Day Nine - Sunday, April 2
In the morning, an early Aeroperu flight carried us right into the
very heart of the ancient Inca Empire. Nestled in a valley at over
11,000 feet above sea level, Cusco is surrounded by some of the
mightiest peaks of the Andes Mountains, and many of them were
glistening with a perpetual mantle of ice and snow. Cusco is the
oldest continually-inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere. We
were met by our English-speaking guide and we then made our
way by bus out of Cusco and into the historic Urubamba Valley.
We made a never-to-be-forgotten stop at the gorgeous town of
Pisac, which was an important agricultural center during the time of
the Inca. There we had time to browse and shop at the famous
market. We found many examples of beautiful Andean
handicrafts, ranging from weaving to pottery. The market also
offered all of the other, more mundane, staples of everyday life.
As we continued on our journey, we could see all of the fine Inca
masonry which is so evident in well-engineered irrigation systems,
fortified roads and stone terraces. We continued on down the
splendid Urubamba Valley, stopping for a buffet lunch at a local
restaurant before arriving, in midafternoon, at our hotel. There we
had plenty of time to rest and to explore the beautiful hotel grounds
before dinner and a good night's rest.
Day Ten - Monday, April 3
After an early breakfast, we visited the remote Willoq community,
which ethnologists consider to be virtually unchanged in its social
structure, dress and language from pre-Inca times. The inhabitants
have chosen to preserve their ancient way of life, and their heritage
is apparent -- especially in their textiles, which are much in demand
in other communities. Intricate designs of animals, mountains,
flowers and the stars are featured in brightly-colored blankets and
clothing. We were able to see some of this process, from the
carding and spinning of the wool to the handlooms where the
textiles are woven. Natural dyes are used, and we were told about
some of the plants utilized for this purpose.
When we left that charming village, we made our way down the
mountain to the archaelogical wonders of Ollantaytambo, where
ancient temples and fortresses were built to protect the Sacred
Valley. The walkways, pools and canals we saw were all expertly
fashioned, demonstrating the unrivaled skill of the builders.