Peru: Day 4

Even the most meticulously planned trips often meet with hiccups, especially when traveling in more remote areas. Thus, as probability would imply, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would fall ill. To give that student a chance to recover, therefore, she and one chaperone remained behind in Urubamba for an extra day. As the only guests of the hotel that day, they were the sole responsibility of the extremely solicitous staff: each encounter included an inquiry into the student’s health. A lazy day of reading and walking the hotel gardens was punctuated with meals personally prepared by the hotel staff. 

The rest of the group, however, had a much more active day. First, they took the bus to the potato farming village of Paru Paru. Greeted with drums and flowers by the incredibly welcoming farmers, the group was given a two-hour lecture and demonstration on potato cultivation, all in Quechua and ably translated by Victoria.

After a brief time shopping in the local market, filled with hyperlocal productions, the group hiked even higher up the hillside to see the potato greenhouses. Here, they sampled many of the types grown in the ancestral homeland of the potato. To even further experience the local culture, the group was now dressed in native clothing. A much higher trek brought them to an Andean priestess, who welcomed them. Later in the afternoon, the priestess performed a rite of thanksgiving, involving coca leaves, miscellaneous offerings to the mountains (including everything from candy to potatoes), and a guinea pig fetus. All were wrapped in a package and then burned in a fire. While the group had to walk away from the fire without looking back, the priestess continued chanting for many minutes. Turning around would taint the offering. After changing out of their local garb, the students retreated to cabins in the village for a cold night’s sleep.

That’s not all, though! Special guest blogger Reilly would like to add the following sonnet about her Andean experience:

Half an hour we walked the height of the hill.
At the top is where we gathered round stone.
The Andean Priestess knelt in the still
Of the mountains where the wind does not moan.

Three times, she poured the wine back to the earth.
We greeted the sacred mountains with awe.
To the flick of wine, we named our hills of dearth.
Stone Mountain, Pace Mountain, in spirit law.

Like the Priestess, we spilt the wine when done.
Then we chose three coca leaves from a cloth.
We told the leaves our woes, they did not shun.
She blessed the leaves and put them back in swath.

She said lighting struck her twice, then she read.
I could not help but believe her instead.

-Reilly M

PS: Mr Player ain’t got nothin’ on me!

Peru: Day 3

Heavy, and extremely unusual, rains last night extended into the day as a light drizzle and mist. Unfortunately for the local farmers drying crops in their fields, such an unexpected shower in the middle of the dry season can lead to lost crops and, in turn, lost income.

We started the day where many of those farmers and other craftsmen would sell their goods: a one-hour bus ride from Urubamba in the village of Pisac. Here, we walked along the maze of lanes of stalls of corn, and potatoes, and spices, and flowers, and fish, and chicken … And textiles, and silver, and random, more cliched souvenirs.

A market view:

Getting haggling advice from Victoria:

An empanada – and pork and cuy (guinea pig) – producing oven:

Shocked looks upon making a friend at the market:

Said friend getting clingy:

Artist’s wares:

One of many guinea pigs perilously close to the giant oven:

Flowers and embroidery-wrapped cross outside the town church:

Its interior, where we listened to part of a mass in Quechua:

We ate lunch at the beautiful – and, by popular opinion, best of the trip thus far – restaurant run by a long-time friend of our guide Victoria.

Restaurant exterior, with requisite posing Pace student:

Our dessert of chocolate pancakes, plantains, and a form of wild tomato:

Next we traveled up several thousand feet to the amazing Incan ruins of Pisac, dating from the mid-15th century, above the village of the same name. Here, we explored the terraces, the ruins, and the lookouts, while admiring, from the windy and misty summit, the breathtaking 360 degree view of the valley from a height of nearly 12,000 feet.

Farming terraces:

Detail of standing Inca wall:

Eroded terraces:

Views from the summit:

The perilously muddy trek down:

Boring, everyday views:

The day ended with a final dinner in our hotel. Tomorrow, we head to the potato farming community of Paru Paru.

Peru: Day 1

Greetings from Peru! After arriving in Lima around midnight last night, we rose early and took a short flight to Cusco. Our guide Victoria and our driver met us at the airport and then drove us into the historic center of Cusco for lunch. We then began driving to the Sacred Valley, first stopping at a combination area museum/camelid petting zoo/textile cooperative. Next, we drove through many small river-side villages before arriving at our hotel in Urubamba.

The Amaru Valle Hotel in Urubamba.

Our dessert of unusual fruits at lunch in Cusco.

Textile dying demonstration.

“Emo Alpaca,” according to one student.

Llamas and a hybrid llama-alpaca.

Feeding time.

Arrays of the many varieties of corn and …

… potatoes grown in the region.

Our first view of the Sacred Valley.

The friendliest possible group to travel with!