• Laura T Petersen

A truly Sacred Valley

The day we went to Machu Picchu we returned to our beloved Ollantaytambo via train together with the Arboricos. We stayed another night on Marley’s insistence since she had promised her college friends, who had done internships there, she would do so. They also had a place picked out for dinner which was recommended by a Peruvian they met in Cusco. Guess which place it was? Chuncho! While we were having a wonderful dinner together tasting the local alpaca and the Peruvian delicacy of “cuy” (guinea pig) we learned that the family that owns the restaurant is from Seattle. The Arboricos realized they had friends in common. So, of course, we visited their farm and distillery the next day. We found out they also regularly host students from Lakeside school in Seattle.

Us gals did a morning hike up one of the hillsides that has the ruins of Incan storage buildings. We were able to get amazing views of the Incan ruins on the other side of the valley We were joined by a sweet dog who had actually befriended me a few days before before. Val remarked how "Rieta-like" she was, fully self-entertained while checking in with us periodically.

We also did a riverside hike to the local cerveceria (brewery). Where our thirsty selves were pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of the craft beer.

We made our way to Cusco in a van that afforded us spectacular views of the Sacred Valley and the Andes. Around each mountain corner we would raise a chorus of “oohs” and “ahs” as each new vista revealed itself. The pictures don’t do justice to the grandeur of the landscape.

In the bustling city of Cusco we had scored a wonderful Airbnb apartment located down a pedestrian cobblestone path next to the Convent of Santo Domingo. We had a lovely veranda with a nice view, as shown below.

Just in front of our new abode. Brian and John were reeled in by the incredibly cute baby white llamas before they realized what exactly was happening; they were quickly pressured to take a picture for which they had to pay too much money. It is an adorable picture though.

The adjacent Dominican convent was the first one built in Peru as part of the Spanish colonization. Of course, like so many other colonial churches, it was built on top of an existing temple, the temple of the sun - the Qoricancha. It was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. It must have been a spectacular sight as the walls were covered in gold. Of course the Spanish stripped off the gold and sent it back to their King. The Incan construction has truly stood the test of time. Cusco has been rocked with three earthquakes, and each time the Spanish church crumbles to further reveal the sturdy Incan foundation upon which it is built. Inside, we were fascinated by the modern paintings of the monks and current indigenous children in lieu of the traditional Catholic cherub angels. I took the pictures below before I was told it was a no no. However we all liked the child with the Elmo shirt.

We navigated the narrow streets (unfortunately often filled with too much bus exhaust) to see the sights of the city. Luckily, we found some pedestrian-only paths and stopped into some churches on our way to Sacsayhuaman (people pronounced this as “sexywoman” but the word is from the Quechua language still in use by many indigenous people). Located high above the city at about 12,000 feet, (fortunately we had all acclimated to high elevations at this point) the Sacsayhuaman Incan ruins were beyond impressive. It was mind-boggling to see limestone blocks that weigh up to 200 tons organized into perfectly fit together walls. We just walked around in awe wondering how such massive and intricate walls were built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

We enjoyed the wonderful culinary delights of the city. We were particularly enamored with Green Point, a vegan restaurant that elevates vegan food the same way Tesla elevates electric cars. The food and the ambiance were incredible and memorable. We recommend the Causa appetizer.

We also scoured the city’s shoe stores for some study trail tennis shoes for Keegan. Some of the sales people even laughed when he told them his size. But at last we found a pair that would come in handy for our upcoming climbs in Peru. Cusco has beautiful colonial architecture. We enjoyed Pisco Sours while overlooking the Plaza de Armas which marks the colonial centre of the city.

Brian had to return home to snowy Seattle for work while the rest of us explored more of Peru. Brynn had taken on organizing the rest of the Peru trip which included an overnight bus to Arequipa and then onto Colca Canyon. I’ll share more in my next post.

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