A South American Escape Part 6 – Sacred Valley of the Incas

This past Spring, Joline and I embarked on what we considered a trip of a lifetime. Our jaunt took us from the Beaches of Rio, through the Jungles of Iguassu Falls, to the “Paris of South America (Buenos Aires), all the way over to Peru and the Land of the Incas. Below are some of the highlights in photos. Enjoy!

Missed a previous post?

A South American Escape Part 1 – Miami
A South American Escape Part 2 – Rio de Janeiro
A South American Escape Part 3 – Iguassu Falls/Foz Do Iguacu
A South American Escape Part 4 – Buenos Aires
A South American Escape Part 5 – Lima
A South American Escape Part 6 – Sacred Valley of the Incas
A South American Escape Part 7 – Machu Picchu
A South American Escape Part 8 – Cusco
A South American Escape Part 9 – Lima Redux…and home.

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Altitude sickness!  The climb begins.

We landed in Cusco and proceeded the road trip to Urubamba, the Sacred Valley for the night.

 

Alpaca.

 

We stayed a night in Yanahuara to begin our altitude acclimation.  Didn’t help much.  Neither did the Coca (Cocoyam) leaves the locals gave us to alleviate our symptoms.

 

Festival outside Cusco.

 

The Sacred Valley once had more Incas than any other region in South America.  A strategic emporium for the region, their climate coupled with fertile land formed the perfect combination for agriculture in the Andes.

The Valley was abundant with fruit, corn and the Coca plant, whose leaves were used in religious ceremonies and ritual acts alike.

During our drive from Cusco to Yanhuara, we stopped at the ruins of Sacsayhuaman.

 

Intricate construction with HUGE boulders.

 

The origin of this ruin is uncertain but what was impressive was the sheer sizes of stone the Incas used to build this place.  With over 20,000 (est.) men, construction took about 50 years with some stones weighing as much as 361 Tons!  This is one of the most extraordinary megalithic structures in the “New World”.

 

 

Incan construction at Sacsayhuaman.

 

 

Fortress at Sacsayhuaman.

 

 

Sacsayhuaman.

 

Our next stop was in Pisac.  Here, I captured some of my most memorable shots of the local population.  Pisac served as one of the largest Inca fortresses in the world.  It was also a position of surveillance prior to entry into the valley, and Cusco.

 

Church in Pisac.

 

 

Pisac.

 

The current Pisac is a picturesque Andean village whose main square and church maintain the charm of this important town.

Another memorable aspect of Pisac was the Sunday fairs that still attracts hundreds from the neighboring towns to purchase and view crafts of Alpaca wool and ceramics alike.

Like I mentioned above, the Pisac locals provided me with some of my most memorable images:

 

Sisters. Pisac.

 

 

A girl and her puppy. Pisac.

 

 

Locals from Pisac.

 

We spent the night at Yanahuara.  A really nice Casa Andina resort in the middle of the valley with 360 degree views of the breathtaking views.  The next morning, before continuing our journey, we were greeted by the two locals below.

 

Local in Yanahuara.

 

 

Local in Yanahuara. Notice the different hats.
Local in Yanahuara. Notice the different hats.

 

Making fabric is an integral part of life and the Quechua women can be seen preparing wool for their looms even when walking around the streets – they spin and weave for both domestic use and for sale to outsiders.

 

Ollytatambo Family.
Ollytatambo Family.

 

We then continued to Ollantaytambo, a town also located in a strategic area to defend Cusco from invading Antis (Tribes of the Forest).  Ollantaytambo is one of the very few cities in Peru that maintains intact stone streets dating from the Inca time.  It is an example of how the Incas divided their cities into city blocks.

Above Ollantaytambo is the Great Fortress of Ollantaytambo.  Another marvel of Inca ingenuity who mined these 50 ton building blocks from across the river and up the mountains of Cachicata.

 

Ollytatambo.
Fortress of Ollytatambo.

 

 

Sitting on huge blocks carved by the Inca for the construction of Ollantaytambo

 

 

'Almost' lifting one of the huge stones at Ollantaytambo

 

 

View from the Great Fortress of Ollytatambo.
View from the Great Fortress of Ollytatambo.

 

If you look closely at the picture above, across the valley where you can see  Ollytatambo, there is a fortress like structure on the other rock outcrop.  This was a granary and you can see how strategically located it was to provide stored food during time of war.

 

Phil standing at a doorway constructed by the Inca at Ollantaytambo

 

 

Sacred Valley from View from Ollytatambo.

 

While in Ollytataymbo, we were fortunate to meet several locals and one of them even let us into her home to experience the Quechuan home life.  Amazing!

 

Mother and Baby (Ollytatambo)

 

Ollytatambo Family.

 

Quechua (Incan descendants) Home in Ollytatambo

 

 

Quechua (Incan descendants) Home in Ollytatambo

 

 

Joline refused to believe that these are livestock.

 

 

The Amazing Skies around Chinchero.

 

 

Spectacular Skies!

 

 

Highlands local near Chinchero.

 

 

Chinechero.

 

 

Late for School.

 

 

This red flag means that the 'home brewed' alchohol is available here.

 

Here is a collection of some of the pictures we took in the Valley:

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Alpaca and us.

 

Next up, Machu Picchu Base Camp.  Now if only I can get rid of this nagging ‘altitude’ headache.

(A South American Escape Part 7 – Machu Picchu)