The Sacred Valley of the Incas, in the Andes, is the fertile valley of the Urubamba River (best place for maize production in Peru), also called the Vilcanota or Wilcamayu River (Sacred River) which snakes its way through the old Inca province of Antisuyu which the Incas valued greatly. There, besides this tributary of the Amazon, they built their retreats, palaces and sacred places: the fortress of Ollantaytambo (clinging to the steep sides of the river´s gorge), Pisac with its Inca Canal, 3km long, its imposing terraces and, of course, the once lost Machu Picchu.
The pretty town of Ollantaytambo, 60km from Cusco & 2792m above sea level, has impressive Inca ruins and a beautiful old town which is one of the best surviving examples of Inca urban planning. The Incas built their towns in blocks called canchas, and one cancha housed several families. Here, both the canchas and the narrow, cobbled Inca streets remain. The old town also has double door-jambs (interesting stuff hey!!) which shows that the town itself was as important as the ruins.
Yesterday we had a nice lie in, a lovely brekkie at KB Tambo and then decided to climb to the free ruins on the opposite hill instead of paying the expensive entrance fee to the fortress. So, after getting directions from the restaurant, we climbed to Pinkulluna Ruins and got a fantastic view of the town, the fortress temple and the ruins of Pumamarka in the distance. We were the only people exploring Pinkulluna ruins but we could see that the fortress was rammed! I think we made the better choice! After our little hike we had a look round the market and then got a minivan to Urubamba. This was a funny experience, it was a 14 seater van, which had 25 people crammed into it!! We had a seat thankfully but it was definitely a squash! As we were leaving Ollantaytambo I looked out of the window behind me and saw the amazing terraced Inca walls that surround the town.
In Urubamba (large town & centre of bus network) we got onto a local bus heading to Pisac, much more civialised but still full. The whole journey, from Ollantaytambo to Pisac (2.5hrs) cost us less than a pound each and a taxi wanted 15 pounds!!!
In Pisac we checked into the lovely Pisac Inn (s/78, double & brekkie) in the Plaza de Armas, which has a large pisonay tree in the centre. Pisac is famous for it´s very colourful markets that take place on Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays. The market starts from 7am but by 10am the tour buses descend on the small town and it´s packed so after a wander round & a great value 3 course meal at Ulrike´s Cafe on the square we went to bed ready for our early start!
We got some good bargains in the market and it was nice to walk round it while it was quiet. At 11am I went to mass in the Catholic church on the square. I didn´t understand any of it because it was in Quecha and it was a bit annoying because lots of tourists were taking pictures all the time but it was nice to stand with the locals and say a few prays. We are now about to catch the 45min bus to Cusco, where we´ll spend the night, have a chilled day tomorrow and then catch the overnight bus to Arequipa. Lots of love xxxx