Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Getting to Cusco from La Paz meant retracing some of our steps back to Puno in Peru, followed by a night bus to the classic historic town. By now we had become hardened to travelling at night and we even managed to do the journey in style, having found the reclining armchair style seating on the bottom floor of the double decker Bolivia Hop coach. Nonetheless we still arrived in a zombie state from the 22 hours of solid traveling.

Cuzco is a beautiful city with a charming centre filled with narrow cobbled roads and steep hillsides overlooking the main square, Plaza d’Armas. We took a day and explored the historic streets and quaint little restaurants, some of which serve organic food grown in the sacred valley.

The square comes to life at night, with the lights from the distant hillside resembling twinkling stars on the horizon. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful city photo opportunity.

Although we weren’t able to do Machu Pichu on this trip, we were curious about the ancient Incan lifestyle and so we decided to do an extended tour of the Sacred Valley, visiting many of the historical sites local to Cusco.

Our first stop was Chinchero, where we enjoyed the view of a mountainside terazza which was used for agriculture in Incan times. Whilst there we had a demonstration of how Alpaca wool is prepared, coloured and transformed into the many garments, blankets and other items that are on offer across Peru. It is great to see how the locals use natural ingredients in this process and that we had come across many of the wool colourants on our trip, such as purple corn and coca leaves.

Although not in the sacred valley, Moray is home to the most mysterious terazza. Historians still don’t know its exact purpose and there are many different ideas out there. We couldn’t add any more suggestions but the site is spectacular in its grandeur not to mention the views of the Andes mountains.

Salt was a luxury item for Incas and was traded amongst villages in the region. The same salt is still mined at the Salineras de Maras (salt mines of Maras). The hundreds of salt pools cling on to the mountain side as locals mine the salt which is still sold and highly regarded.

Ollantaytambo is an old Inca town which also has ruins of an unfinished temple. Huge rocks were mined from the mountain 8km away and brought up to the hillside all by hand to form the temple walls which was never finished.

We walked along the terazza at Pisac which is on the face of a steep mountain. Here we were able to really appreciate the work involved for the Incas to build there but also the amount of space they provided to farm.

After the tour we had a really good idea of how successful the Incas were at farming in a difficult mountainous environment and using the natural resources they had to hand to their potential.

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