Friday, June 15, 2007

Past Vacations #19: Peru 2006 - Part Three - Sacred Valley Of The Incas

On day four we had an early start at 4:30 am. We were bussed to the airport to catch an early flight to Cuzco, the historic capital of the Inca empire. The flight was uneventful though it was cool when the plane rose above the unbroken coastal cloud layer. Cuzco is located high in the Andes mountains at an altitude of 11,500 feet. We were met by our local guide. She led us to a bus and we immediately left the city and headed to the Urubamba Valley, better known as the Sacred Valley. This was a good thing because the valley is lower in altitude and driving into the valley helped us acclimate to the high altitude.

We stopped at an overlook and took in the view of the Sacred Valley. It was very beautiful. The weather at this altitude was very different from the coast. Instead of the gloomy overcast there was a clear blue sky and warm sun. We continued down and stopped at the market town of Pisac. Pisac, located at 9,745 feet, is home of a bustling market where all sorts of handicrafts and foods are sold. We were surprised to find out that we only had about an hour to shop at the market. We expected they would want us to shop more. We rushed around and shopped our tails off. We bought a blanket, a couple peruvian hats (Chullos), and a clay Mary (I dropped it while we were still in the market but it didn't break - well it didn't break too much - D'OH!) before we got back on the bus.


The bus eventually stopped in the town of Yucay and we checked in at the Sonesta Posada del Inca Sacred Valley. The hotel was a former 18th century monastery and the place was really cool. The hotel had a large outdoor buffet - a very impressive spread. The food line was long and part of the line was in the hot sun. A few of our group may have gotten sick from food at this buffet. The wife and I, fortunately, did not.

After lunch we got back into the bus and we drove to Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is one of the best examples of an Incan Town. The streets are narrow - many too narrow for cars. We got out of the bus and headed for some ruins near one end of the town. At the base of the terraced ruins we were told we were climbing to the top. We were tired and the altitude (9,190 feet) was affecting most of us and the prospect of climbing the steep stairs was daunting. Our guide was skilled though and she coaxed us up one terrace at a time. It was worth it. It was a good preview of what we were going to see at Machu Picchu. From the top we could see the entire town of Ollantaytambo and the valley where it was located. I looked down upon the town bull ring. By the time we got back to the bus I had a headache. On the way out of town we were joined by a couple of boys in their traditional clothes. They sang for us in trade for a ride on the bus.

We got back to the hotel and went to our rooms to rest before dinner. In the lobby of our hotel they offered free coca tea which is said to help with altitude sickness. The wife and I did not partake in the tea. I kind of regret this since I won't have another chance anytime soon and I am curious. Not really sure why I didn't try it. Paranoid I guess.
We ate dinner at the hotel. The food was pretty good. After dinner I bought a cool vest as I expected it would be cold the next morning. We packed a smaller bag like we did on the Nazca trip as we were not going to take our big bags on the next leg of our adventure. As we unpacked in our room, the wife discovered that her shampoo bottle had exploded due to the difference in altitude soaking her clothes in Infusium 23. Since we were heading for Machu Piccu early the next day, we scrambled to find someone to wash her clothes. The people at the office and our guide were very helpful and the wife's clothes were cleaned and pressed before we had to leave.

This day was a good transition from the awesome
Nazca lines and Ballestas Islands and the highly anticipated Machu Piccu. As we went to bed I still had a headache. I hoped this was not going to be an ongoing problem as we would be going higher in altitude later this vacation.

Here ends Chapter Three. Pictures can be found here. Coming up in the next chapter: Our train trip to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

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