped on our bus and wouldn’t take no for an answer and headed off to a textile museum — Chinchero Center for Traditional Culture — where we learned something about traditional dying and weaving techniques from some very engaging women. A new airport is planned for Chinchero and, sadly, this place is in the way.

We were a tired bunch but pumped up as we headed for bed and an early start for the next day’s train trip to Aguas Calientes, the staging area for Machu Picchu.

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7 thoughts on “Stepping up, stepping down in the Sacred Valley

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