Ollyantaytambo & Agues Calientes
11 February 2014
This morning we piled onto our coach with 11 new people, plus two shamans but zero extra seats – time to make our way to the Sacred Valley of the ancient Incas! We had been given duffle bags to use for the next two nights as our suitcases were too large for where we were going and it basically encouraged you to only pack the basics. The Sacred Valley of Peru was the heart of the Inca;s agricultural setting and an important ceremonial region, with the sacred site of Cusco at one end and Machu Picchu at he other and many, many spiritual sites in between, including our first stop.
Our first stop was at Sacsayhuaman (Sexy Woman) where we went through a cleansing ritual where we were all given three coca leaves each and then had to shut our eyes and focus on our three wishes for the three leaves. The head shaman went around and blessed us one by one and his wife rang a tiny bell and also repeated a message. All in all it was pretty interesting. Although when it was done and after your leaves had been cleansed, you were meant to pass them back to the shaman and he would wrap them up in a blessed cloth and bury them for the pacha mamma (Mother Earth). When it was done I turned to Jemma and she had a rather startled look on her face.
Turns out she had dropped her leaf and it was under her shoe and it was too late to give it to the sharman and it was just super Jemma. It was hilarious. She pocketed it away in her purse so she could take it on a pilgrimage an maybe leave it at Machu Picchu. It started to pour rain and we piled back onto the bus. Olyamtambo was only an hour and a half from Cusco but we had quite a few stops to go. It was also absolutely freezing. The bus was totally packed bar one seat and as I was the sick freak I was pretty much guaranteed my own seat.
At one point there was vicuna/llama feeding and education on how many types of potatoes there were in Peru. With corn and potatoes and quinoa – I am pretty sure Peru has all of the necessary foods.
Our next stop was Pisac ruins. Which were awesome and the view was spectacular but I had to sit down the bottom like a giant loser because the altitude and the sickness had me wheezing and coughing like some sick dog that needed to be put out of my misery (and everyone else’s).
I think the thing that is really sticking with me is that the Peruvian people and the Ketchwa people were so spiritual and so meticulous in the way that they prepared their dead and the way they protected their culture and passed their rituals down (from building to food preparation and sacrifices to the pacha mamma) that the Fact that the Spanish just rolled in an absolutely DESTROYED everything they could is just bewildering. I can say that comfortably without an racist undertones because it has happened in every country – Australia certainly is not without fault or shame.
Next we stopped in the town of Pisac for empanadas, these delicious pastry filled goodies. Spinach and cheese, chicken and veggies, just cheese etc. Really beautiful. We also visited a gorgeous silver shop and I had my eye on a few things but the budget said a very loud ‘no’. Grabbed an alpaca scarf and an alpaca pink jumper for my soon-to-be-born niece and a pretty green necklace for myself. Jemma and I found a place for beer and then we were back on the bus!
Our next stop was in a small town not far from our final destination and we tried “chicha de jora” which is a local beer, or rather a nightmarish “traditional” beverage made from fermented maze (hmmmm delicious). We all piled into a small shack which had a room out the back full of Guinean pigs all squeaking and running around having a great time. Until we remembered they are not pets and are a delicacy. There was also a huge range of corn for us to eat. The size of the corn kernals in Peru is amazing, in comparison to our tiny sweet corn back home. Some had been cooked, some had been puffed (those ones were DELICIOUS), some were spicy. A way better alternative to beer nuts! The first beer, tastes like vinegar but I’m sure we tried it in its first stage? There was also a strawberry version which was apparently ok for children to drink.
Finally we all piled back onto the bus and headed off to our final destination. As we were heading along we started to realise that we were in the Sacred Valley and it was absolutely beautiful, completely magical and gorgeous to look at. To Igo from the plains around Arequipa and Cusco to the Valley – perfect! Perfect and many, many quotes from Emporers New Groove. Which by the way is an amazing movie :).
As we drove into Ollantaytambo – the last fully functioning Inca town. and saw the town square and the cobbled roads and the VIEW from our hotel, it was amazing. Our hotel was right at the bottom of these ruins and we figured we would try climbing them. We were in the whole group but the local guide we had was a tad long winded, which is amazing in terms of detail but not so amazing when the sun is on it’s way down and you know you have like a five minute window to harness energy to even give it a crack. There was six or ace of us who just darted ahead. I knew that I would be lucky to get to one set of stairs but by some miracle I got to the top with the rest of them.
The view was pretty amazing. This tiny town set in between three gorgeous mountains. Not hard to imagine how instanely gorgeous it would have been back before modern construction and with the sun rising over the mountains. We headed down to the hotel for showers and unpacking and of course the power points and wifi which is so much more freely available now when you travel! My first big trip overseas I didn’t even take my phone and even computers were hard to come by! You do have to try and be mindful not to be completely obsessive about it though. It is always good to let your loved ones know that you’ve made it to your next destination and I’ve been checking in with home because my sister has a baby on the way during my absence.
We had a pre ordered dinner at the cafe right across the road from our hotel. Quinoa soup and chicken casserole and Pisco sours. Delicious. We thought we would be having chocolate brownies but we were given apple muffins instead. Who can resist an apple muffin takeaway for late night snacking?? Jemma had a bottle of red wine and Monica had cards and we were ready to hang out at the hotel. A game or two of uno (first time player, first time winner thanks!) and then a suggestion for “heads up” which is apparently an application similar to celebrity heads.
We had to wait for the app to load so we went with the old school celebrity heads you play as a kid with the name on a piece of paper and the yes or no questions. This version sent some of the more “modern, i-Child” participants in to meltdown mode. A pen and paper and yes or no question? What the fuck was the world coming to without an iPhone app doing it for all of is?!?!? ;). Eventually the app loaded and I’ll admit the heads up game is a lot of fun but turns out I’m great at guessing but not great at clue giving. Also Jemma and I were not on the same team and we read each other like books so that was hilarious. Eventually the wine and the exhaustion set in and it was bed time.
Woke up feeling dreadful, again. Being sick on a trip you’ve waited two years for is absolute balls but you don’t want to ruin things for anyone so you try your best to just get on with it. Jemma, I and about 8 other people in our group had signed up for river rafting. I hadn’t done it in Austria and normally water sports are against my own travel policy because I just don’t know what kind of urgent medical attention is at my disposal when overseas. And yes, I do expect to fuck myself up. We had a two hour drive on a tiny bus up to the part of the river we started our rafting on. Some people on our bus had decided that while we were experiencing gorgeous scenery and a beautiful overseas holiday, that it would be a perfect time to discuss disgustingly raciat and uneducated comments about our home country. Honestly. If you want to be a dick about politics or religion, can you maybe fuck off and join a group or chat room or something and not expose everyone else to your ignorance? Thanks.
Once we geared up for rafting and saw how busy the river was, due to the crazy raining and flooding that poor old Peru had been experiencing, we were pumped. We donned our amazingly sexy wetsuits and helmets and piled onto our boats. Rafting was fun. We would have spent two hours or so on the boat, hit some 3 and 4 rapids and really got into it. Lots of fun!!! At one point our instructor leapt onto the other boat when we weren’t looking and left us to navigate. We managed it though. We did have one person on the boat who refused to paddle because she wanted to take pictures instead (this isnt a scenic river cruise love) and just completely stopped paddling as we had been told to forward hard. So that was fun! It was very pretty and a lot of fun. We got back to our hotel and had about an hour to shower and change for our train ride up to Agues Calientes (the town nearest to Machu Picchu).
The train ride was through the lush mountains to Aguas Calientes which is the town at the base of the ruins. The cute as rickety little train (which is most certainly NOT the same as the Posh looking Peru Rail) had four to a table area. I had an impressively surly old German woman sitting across from me who basically slid down in her seat and took up all of the leg room and even when I tried to accommodate her selfishness, she still glared at me and tried pushing me. Not sure where the fuck she expected to put my legs, up her arse perhaps?? Least I had Kate next to me! Of course some good music and the view helped :).
We got into Aguas Calientes at around 6 or 7 and I had a bad case I the Sads. My flu had mutated into something bastardly and thank god we had a pharmacist on our trip who had gone with Jem and Monica and gotten me non-pinicillin antibiotics. However, it was going to take a while to kick in and I was miserable and sick and struggling and ended up bawling my eyes out in reception. The flu / home sick / helplessness kicks in. I probably needed a good cry though. Monica hugged me and told me no more crying because tomorrow was Machu Picchu and there was no way a case of the Sads were going to ruin that for me (or the rest of the group). We went to dinner and we steamed / Gordon Blue’d and drank amazing red wine. Bed time for a few hours sleep before our 4am wake up call for our trip to Machu Picchu.
Hooray, 4am!!!!!! 🙂 🙂