So today was a day long tour of the Sacred Valley booked through Peru Treks. It was a long day and we saw a lot so I hope I can remember everything!
We got picked up around 8:15 a.m. from our hotel in a small coach bus. The group was about 30 people and our guide was this great guy named Adriel. He gave us TONS of information throughout the day about the Incas and the Peruvian people and culture. Our first stop was alookout point over the Sacred Valley on the way to the town of Pisac. That was pretty quick, just to snap a few pictures. Next was a little town market at Carao. There I bought a warm hat to wear on the Inca Trail, a doll for Laura (she asked me to bring one back for her) and a turquoise necklace. I forgot to bargain at all, but it was all relatively cheap by U.S. standards.
The next stop was Pisac, which is known for its Sunday market. There we got some great pictures of some local kids and the food market, which doesn’t exactly seem hygienic by our standards – all the fruits and veggies were just laid out on blankets on the ground. Also a lot of big sacks of potatoes and people making freshly squeezed juice. I had a little run-in with a bathroom attendance in the restaurant where the group met afterwards – I paid her one sol as I went in and then as I left she tried to get me to pay again. Even followed me into the restaurant saying I didn’t pay. I was quite annoyed and just kept telling her I placed the money directly in her hand!
We got some good shopping done in Pisac and worked on some bargaining and some Spanish speaking (even more fun doing both at once!). Again, I’m feeling pretty good about my ability to communicate (except with the bathroom attendant!). Anyway, Kelsey bought a small painting for her mom, I bought a little board game and a musical instrument for Marc (it starts with a Z but I don’t remember the name right now). The board game was quoted to me at 30 soles and I got it down to 20 so I felt pretty good. But then I went to another stand and a similar game was quoted to me at only 10 soles! So then I felt a little jipped. So I asked at yet another stand and they said 20 so then I felt okay again. But, to put it in perspective, it’s only about $7 so either way it’s pretty cheap.
After Pisac, it was on to lunch at Urubamba. Except actually we stopped in Yucay. This was one of my few annoyances of the day as we found out that some people who had booked the tour had lunch included. I knew we didn’t but the Peru Treks brochure said it would be a buffet around $7 and it was actually $15. The buffet was good, but that was definitely more than I would’ve liked to spend on lunch. I meant to ask someone from another group what they paid to have lunch included but I forgot. At lunch, we sat with a group from New York and a girl from Guatemala. They were really nice and fun to talk to – and after 2 days of it being just me and Kelsey, it was kind of nice to have some others to chat with.
After lunch it was on to see the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo. On the way there, the bus got a flat tire but somehow managed to just drive slowly and make it to the town where the driver got it fixed while we toured the ruins. It was surprisingly warm in Ollantaytambo, but I guess that’s because we’re so close to the equator. The ruins were cool – a lot of terraces built into the mountain and a temple of the dun at the top. It was a pretty steep set of stairs to walk up and I was definitely huffing and puffing despite being at a lower altitude than Cusco. That definitely makes me nervous for the Inca Trail! Hopefully the breathing will get easier, but I’m afraid I’m gonna be at the back of the pack ont he trek. I’m also nervous about how cold it will get at night and whether I have enough warm, dry clothes – and, of course, the toilet situation and the prospect of not showering for 4 freakin’ days! Anyway, I digress…
Adriel stopped several times to give us long, detailed explanations about the ruins and Ollantaytambo. While it was interesting for the most part, it started to sound repetitive and I was wishing we had more free time to explore on our own. That’s something I’ve noticed about the Peruvian tour guides we’ve had so far – they repeat themselves a lot!! Anyway, we made our way to the top of the ruins – some amazing views and pictures! We were so lucky it was sunny out! Then we got about 20 minutes of “free time” at the end, which was pretty much enough time to make our way back down. In retrospect, I wish we had done what one of the couples in the group did and just stay the night in Ollantaytambo the night before doing the Inca Trail. Oh well.
Our last stop of the day was on the way back to Cusco, in Chinchero. By then it was 5:00 and was a little rainy and overcast and getting dark. We were running a good hour and a half behind schedule. In Chinchero, we missed their Sunday market but instead stopped and saw a demonstration of how the local women dye and weave alpaca and llama wool. It was a small family-run place and very interesting, with all the women in traditional dress – long, full, layered skirts, blouses, large-rimmed hats and wool shawls. They had some really nice handmade pproducts for sale and I bought gloves for 15 soles and a scarf for 45 soles (total cost about $20). I wish we had more time so I could’ve looked around more and bought some Christmas presents for people but they kind of rushed us through. Finally, we walked through Chinchero to see some of its ruins – really just more of the agricultural terraces. We were pretty tired by then and hungry, so I wasn’t paying so much attention anymore.
We arrived back in Cusco shortly after 7 p.m. and went straight to dinner at a place where we had seen pizza on the menu the day before. I ended up getting chicken and potatoes while Kelsey got pizza. I kinda figured chicken would be better fuel for the Inca Trail the next day. To our surprise, we also got free Pisco Sours and garlic bread with our meals! Back to the hotel a little after 8 and we checked e-mail quickly before startig the task of packing for the Inca Trail. We’re allowed to have our porter carry 3 kg of stuff plus our sleeping bag and mat that we’re renting from Peru Treks. We both basically had to completely re-pack everything as we were trying to separate out what to bring in our daypacks, what to have the porters carry and what to leave behind in the hotel. I had a luggage scale and I hope it’s accurate because I came in at almost exactly 3 kg! And I doubt I can get much more into my daypack without it being too heavy for me to carry all day.