We were picked up from our hostel around 8:00 this morning to start our tour of the Sacred Valley. Our first stop was a village called Ccorao. Here we saw some village houses. Traditionally when they finish a house they put a statue with two bulls on two sides of a cross which shows that they believe both in Pachamama and Christianity. The bulls represent the family and sometimes they have bowls which contain the chicha, the local beer made of corn.

The statue with two bulls on two sides of a cross

The Sacred Valley is formed by the Urubamba (the largest town in Sacred Valley) Wilkanota (because it’s on this mountain range) Wilkamayu (Inka name Sacred River) River, which flows to the Amazon River. That is why they say that it is the beginning of the Amazon River. Our next stop was a lookout to the Wilkamayo-Urubamba River and the valley it forms. It was quite beautiful.

A lookout on our way to Pisaq

Our first Inka site was Pisaq. We first passed through the town where the villagers were setting up the Sunday market to sell their crop and then reached the Inka site by going all the way up the mountain.

A view of terraces from Pisaq

On the way we saw many terraces which also continued at the Inka site. These terraces are layered with different types and sizes of stones at each layer. In this way, rain water is filtered and drained all the way to the bottom. They used micro climates to have different types of crop, where each terrace has different humidity so each terrace has different type of corn. We also learned that they sacrificed children to the peak of the mountains to please the mountain god, Apu, against strong natural events such as earthquakes and droughts. On the side of the hill we saw about 2000 holes and this is one of the largest burial sites. They are buried in fetal position because life is cyclic and doesn’t end and they bury facing east, that is the way to go to the next life. The dead and the mummification was very important in the Inka belief system: their belief included taking out the mummies into their homes at certain holy days and that is why the day of the dead is still very important today.

After this place, we stopped at a very small silver making factory. They showed us the pure silver and how it was mixed 5% by copper to make the standard silver that we wear and this mixing was to make the metal less soft so that they can shape easier. They decorate the silver with stones with different colors. Blue is obtained from lapis lazuli from Chile, light blue is from Peruvian turquoise, black is from onyx, purple, yellow and orange are from spondylus sea shells, and green is from serpentine from Machupicchu. B couldn’t resist and bought a necklace with the Inka cross.

A silver worker working on a new piece while listening to some music

On the road we passed by many small towns. Our guide showed us the ahavasi which is the local bar that sell chicha made from corn and the place has a red plastic flag outside to signify that they sell chica. He specifically talked about two villages. The first one is Lamay where they sell guinea pig on a stick. The second one is Calca town where the farmers work on the Sacred valley and another valley nearby. Each school year has anniversary and at the end of school year, students carve the number of the school year on the mountain with the trees and this year, 721 is carved with a heart around it. At the exit of this town we saw terraces from the Inka times where now people built houses on top and are still cultivating the terraces with corn and other crops. The drainage channels from the Inkas still work apparently.

We stopped at Urubamba, the largest town in the valley and also gives the local name to the river, to have lunch.

The next Inka town was Ollantaytambo, which has a village, with people living on it today, built on the Inka walls. We visited the Inka ruins here. They carved the profile of their main god on the side of the mountain facing the village.

The carving on the mountain
Close up – the carving on the mountain

On this side of this mountain there are the storage houses which get the cold air from two sides of the two valleys. Where the village stands today was where the urban part used to be. Then came the agricultural sector which also was used for supporting the walls. Then we got up to the temple. Here they used huge rocks to build the temple.

B around Inka doors

However it wasn’t finished because a battle against the Spanish took place here. The Inkas left through the wilyapatakancha valley but the Urubamba valley was never explored by the Spanish. During the summer and winter solstice the sun beam comes from the Pinkuylluna mountain, the same mountain with the carved face of their god, towards the temple of the sun. They used granite rock to build and iron based rocks were used as a hammer. These giant rocks are 80-100 tons in weight.

Us next to giant rocks in the temple

Next to the temple is the military section. Then we came down to the water canals. A tambo, resting place, was built every 30 km because a llama can carry the weight only for that long. The water canals still work and there is still water flowing in the temple of water.

The view of Ollantaytambo town
Streets of Chinchero – People are getting ready for a party carrying drinks in crates

Chanter was our final Inka construction. It was an Inka palace and when they left for Wilkabamba, the last Inka reserve, they burned this palace. Then Spaniards built a Church on this site using the foundation of the Inka buildings. M really could not resist the smell of the boiling corn and he wanted to get some with cheese. He lost the group for a while but B was of course waited for him.

We were quite impressed with the culture and cities the Inkas had developed. With these unforgettable information and memories of the landscape, we returned to Cusco. We were quite tired so having another very delicious dinner, we headed for bed.

A great dinner at Per.UK restaurant