January 4, 2007 – Sacred Valley, Peru
I packed up my things once again and was off fairly early for a visit to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and the very same valley that has been carved over the millennia by the raging Urubamba River. The Urubamba is one of Peru’s most famous whitewater rafting rivers … but at this time of year (the wet season) the water is a rich coffee brown, loaded with silt, and the river’s volume is so high that it is virtually un-runnable by even rafts! The valley itself though is green and fertile and as a result is filled with agricultural fields growing corn and potatoes, which are two of the main foods for the locals.
Two main stops for tours in the Sacred Valley, from primarily an archaeological perspective, are Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Our first stop was Pisac, where there is an Inca fortress situated high up on a plateau overlooking the valley and the village below. Rather than go to the archaeological site though we visited the famous Pisac market (which to be honest was my preference). Wandering through and poking around in local markets, seeing what is for sale (and perhaps buying a few small items), and who is selling it, is something I love to do.
I also enjoy photographing in markets, and when taking photos of people I always like to ask permission first. As a result I often end up ‘negotiating’ a photo to go along with a small purchase. One of the women in the market did quite well by me… as I think I paid the highest price ever for a hand-woven belt. She was pleased … but so was I!
In the afternoon we visited the famous fortress of Ollantaytambo (I finally figured out how to pronounce it!!). Ollantaytambo’s claim to fame is that it was where the Inca defeated the Spanish Conquistadors in a battle. This rarely happened, and unfortunately the victory was short lived. The Spanish simply came back with more men and eventually were victorious. The site though is remarkable and is said to be one of the best surviving examples of Inca city planning with narrow cobblestone streets that have been inhabited consistently since the 13th century!! Do you think the streets of Vancouver or Burnaby would last for 800 or more years? Hmmm, I am guessing not!
I had a nice rainbow trout meal with asparagus soup, and washed down with a cup of coca-leaf tea. Most of the rainbow trout sold in the restaurants are farmed trout ‘grown’ in small pools high up in the mountains. These family operations are quite distinct from the huge fish farms on the coast of Chile. We will talk more about those once I reach South America’s narrowest country.
I spent the night in Ollantaytambo.