A Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Day 11 & 12

Saturday, October 15th, 2022 & Sunday, October 16th, 2022

This will be a quick post because the next two days are mainly traveling!

Today we left Aguas Calientes by train and arrived back to the Ollantaytambo Station where we boarded a bus to take us to Cusco.

Our train

When our bus arrived back to the city center of Cusco we had lunch at a local restaurant and then went to the airport where we grabbed our luggage and reorganized for our flight. It will take a little over an hour for our flight from Cusco to Lima.

Leaving Cusco, Peru

When we arrived in Lima our group and our group leader said goodby. Some of us would be continuing our travels and some would be staying an extra day or two in Lima. Our flight from Lima was scheduled to depart around 11:00 PM to fly to Houston, Texas.

We arrived in Houston around 5:00 AM Sunday morning. We went through customs and said goodbye to our friends, Roseanna from Minnesota and Kathy, from Colorado. We hope to do another adventure together! Once we rechecked our luggage for our flight to Columbus we relaxed in the United Club because we had about six hours before our flight!

We arrived in Columbus on time, collected our luggage and headed home after a fantastic trip to Peru. Road Scholar fulfilled their description of providing a “Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu”.

Machu Picchu

A Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Day 9

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

It was another gorgeous day. The views from our hotel were impressive!

Our day began with a bus ride that was about an hour long. On the way we saw Sky Lodge. They were these suites by Skylodge Adventure. They were these transparent luxury capsules. These capsules hung from the side of the mountain in the Sacred Valley of Cusco. You would sleep within a completely transparent hanging bedroom. The capsule was 24 feet in length and 8 feet in height. The lighting system was powered by solar panels and you did have a bathroom that was a dry ecological toilet and sink. The catch was that to sleep in one of these capsules you had to climb 400 feet or get there by ziplines! Definitely not for us!

Our first visit was to the Temple do Ollantaytambo or Ollanta by the locals. It was an ancient Inca temple and fortress as well as a village in Peru. It was located in the northwestern end of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It was a well-preserved Inca ruin. It consisted of four levels that we climbed. We rested after each level due to the altitude.

It was built by the Inca emperor Pachacuti in the 1400’s. It was part of his royal estate and then after his death and the Spanish conquest happened it was a fortress.

The most famous ruin here was the Temple of the Sun or it was also known as the wall of six monoliths. It was the site of several important religious rituals and was made from red granite. These rectangular stone blocks were located in one of the highest areas and it seems that it was not finished.

The stones placed here show that the builders were able to lift the stones and transport them without suffering any damage since it was built on a steep slope. The Incas had quite an understanding of architecture that puzzles the scholars today!

The surrounding views once we climbed to the top of Ollantaytambo.

You can see from some of the pictures below how steep the terraces were.

After visiting the ruins we took a walk around the town of Ollantaytambo. We saw the Inca water aquaducts as well as an original Inca street.

There were hikers who did the 4 day, 3 night Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Much of the trail was original Inca construction. We saw some of the hikers, guides and porters from their overnight stay before they continue on their hike to Machu Picchu. We met some of the hikers later who had completed the Inca trail and they told us it was the hardest thing they had ever done!

We visited a local market in Urubamba, Peru, which was another town in the Sacred Valley. The locals were purchasing their supplies and our group was the only non-locals. It was interesting to walk through and see all the various fruits and vegetables. Look at the slideshow to see the variety of food and supplies in the market.

We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant and then traveled to Chinchero. Here we visited a local weaving cooperative and had a demonstration of how they washed the alpaca wool, created the yarn spools and dyed the yarn the various colors. The Peruvian woman who work at this cooperative were single mothers.

Weaving was important to the small town of Chinchero. There were many weaving cooperatives. The locals work to preserve the weaving tradition of their ancestors. The town was known for its high-quality woven goods. After our weaving demonstration we had time to shop their handmade woven items and support the women and their children.

The men in our group trying on the brightly woven caps!

After that we went back to the hotel to organize our luggage because tomorrow we would only be able to take a backpack for our overnight in Machu Picchu. The rest of our luggage would be stored.

It was cloudy this evening.

Dinner was at the hotel and then we had a planetarium show. It was a little cloudy/foggy but we did get to see Jupiter and Saturn clearly through the telescope. We then went into the planetarium and our astronomer guide discussed the constellations in the southern sky and pointed them out to us. After that we went back to get some sleep because we had an early start tomorrow.

A Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Day 8

Wednesday, October 12th, 2022

It was a gorgeous day as we boarded our bus to ride to the Sacred Valley. The sky was clear and we could see some of the snow-capped Andes mountains.

Our first stop was to the salt mines, Salineras de Maras, nicknamed “the white gold of the Andes”! It was made up of thousands of small pools carved into the side of the mountain. This company produced, extracted, treated, marketed, and exported the salt and/or its derivatives. More than 633 families from this town of Marasal have their own salt pool. These salt mines have been in existence since the time of the Incas.

The salt mines are fed by saltwater and uses an irrigation system. The salt extraction is done in layers from an accumulation of 3 or 4 inches in height. The extraction gives different commercial qualities with the first being kitchen salt and the second layer of lower quality called bulk salt. The third layer is called industrial salt that was used for agriculture. The profits from the sales are then distributed among the owners according to the number of wells they own. Each well produces on average between 330-440 pounds of salt per month!

On our way to the Moray archaeological site we saw some farmers using animals to plow their field.

The Moray site was believed that this Inca site was once used for agricultural studies and experiments because there was no written language. It was comprised of three groups of terraces that were circular. They descend 490 feet from the top terrace to the lowest.

We ate lunch at a local home in the town of Maras.

The small kitchen where the family prepared our delicious lunch. “Grandma” was cleaning the dishes as we were leaving.

After lunch, we had a lecture about Inca agriculture by Maywa Blanco who was a university professor. She had many samples of the various beans, potatoes, and other Peruvian crops.

Our next stop was to learn how to weave baskets from corn husks from two local women. After their demonstration, we also had the opportunity to weave our own ornament out of the corn husks.

A shaman performed an ancient Pachamama ceremony. The sacred ritual was a tribute to Mother Earth for the good harvests. This ceremony has been performed since the time of the Incas.

These farm workers were working the fields with hand tools.

We returned to our hotel for dinner and to relax before a busy day tomorrow.

A Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Day 7

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

This morning began with a walking tour of Cusco with our local guide, Vladmir. But before we began our walk there was a demonstration. Many local citizens and children were marching down the road holding signs and chanting. Vladmir explained the parents were upset because a school for the children had started five years ago and still wasn’t finished. This was due to problems in the government.

Cusco, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, was once the heart of the Inca Empire and is known for the Inca remains. It was located in the Peruvian Andes and was under the Inca ruler Pachacutec. Francisco Pizarro thoroughly looted Cusco in 1533. Pizarro was best known for conquering the Inca Empire. What Inca foundations remained were used to construct a new city.

Our first stop was the Convent and Church of Santo Domingo built in 1538. It was located on the foundations of the Coricancha temple from the Inca empire. It was the Temple of the sun. The church and convent suffered damage from the strongest earthquakes in 1650 and 1950. The Inca walls and buildings of the Coricancha were unharmed. This was due to the resistance of its stones and the perfection of how they were built. The engineering and stonework was quite impressive! It was like building legos. It’s impossible to put a needle in the grooves. The Inca walls also have a slight inclination to better resist earthquakes.

The lawn area around the Church of Santo Domingo.

The photo below was taken in 1936 and showed the area with the church and former temple in the background.

The niche below showed the trapezoid shape of the stones and it was believed that these niches held offerings.

From the church we had a great view of Cusco and the mountains.

We toured the Museum de Arte Precolombino which opened in 2003. The artifacts in the museum were created by the people who lived in Cusco and its surrounding area for 3,000 years. It was a privately owned museum and it had examples of pre-Columbian art from the Nazca, Mochica, Chimu, and Inca cultures. This museum building was originally an Inca ceremonial courthouse. The pieces date from 1250 BC to 1532 AD and were contained in the museum’s ten galleries. Some of the artifacts from the museum are included below.

As we walked around Cusco, the streets were very narrow. Many times we stood up against buildings to be out of the way of traffic.

Narrow streets, many were one way but some weren’t!

We walked through the main square in Cusco, Plaza de Armas.

Our next visit was to the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman or Saqsaywaman. The Incas left no written record of their empire. The experts don’t know if the Inca’s destroyed any records so the Spanish wouldn’t have access or if the Spanish destroyed the Incas records. Because of this at the ruins we visited, it was conjecture.

Entrance to Saqsaywaman

Some believe Saqsaywaman (is a Quechua word that means to satisfy and hawk and together means a place where the hawk is satisfied) was an important military base of the Incas. Before the Spanish invasion it was also considered to be a fortress as well as a ceremonial center but no one knows for sure. Another thought was that it was believed that Cusco was laid out like the shape of a puma and if so Saqsaywaman was the head.

These huge stones with many weighing over 100 tons and more than 13 feet high! The Inca people did incredible stonework. The Spanish dismantled part of it and the remainder was covered in earth until it was discovered in 1934.

Another Inca ruin that we visited was Tambomachay. Of course its actual use is unknown but it is thought to be an Inca spa and a military outpost. It was located on a hill about 4 miles north of Cusco. Its elevation was 12,150 feet above sea level.

Tambomachay was built into a natural spring. Waterfalls were built into the terraces. They thought maybe it was a spa for the Inca ruler and/or the Incan nobility. Another possibility was that it had a ceremonial function and offerings were places in the niches. Or it was for a military use and the last thought was that it was both a ceremonial center and a military outpost!

The last Inca ruin that we visited today was Q’Enqo or Kenko. It was believed it was built as a holy site where rituals took place. It was a megalith which was a large stone used to construct the site.

Inside the labyrinth was the table where children and others were believed to be sacrificed!

It was a busy day learning about the Incas and their empire around Cusco.

A Taste of Peru: Discover Lima, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Day 6

Monday, October 10, 2022

Our day began with a lecture about the Politics and Economy of Peru by Alan La Rue. He was born in Canada and moved to Peru in 1995 and has stayed in Peru.

An interesting fact that he shared was that close to 75% of the workforce in Peru was “informal”, meaning they weren’t on a payroll. The average monthly wage was $250 US dollars of the informal sector. China has become the biggest investor in Peru. Also, Peruvians are obliged to vote and if you don’t vote, you are fined. Mr. La Rue shared many interesting facts about Peru.

After our lecture we took a bus to the Lima airport for our flight to Cusco. As we flew to Cusco we went over the Andes mountains and they were beautiful! Some areas and mountain peaks were still covered in snow.

Cusco’s elevation was 11,152 feet above sea level. We were warned about the effects of altitude sickness. We were told to drink a lot of water, don’t eat a lot, stay away from alcohol, and drink coca tea. We were told to walk slowly, rest, and take our time. We noticed the altitude difference right away. We did have altitude pills to help which we did take and they did help with the headaches.

Upon arrival we transferred to our hotel. After check-in we had some time before Gustavo Leon, who was an expert on the history of Inca and Andean musical instruments gave his presentation. His expertise was on native woodwind, percussion, and string instruments.

Below is a picture of the courtyard of our hotel from our room. We opened our window into the courtyard to get some air flowing because our room was warm and there wasn’t any air conditioning. Unfortunately it was still warm and noisy!

When it was time for our lecture with Gustavo, we met in a meeting room and he had his collection of native and ancestral musical instruments. He was a native of Cusco and he had done research and preservation of Peru’s Andean music. He focused on the origins of the music. He was very talented! He demonstrated and played the instruments for us. We were impressed by his collection and his playing ability.

After the music demonstration a group of us walked with Victor, our Group Leader, to the Belmond Monasterio Hotel. It was a 5-star hotel with incredible artwork and had a beautiful chapel. It was a monastary in the 1600’s. It’s a national historic monument and was originally built in 1592. After an earthquake did extensive damage in 1650 restoration was done and the chapel was added. In 1965 it was remodeled as a hotel.

Below was a picture of the hotel’s courtyard. In the center was a 300 year old Cedar tree and its surrounded by stone cloisters and religious artwork.

We spent some time in the Chapel of San Antonio Abad. It was a great example of gold leaf style art. The chapel was gorgeous.

Dinner was on our own this evening. One of our fellow traveler friends, Roseanna, knew that the restaurant Uchu was owned by a woman from Lancaster, OH. Lancaster is about an hour from where we live and also was Roseanna’s hometown! We decided to try the restaurant. The food was delicious but unfortunately when we talked to the manager, he let us know that we missed the owner, she was traveling. He was kind and sent us a complimentary olive appetizer!

After our delicious meal we walked back to the hotel. The plaza was still very busy!

As we were walking the moon was shining brightly! The moon was almost full.