Days 9, Journey to the Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley, just outside of Cusco, starts in Pisac, runs parallel to the Urubamba River and ends at the base of Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes. There are several important and interesting sites along the way, including Pisac ruins and market, Chincheros known for local art work and craft, and Ollantaytambo, an important Inca religious site.

It is common to cover the sites in an all-day tour. Ours started at 7AM and ended in Ollantaytambo in time to catch the train to Machu Picchu. With D getting sick, S and my sister-in-law not feeling 100% and the whole drama with the Organizer, we missed our tour.

It was probably for the best that we missed the tour. No one, including relatively healthy albeit wheezy me was capable of waking up at the crack of dawn for another all day track up and down a mountain. Unfortunately, we had already purchased the expensive train ticket to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo. We had to catch the 3:30PM train or forfeit.

So, another crazy taxi/combi ride up and down a mountain, yaddi yaddi yadda. Been there, done that. It wasn’t horrible. We only had to wait 20 minutes before the combi got filled enough for departure. We were on smooth paved roads. Our driver didn’t try to pass slow cars in a one lane road that curved in and out and up and down the mountains more than a dozen times.

IMG_1135The trouble was that in middle of this ride that was about 2 hours long, Soso started burning up. What terrified me was that she was crying. She is stoic, my Soso and she hardly ever cries (except for emotional reasons). Plus being up in middle of nowhere…I couldn’t do anything except give her some Tylenol. And pray. Again. Please Lord, please help my baby be OK. After painfully slow 45 minutes later, she threw up and started getting cooler and feeling much better. Thank you Lord.

We finally pulled into Ollantaytambo in time for lunch. I had lost my appetite on the harrowing drive, but as soon as I saw the soup that D had ordered, my mouth started salivating. It looked that good. Then I tasted it and I had to order my own. Soso started showing interest and I knew she was getting better. By the way, it was the best chicken soup I’ve ever had. So fresh, so flavorful, just amazing.

We thought we had time to visit the temple in Ollantaytambo, but we winded up having only 10 minutes. While Soso, Cousin M and D’s sister took off for the train station, Cousin C, D and I ran to the archeological site.

Ollantaytambo, was another important religious site and fortress. It had sophisticated irrigation systems and aqueducts built to supply water to the city and the terraced farms surrounding the mountains.

Shot as we were running towards the entrance.
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One of the aqueducts that is still in use today.
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Near the base, an incomplete house. Notice the trapezoidal doorways.
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Can you see the steep stairway up the mountain?
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Another set that takes you to the top, the site of the Sun Temple.
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Another view. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go up to the Sun Temple.
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Closeup of the walls at the top. These steep walls and terraces helped to fight off the Spanish, at least in the first battle.
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On the other side of the mountain were storage houses for grain and potatoes. The theory is that the cold air kept the food from perishing quickly.
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To give you a better perspective of high how the storage houses were up the mountain.
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It was a whirlwind photo-frenzy. Click, click, click and we were off running to the train station.

Taken after we arrived in Aguas Caliente because I couldn’t get a clear shot before.
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Inside the train, D and Cousin C. Very comfortable seats.
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Urubamba River taken from the train.
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We finally pulled in to Aguas Calientes around 6 or 6:30. A friend of a friend of the Organizer met us holding a funny sign with our names completely mangled. Our last name is a multi-syllable Italian name so you can just imagine. We were so hungry that we went foraging for food immediately after check-in.

If you ever make it Machu Picchu, I highly recommend this restaurant. Fantastic food. Cute decor.
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Fabulous drink/appetizer. Inside was a drink made out of another one of those delicious fruit I’ve never heard of… to die for.
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The ubiquitous plaza.
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Next, Machu Picchu!

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