150917 Sacred Valley

The scenic Urubamba Valley was cut through the mountains by the Vilcanota River over many years. The “sacred” part of the valley, 100km in length, includes numerous villages that were significant during Inca times, either as administration centres or of ceremonial importance. The lower part of the valley has a much warmer climate than Cusco, and many wealthy Cusquenos have weekend homes there. The main places of interest are Pisac and Ollantaytambo.

We climbed the Temple Hill of Ollantaytambo today. In the town are many tourist accommodation units as the 82 km Inca Trail starts here and trekkers use the town as a starting point for their walk to Machu Picchu. The trail is well set up for trekkers with accommodation along the way.

The town has become a very busy centre with many tourists coming to climb the wall built by the Incas in the 1400’s. The granite stone was quarried from across the valley and ‘dragged’ down a steep hill into the valley and to the other side, and then positioned to make this great, stone, wall. Some of these stones would have been over 6 tonne. Our guide has a book with a photo of ‘150 woman dragging a stone. The photo was probably taken by the men’, he says.

After a short talk on the history, we commenced the ascent from the base at 2792 meters. A few short steps later, we are resting as the strenuous exercise uses up the oxygen very quickly for us poor sea-dwellers. After taking in a few slow, deep breaths, we ventured up to another level and repeated the breathing exercise.

There are no handrails and the steps are uneven. When we get near the top, our guide showed us how the Incas had carved the large stones to ‘fit’ into each other. Small protrusions are noticed which would have been used to help move the rock. From the top of Temple Hill, we can see the area where the stone most probably would have been brought. We had made it to the top! The altitude was now 2880 meters.

After descending into the village, we were given time to ‘check out the gift shops’, of course.

Scenic include in most of their tours, a visit to a school that they help. There are a couple of schools in this valley that they support by providing breakfast and lunch to the students a couple of days a month. We go to Rumira Elementary School. The students are ready for us and have Scenic provided lunch boxes to carry the gift of some food back to their classrooms. The lunch boxes make good sunshades too.

After the distribution of the food, the students sang us a song; they then asked if we could sing a song for them. You guessed it. A very pathetic rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was performed to the delight of the students.

We had a free afternoon to relax and use the facilities at the resort before having dinner in the main dining room. One of the group, had guinea pig for his main course. I rarely get turned off eating but I left a good-sized portion of my meal tonight.

Tomorrow is a visit to Chinchero Village.

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