Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sacred Valley Tour

Staying in Cusco puts you about a two hour drive from the Sacred Valley. We booked a tour through Llama Path for $25 USD per person for the full day. Overall, it was a day well spent at the ruins in Pisac and Ollantaytambo. 

After a quick breakfast at our Airbnb, we hiked through town to the Llama Path office to be picked up at 7:30am. Our bus was promptly and took us out of town towards Pisac, about an hour and a half from the office. Just 10 minutes before we got to the ruins, our driver pulled over so that we could take advantage of a great photo opportunity right off the road.
We didn't stay long since our guide wanted to get us to Pisac before the crowds hit. When we arrived, the ruins were almost empty and we enjoyed the terraces to ourselves.
We climbed around the ruins and appreciated the strength of the old architecture. Our guide told us about the Spaniards who robbed the graves along the side of the mountain, and we felt saddened at the Peruvians' lost history. 
Pisac Market
As part of the tour, we stopped at the Pisac Market. First, our guide took us into a jewelry shop as a group where he promised that there would be bathrooms. We were permitted to use the bathrooms only after a brief overview of the jewelry making process and a push to shop around the store. Since the bathrooms were particularly nice, I didn't really mind the sales pitch, though it did feel a bit like a trap. We didn't purchase anything and waited outside hoping to encourage others to hurry up. 
Then, we walked to the market as a group and once again felt pressured to shop. By this time, it was around noon. Although we knew the bus was supposed to stop in Urubamba for lunch, we decided to grab some ceviche around the market to ensure that we had good cheap food. 
Once everyone was done shopping, we headed to Urubamba, about an hour from the market in Pisac. The whole lunch process was rather odd. We stopped at a fancy looking restaurant and the guide called out about a third of the bus to get off for food. You were not permitted to go if your name wasn't called. A few passengers were really bothered and argued that they wanted to get food there. Then, the bus continued to another equally fancy looking place. Our names were called out and we got off the bus. Since we had already eaten, we chose to walk around instead of going into the expensive looking restaurant. We were glad to have eaten since we weren't close to any other restaurants and we didn't like the idea of being forced to purchase overpriced (for Peru) food. 
So we walked alongside the road for a while since we were tired of sitting anyway. After about 15 minutes of walking, we found a house that displayed a large stick with a red bag tied around it. We knew from our guide that this meant the house offered chicha, a traditional Peruvian corn beer. So we knocked and asked if we could purchase some. The woman gave us 2 very large glasses for 2 soles each. A couple of Peruvian men joined us and we enjoyed talking with them over our beer. It was a really unique, authentic experience. 
From Urubamba we headed to Ollantaytambo to see more ruins. Unfortunately, since it was much later in the day, this area was significantly more crowded than Pisac. We still enjoyed climbing up the ruins and viewing the snow capped mountains from the top. 
On our drive back, we had an amazing view of the Salkantay mountain and those around it. Our guide was so impressed with how clear the view was that he insisted we stop for a few pictures. We happily got out to enjoy the scenery. 
Our bus made it back to Cusco around 6:30pm and dropped us off in Plaza de Armas. Hungry and exhausted, we enjoyed a Peruvian dinner at Seledonia's Mesa and made our way back to our Airbnb. 

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