Yesterday I told you a little bit about my recent trip to Peru with Friendly Planet Travel, and I have so much more to tell. When I left off, we were at the incredibly beautiful Ballestas Islands.
The next day we flew into Cusco. The high altitude began to take effect, but I chewed on cocoa leaves that I bought at the airport, which helped somewhat. After checking into a hotel in the middle of town, we had some time to relax and acclimate before taking a walking tour of the city.
During the walk, we visited an old Incan temple converted to Spanish. We continued to walk to what we were told is the “most important church” in South America.
After the tour, we stayed up and enjoyed some authentic Peruvian wine with our guide and some of our group members. Helpful hint: Wine in the hotel is about 8 USD per glass, but there is a store around the corner where you can get a bottle for 5 USD.
From Cuzco, we headed to the Sacred Valley, stopping at the Pisac market on the way to pick up some souvenirs. Then we were back on the bus for a drive to the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo, located at the foot of a spectacular mountain. These buildings are what protected the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley, also known as the Sacred Valley.
The temple area is at the top of a series of steep terraces, which helped provide excellent defenses. Stone used for these buildings was brought from a quarry high up on the opposite side of the Urubamba river — an incredible feat involving the efforts of thousands of workers.
The complex, still under construction at the time of the conquest by Spain, was never completed. This was a very interesting sight, which was also discussed in the book that I read while on trip (and I’m still reading: “The Last Days of the Incas”).
After visiting the ruins, we had lunch in the small village below, and I also saw one of my favorite sites on the whole trip: a small monkey riding on a dog’s back! Even our tour guide said he had never seen anything like it. Looks like one of the town’s many strays was adopted … by a monkey.
We then headed back to our hotel in the middle of the mountains for the remainder of the evening with the anticipation of visiting Machu Picchu starting to build … which seems like the perfect spot to leave you today. So make sure you come back tomorrow to hear all about it!