The very very sacred valley......

Trip Start Nov 09, 2011
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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Sunday, November 27, 2011

in a way glad to leave Puno the second night there was even more noisy. Apparently we chose to arrive during some kind of celebration day... a parade of bands and music and paping horns and laughter all going on outside our window....nice to see but ity went on most of the night so little sleep....

we left Puno on the cruz del sur tour bus at 8am which meant an 8 hour journey, to include four stops at various places of interest and an hour lunch buffet before arriving in Cusco..

Our first stop was Pucara where we encountered our first experience of pre inka ruins...they were in a museum built around the stone circle of interestingly carved stones placed in a small circle about 4metres diameter... inside were the other artifacts they had found around the area all very interesting..as usual a cluster of sellers were constantly trying to get you to buy from them and all the same stuff , they really have not learnt marketing here...!!  in a really cute plaza in the village..also amazing was the size of the catholic church compared to the size of the village..!!

next stop was La Raya the highest peak in the area at over 14,000ft..here the sacred river Vilcanota of the Inkas is born flowing down the mountains and eventually joining the Amazon. coats were needed when we got out as the temperature dropped dramatically here. nice views of snow covered mountain tops and loads of sellers as expected, this time all selling clothes made from alpaca wool and llama figures..yes all selling the same things again..!!     

Onwards to our lunch in Sicuani..after passing through the "real" town with the usual unfinished muddy buildings,we arrived at the very nicely laid out purpose built, obviously new and modern "motorway cafe"  it was full of other coach parties having lunch ( so someone has learnt marketing..!) not at all peruvian though..the food was just ok plenty of it a huge buffet but little taste sadly..

Just a few miles down the road we stopped at the Temple Wiracocha (Raqchi)..an amazingly huge 15m high ruin of the temple built by the inkas as a trading place ..it was the half way point on the long road from Columbia to Chile and as well as being the temple of one of the Inka Kings, over 50 small huts were built for the traders to rest and deal their goods...all very interesting..

Our last stop along the route was Andahuaylillas, a very tiny village, the coach could barely get up the extremely narrrow streets and from the coach we had great views inside the peoples small yards.. in fact we were inches from the walls.. where even in a very small space they were growing rows and rows of sweet corn...it is certainly much more fertile here and we noticed how the landscape changed from Puno into the green of the cusco valleys..the attraction here is the 16th century church of San Pedro de Andahuaylillas built by the spanish invaders.it is one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Peru..we were told..and is known as the Sistine chapel of the americas..

We arrived in Cusco at 5pm and managed to negotiate a price for the taxi ride to Ollantaytambo..it was begining to get dark and the ride was very interesting ..Our first impression of cusco was not good, as we were on the outskirts passing muddy half finished run down buildings..then after a long climb back out of the city we turned up a mud road.. we knew the journey would take almost 2 hours and were concerned we would be on an unmade road for that long..as we were being shaken all over the place..the light was fading fast now and we were getting further and further into the wilderness in a taxi whose driver could speak no english...!! we love adventures..after about 30 mins of nothingness..we saw lights of a village and were so pleased that after passing through it we returned to the main highway again...

the road twisted and turned and we saw very few other vehicles but eventually arrived at Ollantaytambo at about 7.45pm after passing through the large town of Urubamba, the start of the sacred valley..it was now dark so we had no idea of the surrounding area we were in..the taxi dropped us in the Plaza as we knew we had to walk to the hotel as the streets are too narrow for cars..the driver had little knowledge of where our hotel actually was but a friendly guy who spoke some english came over and not only told us where the hotel was but helped carry our luggage too..over 12 hours after leaving one hotel we at last arrive safely in Ollantaytambo..

...An amazing view greeted us in the morning when we pulled back the curtains.. the inka ruins across the valley the huge mountains on all sides and the cute little gardens of the hotel..awesome..after breakfast we walked around the town..it was great cute streets no wider than 7ft all cobbled with old buildings and the river running in the dug out gulleys at the side of each street..the flow of water was amazing so fast and strong..no lack of water here for the gardens..

we decided to follow the signs to the inka ruins half way up the mountain on one side of the town...interesting..the path got more and more scary..no health and safety here so only one or two very wobbly rails as the path got closer to the edge...call this a path..!! we got to a stopping point ledge half way up and i sat down in protest..we were now about 100 feet up great views over the town .. Robin said he was going to continue up so i sat and waited enjoying the view..after being passed twice by people who were literally skipping down the steep stoney path and asking in spanglish if it was safe to climb to the ruins...it was easy they said..!! i too decided i must be brave and move on.. it was tricky but i soon i saw robin coming back he encouraged me to carry on and we met and continued up to the ruins .. wow the path got worse but i was brave and enjopyed both the ruins and the views at about 250ft up....

now the interesting bit..the climb down..it was worse down as it was hard to avoid looking down and seeing how high up we were...eeek.. in fact i have to admit i did go down on my bottom a lot and in reverse in some places ..so did robin .. we took longer to get down than we did up..then when we saw a french couple coming up with a 1yr old in a back pack, a two year old being carried by mum and a 5 yr old climbing himself ..amazing .of course they did know what was to come ..but it did make us feel a bit whimpy...!! we passed them said bonjour and carried on down bravely.. when we reached the bottom we looked up to see the french family had reached the ruins...we decided they must be professional rock climbers...lol......
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to be continued..... computer is overloading and we need to pack and move again..... will continue our tale later......annie....miss you all.....xxxx

ok all settled in our new home in capilla so on with the story...

we continued around olly and found an english style cafe...called hearts cafe.... on further investigation, mainly by reading the leaflet, we discovered the cafe was started by an english lady called sonia newhouse she left england in 2002 and she began a charity to help the local children of the area.. to educate them and help them improve their way of life as at the moment 40% of the population here is below poverty line..and in some areas it is 78%...all profits from the cafe go to the charity. the cafe is run by local youngsters who are learning english..the menu is largely english including banoffee pie, a pot of imported british tea and scones...and pie and mash...awesome..it was a welcome break and i loved my first cup of tea for three weeks..and the best thing was it was reasonably priced..we ended up eating there every day..the website is www.livingheartperu.org...if you want to know more..

the ruins we could see opposite our hotel looked interesting but we decided not to go in and see them so as not to spoil machu picchu the next day...we could see from the road the terracing popular with the inkas and the ruins of buildings but apparently there were temples on the other side of the mountain which were amazing but we gave it all a miss..back to the hotel for a nice long sleep...

in the morning machu picchu...which is another blog..

so the day after we decided to just chill having spent 12 hours seeing machu yesterday..

a slow walk into the valley lead us up a cute unmade road/track where we passed by a guy on a donkey, a women herding some bulls and children swimming in the river..the speed and power of the river was enormous but the children had found a nice pool to swim in and asked us for money to take their photo swimming and diving but as they were mostly naked i decided not a good idea...!!

further up the river we sat and watched as the sound of the water lulled us into a quiet and restful, peacefulness ... the whole area is so pretty we really felt at home here it could be on the agenda....!!

on the way back we saw a sign for cold beers ..or cerveza frio...but the place looked deserted and a bit run down, we carried on and down some steps eventually ended up in what seemed to be someones back yard.it was surrounded by trees and completely hidden from the track...a lady was washing clothes outside but beside her was a shed turned into a little shop with sweets drinks and a few food items...amazing..she spoke no english but we ended up with a drink and a sit down in her garden...and she carried on washing..and as we left thanked us, she was 3 soles better off..!!

we walked back to the hotel and later had a meal at the hearts cafe but yet again,for us, there was a power cut...the whole of the valley was without electric...the word on the street was a workman had cut the cable...but who knows..so back to our hotel in the dark for the second time that week...candles in hand and as we were just about to resign ourselves to another early night ..8 ish..the power was resumed...!!

i loved ollantaytambo and so did robin... we were so sad to leave...


Robin: Not long to my birthday.... Was thinking that if anyone reading this was thinking what to do about my birthday, being the otherside of the world, then perhaps you would like to make a donation to the Hearts Cafe charity. They do so much to support the local community here. You can make a contribution to Account: Living Heart NGO; Bank: HSBC; Sort Code: 40-09-19; Account no: 22435004.

At breakfast on the first morning we shared a table with an amazing family from America. They had previously been to Thailand and told us all about it. They were travelling around Peru and were going onto the jungle after visiting Machu Pichu. They were making arrangements along the way rather than booking with a tour company. Two girls (who apparantly were 'home schooled') their mom and their grand mother. We shared details of our respective travel blogs. What an education. We will be following their current and future adventures - maybe pick up a few more ideas. (They suggested we check out the elephant sanctuary when we get to Thailand...) Their blog is '4wonderingwanderers'.

We also took our first ride in a 'Put-Put' down to the old Inca Bridge, the 3 wheeled taxis found through out India & Asia. Basically a motorbike at the front, with seating for 2 passengers behind (and their luggage on the back). An experience, especially around the cobbled streets. With no reverse gear the driver had to put his feet of the ground and push backwards to achieve a 3 point turn.

This was certainly another area we might consider settling in. Next up.... our visit to Machu Pichu..... watch this space.

We will add a few piccies later...
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