23rd till 29th of June 2019.
Wake up call.
Sunday morning is waking up with trucks speeding passed at a distance of less than 5 meters, but with a beautiful view of snow-capped mountains at the other side.
Sleeping at the cliff on the only flat piece of land, next to the restaurant. Even if this village existed of only two houses (both with a restaurant) and is used as a truck stop on the way to Cusco, it felt safe to camp here. Not the best night as they played very hard music (with no customers) till midnight and during the night there seemed to be more traffic of heavy trucks than during the day.
Good start of the day with warming up in front of the wood fire which is also used to cook on and ensures a hot caldo de gallina (warm chicken soup with rice and one piece of vegetables) to start the day.
Andres is the youngest of 8 and goes to school in the valley, 35 km one way. Every day taking a collectivo (small public transport). We could not resist to give my last creation to him.
Imagine living here. No other kids to play with. Most of the time freezing at night, no central heating, only cold water. Only way to get warm is to work or stand in front of the wood fire.
Rolling down the hills.
Nicely wrapped in warm clothes we start our steady climb from 3,200 meters to 4,300 meters. We love the asphalt roads of Peru as they don’t have higher incline than 5-8%. The higher we get the more flat (exposed) pieces of land for camping. Tourist speed bikers, who even don’t say hello, enjoy the downhill ride while we slowly work our way up. At the Abra Malaga we savor a coffee before starting our very windy downhill ride. Understanding why all those tourists are sent downhill at the other side and you don’t see anybody biking here, because it is very cold at the shadow side of the mountain.
Also asphalt is no problem for our Travelmaster 3+.
When re-joining the Rio Urubamba we are entering the Sacred Valley and enjoy the view of ancient terraces which are still in use today. You could spend ages visiting all the pre- and Inca sites. The spotless asphalt road changes to gravel and we see at our left side an enormous archaeological site, dotted with colorful tourists.
Ollantaytambo is a very busy place and our first reaction is not to stay here. But after appreciating a perfect cappuccino, watching tourists of different origins leaving the site, spotting people searching for souvenirs, seeing the quaint little streets with remains of the Inca era; we start to wonder if we should spend some more time here and visit the site. Trying to find a place to sleep when there is so much on offer is more difficult than only having the possibility to pitch your tent between a restaurant and a truck. Especially if the one you want to stay at first show you a room but when you enter with your bikes they say you need to take another room. For us the moment to turn around and look for an other shelter. We find a good place, including breakfast. Browsing on internet gives the last push to stay an extra day. The village/city feels like one of those Italian/Spanish ancient cities which are also swamped with tourists. People here live from tourism. But a much nicer vibe than Aqua Calientes (the hub for Machu Picchu). Beautiful old buildings converted to restaurants and souvenirs shops, one offering the best pizza we have had in Peru! Alpaca pizza with garlic sauce.
After a basic breakfast we ensure to be on site early. At least as impressive as Machu Picchu, but it can’t beat the location.
Some history of Ollantaytambo. Around the mid-15th century, the Inca emperor Pachacuti conquered Ollantaytambo. The emperor rebuilt the town with sumptuous constructions and undertook extensive works of terracing and irrigation in the Urubamba Valley (which some are still in use today). The town provided lodging for the Inca nobility, while the terraces were farmed by yanakunae.
During the Spanish conquest of Peru Manco Inca defeated a Spanish expedition, blocking their advance from a set of high terraces and flooding the plain. In 1540, the native population of Ollantaytambo was assigned to Hernando Pizarro.
More info on Wikipedia.
As we agreed we can use the kitchen of the hostel. I enjoy shopping on the local market. Seems that everything is now so quiet and a lot of shops are closed because most people are in Cusco for the 24th of June festival Inti Raymi (festival of the sun). Still haven’t found bubble blowing material for Sams birthday.
Lots of tourists also means offers of massage which I of course need to try. Let’s say I could do a better massage myself and when laying there I decide that one of the things I want to accomplish back home is mastering massage. Something I always wanted to do but never did because I would not earn as much money as when I was doing my last jobs. Now I know I just want to do this for myself! If anybody has any suggestions to how and what, please feel free to let me know.
Late finished and deciding I should add some meat to dinner as Frank lost too much weight. All shops closed but we always find a solution. Restaurant number 4 that I try is willing to sell me frozen alpaca steak. Walking home with my treasure in hand.
What a beautiful handwork Peruvian women create!
Ollantaytambo still has the ancient roads build from old big cobbles stones. We enjoy a very bumpy ride out of the city after a pimped breakfast.
The gravel back roads to Maras, through the Sacred Valley are a real joy! Meeting colorful people and sweet animals.
Where eagles have been.
At one moment we discover the little cocoon eggs tucked against the vertical mountain wall. We have seen this hotel 5-8 years ago in a KLM magazine. You need to walk all the way up to sleep here. Wondered a bit if we should spend a night here but at + 1.000 euro a night we skip this possibility. I always thought it was in the middle of nowhere but the train tracks and a busy road are at the bottom of the valley, wondering if you won’t hear this at night, although it is 400 meters up? While awing at the construction we enjoy a coffee with bread and cheese at a street shop. One place a coffee can be 1 sol, in other places 8 sol, depending on the location and to whom they are normally serving. What a difference between this world and the world of people who spend a night in the little cocoons. If you are ever looking for a very special place to stay. http://naturavive.com/web/skylodge-adventure-suites/
Find them in each below photo.
Sacred Valley riding joy.
The boy in the bubble.
Today is a special day as we remember Sam’s birthday and other little angels. Finding a spot where we can send bubbles to the sky. All my plans of having a full class of the same ages blowing bubbles at the same time did not work out. Are you able to talk with your beloved about the loss of one of your beloved?
Salt, sun and time.
Maras is a quaint little town with special door-arches but most tourists will pass by during the day to visit the highlights surrounding the village and almost never stay. This time we stay in a very basic hostal, squeaky floors, shared facilities with ice cold water. We at least can leave all our things and first go to Moray and depending of time and light still visit the salineras.
One of the first taxis passing by stops at our sign and we see a tourist in the back, we discover afterwards it was his charter to the Inca site and finally we all paid a bit too much but this is if you want to be too quick.
Emeric from France is travelling alone in Peru, also adjusting his plan as he goes.
Moray located on a high plateau at about 3,500 meters and just west of the village contains unusual Inca ruins, mostly consisting of several terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is approximately 30 m deep. Also here they integrated an irrigation system. The purpose is uncertain but sun/wind and orientation create a temperature difference of as much as 15 C between top and bottom, probably to try out different vegetables which normally would not grow at this high altitude.
Happy we took the time to visit this site. Seems they are in danger of destruction due to excessive rainfall during the past years which undermines the area.
On the way back the taxi driver convinces us to still visit the Maras Salt mines as they would only close at 18:00. Mutual decision to go with the 3 of us and also this we don’t regret.
Spring water fills several hundred pre-Inca hand built basins. With an ingenious systems they are filled with natural saline water which evaporates and leaves salt. Different quality for cooking, medicinal use or bathing. None of the basins are larger than 4 square meter and 30 cm deep. As it is already after 16:00 the sun hides behind the mountain, soft light reflects against the walls in the surface of the basins. And again Wikipedia has more info.
Strong men carry 50 kg salt bags on their muscular shoulders, balancing on a small ridges. Here the employment rules of Europe do not apply yet. 50 kg bags, most of the time more than 50 bags per day.
A local lady using the salineras to walk up the hill, hoping to get a ride to the village.
Back in the village, after we said goodbye to our mathematician Emeric, we discover there are no restaurants and are lucky to have the last take-a-way meal of pig and maize which we eat in our cold room.
For biking to Cusco we let Komoot decide which route to take, leading us over some very interesting gravel roads. Better than following the main road.
Concrete jungle starts way before Cusco which is spread over some rolling hills. It feels as more than the 400,000 people that actually live here.
Apartment for rent.
We long for some privacy and home cooked meals and head to an apartment building we found on Bookings and Google maps. But once there we can’t find it. Lucky I had added today some MB to our phone account so we can search for another solution. Mega detour over a steep climb brings us to another complex, checked the place, agreed on a price and when we have put all our luggage in the apartment and I go to pay, I discover that the price he mentioned was in US $ instead of the usual soles. I already was super excited to have found such a beautiful apartment against such a great price. 65 per night. But 65$ per night is too high for us, especially when we know we want to stay a few days to arrange a few things. After some tough negotiation and showing we would leave we agree on 40$ per night. Which is OK-ish because we will be able to cook. We use XE converter to get an indication. Also good app which you can use off-line.
Extra woolen layers are found in the big shopping mall, yes extra layers are needed as we have been already cold and we know we will be travelling to even colder areas.
Next day we try to extend our visa. After having waited for a few hours they inform us they only can extend if the visa will expire within 15 days or less, which will only be the case in a few days.
To extend we got a little form which we have to take to the bank and pay 12.5 soles each. Make an new appointment as of 15 days before expiration. Then come back, wait and get a new stamp. This would give you again up to 90 days. When he informs us that per exceeding day you would pay 4.2 soles we start to calculate of cost involved for staying extra days in Cusco and our expected exceeding of our visa. Decision is taken that we will pay the fine if we would exceed our stay and now focus on our to-do list for Cusco.
We do find new shoes for Frank, can’t find any Magura break parts but do see most of the city in our search for the different bike shops. Spend time on the main square in Cusco, really feeling like a tourist and even partake in one of the main processions happening every year when saints from all parishes are carried to the cathedral. This Christ statue is carried by 70 bare footed men, as it is mega heavy 200 men take turns in carrying.
Friday is a leisure day with visiting Sun temple which was converted to a convent, imaging this was covered with gold during the Inca era!
The Pre-Inca museum displays their treasures in a perfect modern setting with almost no visitors.
The Inca Museum which has not changed anything as from when it was built in the mid 80s. A very old fashion layout, but with an extensive collection and more visitors.
If you like fabrics don’t miss the textile museum. http://www.textilescusco.org/
Visiting another market ensures even more green vegetables. As my Oakley sunglasses are delaminating and I have tried in the US, Europe and here to change them, but without luck because nobody wants to take the responsibility, I do find new sun glasses but definitively from another brand.
On Saturday we are all packed to leave when I discover that my shoes could still work but they also start to fall apart topped off with Frank not feeling 100% and I being visited with something I would not mind to stop. We decide to shop for shoes as we know what we have here and don’t know what we will find in La Paz which is still 700km away. Remaining of the day is blog and rest time.
We can’t resist to cook again!
Will we be able to cook next week?