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Friday, June 26, 2015

Peru Part 4: Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Peru Part 1: Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Peru Part 2: Aguas Caliente and the Cloud Forest
Peru Part 3: The Amazon Rainforest 
Peru Part 4: Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Peru Reading List 

Cusco and the Sacred Valley! Perhaps I should have started with this entry. We first flew into Cusco via Lima, and spent three days here "acclimating" to the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains before starting our Inca Trail hike. We also spent time here between our Inca Trail and Amazon trips. What a beautiful little city! So much to do. A week or two here, amongst these places in the "Sacred Valley", would have made better sense.

Rooftops over Cusco- a breathtaking sight!

Getting around Cusco was difficult at first. Even with Diamox (altitude medicine), I could barely walk three steps without having to stop and gasp for breath. It is a hilly city with a lot of stairs in certain districts, so until you get adjusted it's quite difficult. Another effect of the altitude, for me, was loss of appetite which was unfortunate because man, the food was AMAZING!

Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cusco.

Showing off my stylin' Peru hat! Sadly, Joey decided to eat it within a month of my return home (vengeance?!?)

Another beautiful view-
The Urubamba River Valley, also known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is apparently full of beautiful satellite villages to Cusco: Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo,  Chinchero, most with their own ruins and markets. Trace and I mostly stayed in Cusco but we did take our available Sunday to visit Pisac. We took a "collectivo" (which I guess is like a public bus here, but in Peru is some random guy's empty van with no seat belts...) which was quite the experience!! As Trace assures me over and over, YOLO! We didn't die or get abducted, for which I am thankful. And apparently they are "the way" to get around down there so no worries, Mom.

Inca ruins at Pisac.
Pisac was incredible. The ruins were busy, but views spectacular and Trace and I quickly broke away from the tourist crowd in deciding to hike down through the ruins to town. Maybe it took two hours or so? What a beautiful hike!

Sketching at lunch over the Pisac Market
The Pisac market too was incredible. We got down just in time, too, because it seemed to shut down around 3 o'clock. Trace and I had enough time for a relaxing lunch and a little shopping before heading back to our hostel in Cusco.

Time for some Sacred Valley take-aways-?

1. The markets are incredible (San Blas, San Pedro, Pisac). Lots of food and lots of souvenirs!



Also, lots of scary.
2. I have no idea how we didn't get sick, given that NOTHING is refrigerated. Everything sits outside all day long, sometimes on the street or on dirty benches. Meat, eggs, fruit, cheese....

More food laying out all day long, without any ice or refridgeration... OSHA or the FDA or some government agency would have a field day if this was the Unites States!

Dogs. Sigh. They were ALL OVER. Homeless. Matted. Sleeping in the street, licking rain out of cracks in the sidewalk. No leashes, no collars, none neutered (of course). It was heartbreaking. None seemed to be starving, though, which was a small relief. I tried to feed some of them and they totally blew me off, so they must have been content on some level. It's interesting because here in the U.S., our "unwanted" city dogs tend to be mostly pit bull types. In Peru, Trace and I saw homeless everything: Labs, golden retrievers, little Shih tzu types, shepherd mixes, collie mixes, Chows. A few gorgeous purebred Cockers. I only met one Pit Bull, and that was when I stumbled upon an animal rights march at Plaza Regocijo, and that dog was leashed and owned by someone.

Nighty night from Cusco....

And that sums up our trip to Peru! Time has flown and March/April seems like such a long time ago. If anyone stumbling on this blog has any Peru questions, feel free to post a comment and I can try to answer. I also suggest TripAdvisor's Peru forum and TripAdvisor's Peru Vacations page, which were invaluable to Trace and I in planning our trip.

Until next time...

Jen

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