Peru - Cusco and the Sacred Valley

 

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Antarctica!
Dec 7-20, 2000

Europe - Germany, Belgium, and France
Nov 28 - Dec 6, 2000

Nepal - Around Manaslu
Oct 30 - Nov 27, 2000

India
Oct 18-29, 2000

Australia - Driving around Southern Australia
Oct 6-17, 2000

Australia - Olympics
Sep 25 - Oct 5, 2000

Australia - Great Barrier Reef
Sep 17-24, 2000

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Sep 10-16, 2000

Thailand - Bangkok
Sep 4-9, 2000

Cambodia
Aug 30 - Sep 3, 2000

Vietnam - Central and South
Aug 20-29, 2000

Vietnam - North
Aug 10-19, 2000

Laos
Aug 5-9, 2000

China
Jul 26 - Aug 4, 2000

Egypt - Along the Nile
Jul 16-25, 2000

Egypt - Touring and diving
Jul 11-15, 2000

Israel and Jordan
Jul 5-10, 2000

Norway
Jun 22 - Jul 4, 2000

Brief return to the USA
Jun 6-21, 2000

Ecuador - Quito and surroundings
Jun 1-6, 2000

Ecuador - Galapagos Islands
May 25-31, 2000

Ecuador - Quito and the jungle
May 21-24, 2000

Peru - Machu Picchu and Lima
May 17-20, 2000

Peru - Cusco and the Sacred Valley
May 11-16, 2000

Bolivia
May 3-10, 2000

Zimbabwe and South Africa - Vic Falls and Blyde River Canyon
Apr 27 - May 2, 2000

South Africa - Motorcycle trip
Apr 12-26, 2000

Argentina - Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls
Mar 30 - Apr 11, 2000

Argentina - Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes
Mar 25-29, 2000

Chile - Exploring the Lake Region
Mar 17-24, 2000

Chile - Pucon and the Bio Bio
Mar 9-16, 2000

Argentina - El Calafate and El Chalten
Mar 1-8, 2000

Chile - Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine
Feb 18-29, 2000

Argentina - Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia
Feb 13-17, 2000

Chile - Santiago and Punta Arenas
Feb 8-12, 2000

Guatemala and Honduras - Rio Dulce and Copan
Feb 4-7, 2000

Guatemala - Coban and Spanish school
Jan 28 - Feb 3, 2000

Guatemala - Tikal and Spanish school
Jan 22-27, 2000

Guatemala - Antigua and Spanish school
Jan 16-21, 2000

Belize
Jan 6-15, 2000

 

Thu May 11, 2000 - Cusco

The wake-up call seemed to come in the middle of the night when it rang at 5am. We finished packing, ate breakfast in our room and went to the airport in the dark. While it took a while to buy the tickets, pay airport taxes, and go through immigration, we still had plenty of time to wait. Sometimes you just wonder why they require you to arrive 2 hours before the flight.

The flight to La Paz was about half full. We flew over amazing scenery with red, white, and yellow mountains. We approached a huge, high, dry plain and realized that it was La Paz. The city sprawls along, with a center of population on the one slope that descends. It is probably the only city where property lower on the mountain is more valuable. The cliffs and formations around and sometimes directly in the middle of the city are astounding. Constructrion seemed to be typical Bolivian - brick and mud materials, whitewashed in the richer sections. Most properties were completely walled in, even if they had no buildings.

The plain had washes where rivers run during the rainy season, but all was dry today. There were many small farm plots, but they didn't look very fertile. The overwhelming impression was of a huge number of people scratching a living out of barely tillable land.

We landed at La Paz and werre subjected to draconian security checking to our Cusco flight - everyone was hand searched, all hand luggage was searched, and we were repeatedly asked questions about citizenship, reason for travel, etc. Plus usual xray and metal detector - a strange contrast to some local airports with barely a xray machine. We had an empty flight to Cusco except for about 20 american tourists.

We flew directly over Lake Titicaca which is much larger, and had more islands, than we expected. The morning was crystal clear which gave us great views of the lake and the surrounding countyside. We could see snow on the mountains of the cordillera, and generally stared out the window the entire flight.

Cusco seems to be a bit more fertile, with crops growing all the way up the incredibly steep mountainsides. This is the land where potatoes and quinoa are native, and they are cultivated in some pretty inaccessible places. The houses in general seem nicer, and the whole impression is of a higher standard of living - they still work hard, but live better. The countryside is also much more green.

We had a very hard time finding a hotel - all the decent ones were full, and as we went down the quality chain, we had a hard time finding something decent. We finally ended up at the first one we looked at, the Emperador Plaza near the center. We then got a hard sell from the cabbie about tours in and around Cusco, but we finally pleaded exhaustion, and got rid of him.

We each had a cup of mate de coca, for soroche prevention, and then we napped for an hour or so. For lunch we had some delicious homemade pasta at Tratoria Tetrazini. Then we walked around a bit, and decided to find the South American Explorers Club house. A few blocks down Avenida del Sol, we rang the bell, and a friendly and helpful guy named Shawn let us in and showed us around. We ended up spending a couple of hours there, researching things to do, talking to folks, and in general gathering lots of amazingly useful info in a short time.

On the way back, Louisa found some great weavings in a shop, but we decided to check other prices before buying. We then went into the plaza and talked to about 4 recommended agencies about trips to Manu Natl Park (rainforest) and hiking the Inca Trail. Once we gathered the details, we retired to a nearby restaurant for a pizza and discussion. We made a big to-do list, and then stopped at an internet cafe for an hour, before heading back to an early bed.

 

Fri May 12, 2000 - Around Cusco

Another low key day, as we both battled the effects of altitude and unsettled stomachs which conspired to rob us of energy. Although we were up early, it just took us a while to eat, shower, and get going.

We started out with errands, going to travel agents to plan various parts of our visit, and trying to figure out how to maximize our time. After several stops, we figured out that we just didn't have enough time to do all that we wanted, so we jettisoned our idea of visiting Manu Natl Park, in the rain forest. We then hit the South American Explorer's club again - we cannot recommend this place highly enough - to research some other options. We ended up signing up for a 2-day horse trek in the mountains, as well as planning a few days in the Sacred Valley.

After lunch nearby at the pricey (for Cusco), but good, Manu Cafe, we decided to tour the Sun Temple, Coricancha. The Spaniards built a church on top of the foundations of the ancient Inca temple, and in the huge earthquake of 1950 the church fell down, but the Inca stonework was undisturbed. When they rebuilt it, they preserved the Inca walls more clearly, and it is now a tourist attraction.

The Inca walls were amazing to see up close - huge boulders neatly carved and placed without mortar so close you can't fit a piece of paper between them. Some of the stones are truly huge, and even the small ones were too large for Tom to move. We did not get a guide, but we probably would have learned more with one.

When we came out, we saw a small demonstration outside a hotel across from the temple. Later we figured out that it was a presidential candidate staying there, and that tonight there was a rally for his candidacy in the main square.

On our way back to the main square we stopped at the telephone office to make some reservations. Then we went to a company that does Inca Trail tours, and talked to them about hiking the trail. Finally, we stopped at a couple more places to check some other ideas, and pick up our laundry. Then we headed back to the hotel for a nap.

Well, we didn't really sleep, so we got up and headed out again, looking for a tourist ticket to get into all the sites. Of course, the office closed early, so we'll have to get it tomorrow. Then we looked for a hotel for when we come back from Machu Picchu, got turned down twice, and finally found something. We looked for a bar that was recommended, but we didn't have an address, and the 3 people we asked had never heard of it. Finally we gave up and headed to an internet cafe for an hour.

Meanwhile, when we had first come out, people had started gathering for the Toledo for President rally in the Plaza de Armas. As we walked around, we ran into a number of impromptu parades of Toledo supporters. When we made it back to the square around 7, the crowd had almost filled it. We got lucky and got a table on a restaurant balcony overlooking the square, so we watched the whole thing from a birds-eye view.

Toledo came out around 7:30, to rousing cheers and waving banners. A number of short speeches commenced, often punctuated by bullhorn-led cheers of "Toledo! Toledo!" or "Toledo es trabajo!" Finally, Toledo took the stage, dressed ridiculously in a native campesino poncho and hat. He harangued the crowd on a number of topics - the ones we caught were tourism {a popular one in Cusco) and education. He even combined them, by pledging to open a school of tourism in Cusco. Between the echo of the loudspeakers, the occasional interruption of chanting, and the spanish, we didn't really understand much. A helpful bystander did explain that they were campaigning for a 2nd ballot, the first one having been thrown out because of fraud.

After our pizza and banana crepe, with Toledo still pacing the stage and gesticulating in full swing, we snuck around the cathedral and back to our hotel. We packed all of our stuff for the next week into one pack, and the rest in another for storage at the SAEC. Then we hit the hay.

We got accosted walking around Cusco more than any other city we have visited in Latin America - the only other city which comes close is Panajachel, Guatemala. Every step is a little boy tugging on your sleeve selling postcards, older kids seem to graduate to shoe shining. Beggars ask for money, people try to coax you into nearby travel agencies, and waiters open menus in front of your face. Women take up nearly the entire sidewalk with woven goods, and try to sell them to you in fast broken english. Near the banks, money changers thrust calculators and wads of bills in your face, and cigarrette vendors bother you while you are eating in a restaurant. At every tourist venue there are natively garbed women with llamas charging for pictures, and men nearby who will sell you cameras and film. Taxis (mostly unregistered) honk at you if you are near the street, to ask if you want a ride - this results in a nearly continuous stream of honks when you are trying to cross the street. The result is that it is almost impossible to hold a converstion while walking, which is a detriment to an otherwise beautiful and historic city. We started taking taxis just to avoid walking through the cacaphony.

 

Sat May 13, 2000 - Around Cusco - Sacsaywaman and Pisac

After the terrible typical breakfast of bread and coffee we headed out to finalize our plans for the next week. Considering Louisa's inability to sleep and completely adjust to the altitude, we decided not to be heroic, and do the trek along the Incan trail to Machu Picchu in the usual four days (we had been thinking of 3). After signing up for the trek and the helicopter ride back we were ready to take in some culture.

A taxi drove us up to thee ruins of Sacsaywaman. The ruins are quite extensive not because the Spaniards wanted to leave them, but because of the vast size and constuction of the rocks. The use of the ruins is not completely understood, but it was the location of a pivotal battle between the Spanish and the Incans during the most successful of the Incan risings. After capturing the rest of Peru and surrounding Cusco, the dspereate Spaniards in Cusco attacked the Incans in their stronghold and defeated them in a boddy two day battle.

Upon entering the ruins a guide offered to take us around for a tip. He explained thhe meaning of the Quechua names and their origins, pointed out the Incan architecture and explained their customs. As for the latter, they believed that to be cleansed, or reborn, such as baptism, required not blessed water, but a ourney through a tunnel. They believed that their gods lived in the rocks and by walking through the rock that the spirits of te gods would cleanse you. The guide walked us through oone of the tunnels. It was absolutely pitch black inside. We had to hold hands not to get lost. While eery, upon seeing the light appear after a turn in the tunnel it did seem as if it had been a long journey.

We were surprised at the number of carvings, such as altars, that are careefully crved in huge boulders leaving the surrounding rock natural. Hoever, the construction and craftsmanship is outstanding. How they moved the large rocks is one consideration, but more amazing is how they carrved them to perfectly fit together oo that not a razor blade can be slipped between two rocks. The Incan architects seem to have had a complete grasp of earthquakes and built to account for the "tremblers."

Part of Cusco's mythology is that the original city was laid out in the formation of a puma. Sascaywaman was the head of the puma on top of the hill overlooking the city. Supposedly from an aeiral perspective, the eyes, nose and teeth of the puma are visible. The outside wall of the fortress represents the teeth, while the foundations of two towers form the eyes. Only the foundations exist aft the Spanish razed them and used the rocks in construction of their buildings in Cusco.

At the end of the hour+ tour we opted to walk down the hill to the Plaza de Armass. It took a total of 10 minutes to retun to town, with an additioanl few minutes at the church of San Cristobal on the hill. A service was in progress in a side chapel, while the restoration workers were in full forcee in the main sanctuary. It was odd to witness the two occuring simultaneoously.

We deposited our luggage in the ever helpful SAE office, had pizza for lunch and decided to finish arrangements. We camped out in Peru Telefonica until wee managed to call three different countries and even more cities. The office does not have doors, and is located on one of the busiest streets in Cusco which made talking on th ephone seem as if we were standing in the middle of traffic. Otherwise, it was very productive.

It was raining when we left so we ducked iinto an internet cafe for shelter for a short while before running for the bus to Pisac. We had been given three different locations to catch the Pisac bus and were intently trying to determine which one ws correct when a taxi drve up and offered to drive us to Pisac. We were shocked that he knew where we wanted to go, but he told us it was easy since we were on the block and looking around as if in search of the bus. We payed twice the rate of bus tickets ($6), but were out of the sprinkling rain and on our way!

The driver was chatty, at least during the breaks in the soccer game. He is an avid Fujimoro supporter for President. When he ehard that our guide this morning was raving about the opposition candidate, Toledo, and critisizing Fujimoro, the driver told us how great a President Fujimoro has been te last 10 years. It was fascinating to hear two incredibly strong and adamantly opposed viewpoints.

We descnded into the sacred valley. The view fom the road was gorgeous with the Urumbamba river winding its way through the middle. We were astounded by the fields that the campesinos cultivate. Many of them are near the tops of the mountains, or if they are lucky, the sides of the mountains. Regardless, the incline of the fields is nearly vertical. The effort to grow maize, otatoes and quinoa out of this cold, mountainous ground must be astounding. Most of the fields were not accompanied by the mud houses. Supposedly there are villages on the mountainside where they live, but the walk to the fields remains remarkable.

As we entered the small town of Pisac, the road turned o cobblestone and narrowed. We laughed as cows crossed in front of us at the next intersection. The road opened up to the main square that housed a few handcraft stalls, a gorgeous tree and an interesting church.

Hotel Pisac is conveniently located on the main square. As usual checking in did not require any effort, and soon the manager was feeding us homemade brownies and mate de coca. Yum! We sat out front on the square and chatted with three New Yorkers. The daily market was winding down and Louisa headed over for some shopping. She found some great weavings and bargained a good price, but the ever practical Tom inquired where she was going to put them during the next week and the climb to Machu Picchu. So, the weavings were left unpurchased.

We took refreshing nap until the church bell tolled calling the townspeople to mass. We decided that was ouur signal for dinner. The recommended restaurant was closed. We walked around the almost deserted square. A few young men were ssetting up wooden frames for stands for the big market in the morning and a few boys ran through, but otherwise things were still. We walked by the church on the far side of thee square as we heard the congregation saying what sounded like the Nicene Creed in Spaish. A cursory glance in revealed a sanctuary filled with primarily woman and girlds.

Dinner was delicious. We found a family run place also on the square. While the food was good, the highlight was the adrable little granddaughter that babbled away while walking around the restaurant. It was wonderful, and we had some good laughs with the owners and their friends around the granddaughter, who, in the end, tried to leave with us. We turned in to read and journal until we just could not keep our eyes open.

 

Sun May 14, 2000 - Pisac

Our eyes first opened when the night was filled with the ringing of the church bells at 5:40am. While romantic to be lodged in a small village with the sounds of the churches calling the people, we rolled over for more sleep.

The hotel served us breakfast at the tables on the sidewalk overlooking the square. We watched as the campsinos carried their gigantic bundles filled with wares to sell to the wooden display structures that young boys were building. A new mode of transportation was introduced, the reverse tricycle cart. en and boys had tricycles, but with a huge basket in front which they woud fill with the goods for the market. Some of the cycles were quite old, not even having seats. It was delightful to observe the market being created.

Many of the adults wore traditional clothing. The women wore hats on their heads. Some are quite amusing, such as the white top hats with blue ribbons or the brown bowlers whose rim is only as wide as their head.

Louisa found more bargains that we cannot buy. It was the first time that we had seen anything that we were interested in buying. None of the items were overwhelming, but perhaps they were more attractive since we knew that we could not purchase them.

We noticed that many women had confetti in their hair. It reminded us of the confetti thrown at the fiesta at the Spanish school in Guatemala. We inquired and learned that it was a fiesta, Dia de las Madres (Mothers Day).

Overall, the square was filled with distractions - little kids begging, moms dressed up with babies on their backs charging for pictures, every stall owner calling to you to look, musical instruments playing, etc

It started to sprinkle while we were walking through the streets lined with stalls. We circled back to the hotel, packed, and took a short nap until the rain stopped. The taxi to the ruins of Pisac was quite rickety, but made it the entire trip up the hill to the top car park.

We walked down through the extensive ruins. The top place provides a fantastic view into the largest Incan cemetary. Unfortunately, now it is a side of a mountain with lots of holes in it where robbers have opened and looted all of the graves. A row of three baths that were still operational with running water mark the entrance to the path to the graves.

We continued down the trail to the main ruins which included a walk through a tunnel. Amazing terraces cover the steep hillside, and many are still cultivated. As we looked around we saw unbelievable fields pratically to the top on every visible mountain. As we continued the walk down, there were some well preesrved ruins on a spur of rock, which once roundedd openedd the way for a spectacular view down to the main grouping.

The stonework around the central Temple of the Sun was amazingly precise. It astounded us how the Incans built suchc structures, and how well they have weathered time and earthquakes. The fountains and ceremonial baths still ran with water (with a little help from modern plastic pipes).

We walked down the steep path, constructed primarily of stairs, to the town. A small boy who wanted money ran down with us, but we did not oblige him so as not to encourage him. The walk had us famished, which homemade pizza cooked in the wood burning adobe oven at the hotel satisfied.

Next priority was calling home to talk with our Moms. We found a phone at the local "super"market. The buses to Urubamba leave from the bridge into town, However, we hopped on the collectivo that was pulling away. Everyone actually had their own seat, a nice bonus. We chatted with the boy next to us who was taking cooked food to his uncle.

In Calco, we changed collectivos for Urubamba. This one was stuffed with passengers. We chatted with a 12 yearold girl. As she got off near her small town, we gave her toothbrush, toothpaste and a pen out of our unused goody bag. We saw her excitedly showing her family as they got off.

From the bus terminal, wecaught another packed minivan, towards Ollanta. The driver promised to drop us at Perrol Chico, but forgot. Two kilometers past, he remembered so we hopped out, crossed the road and started walking. Everyone was very friendly, waving and saying "Buenos Dias." After a minute or two, we caught a bus going back and hopped off at Perol Chico. The total cost for our adventure was 4 soles, just over a dollar, for both of us - how can they make money?

We relaxed at Perrol Chico and talked to the owner, Eddy, for a while. He discovered, and enjoyed, the Peruvian paso style of riding and decided to start the horseback adventures four years ago. He also breeds and trains dogs in Lima.

Before dinner, he drove us into Urubamba to the nearest phone, for Grandma Henry's conference call. Since it was Mother's Day, the phone company was closed, so we had to use the pay phone on the street, with the parade passing in the background. It was fantastic to hear everyone's voice!

Goya cooked us a delicious steak dinner, then we headed to bed.

 

Mon May 15, 2000 - Ollantaytambo on horseback

We were up for breakfast at 8, alhough Tom had a cold shower because Louisa unwittingly used up the hot water. After eating our eggs, we took our time packing and loading the saddlebags with day gear.

Once we were ready, Louisa tried out Chacadero (means farmer) a couple of times around the field. Tom mounted Bardo, but he wouldn't leave the horse corral, and fought the bit a lot. Finally, Felix the guide led Bardo out to the road, then mounted his horse Luciano, and led us out around 9:30.

We walked along the road a couple hundred yards, then turned past some houses to go down by the river. We had a beautiful ride along an abandoned track next to the river, waving at small children and being annoyed by dogs. We rode through lots of small farms, each with a couple of pigs or cows or goats or sheep or burros grazing nearby. Everything was of mud brick construction with corrugated tin or thatch roofs. Ater a couple of hours we stopped at a local house to try some chicha - a slightly sour fermented corn drink. We each had a couple of sips, and then Felix downed the rest.

Lots of small plots had ears of corn drying in the sun, surrounded by a layer of dried corn stalks, so the owner who is sleeping with the corn can hear robbers coming. We also saw drying quinoa, a very deep red grain (there are also yellow and white varieties). We enjoyed incredible views along the sacred valley, including some cultivated plots (chacras) amazingly high on the mountains all around us.

We stopped for a brief break around 12:30, because Tom's butt was already hurting, and his tummy was a bit upset. An hour later we arrived in Ollantaytambo, feeling like Spanish conquistadores riding through the streets. Children stared and waved, and even adults commented on the beauty of the horses. In the square, we ate lunch - Goya had made a great cold mashed potato & tuna shepards pie kind of thing that we devoured.

Lunch completed, we left Felix with the horses while we went to explore the ruins for an hour. The unfinished sun temple featured truly awesome stonework, and there were cool views from the top. We also enjoyed seeing the great ramp (better viewed from the train) and the granaries high on the mountain across the valley. Once we got down, we saw the ceremonial baths, fed by an aqueduct from the river that still works.

When we got back to the horses we had our first real stroke of bad luck. Louisa was mounting Chacadero and didn't have quite enough oomph to get over his back. She fell back onto the cobblestone street and turned her ankle quite badly. After resting for a few minutes, she declares herself ready to ride on, although she's obviously in pain. Fotunately, the ride is quite level, and she is able to resist flexing and aggravating it while riding.

We ride back along the Urubamba a couple of kilometres and then turn north to follow a narrow road along the same canyon as the railroad back to Cusco. As we wound through the canyon, we marvelled at the amazing cliffs and rocks alongside the rushing water of a small river. For a while, we paralleled a cool aqueduct thhat takes water to nearby village - not so different from ancient Inca work, except they have concrete.

The canyon opened up into another valley, with cultivated fields amazingly high on the mountainside. We stopped at a cluster of houses occupied by 4 families and lots of kids, threading our way in between cows, pigs, and dogs in the shared "yard" to get to where Eddy and Goya have already set up the tents.

We put on warm clothing (the nights get cold out here), and Tom discovered his arms were quite burnt - he forgot to re-apply sunblock - oops. Tom later made another important discovery: rocks beside the river are often slippery. After hanging his wet pants and shoes by the fire, he was able to laugh about it.

We chatted with Junior, one of the local kids at 7yrs old, teaching him English phrases like "How are you?" Like nearly all the people in the area, his first language is Quechua, and his second is Spanish. Goya, meanwhile, cooked an excellent dinner the fire. Louisa sat with her ankle elevated, to try to reduce the swelling, but it still got pretty large. Eddy had some ointment for the horses, and the label said "for all kinds of animals," so we applied some of that, too.

The bright moon and stars made the evening beautiful. We waved at the passing tourist trains from Machu Picchu, and generally enjoyed ourselves. Before bed, Tom purified some water from the stream, an exercise requiring balance, agility, and about 4 hands. Once in the tent, Louisa read by headlamp for a while, and then we went to sleep. In the middle of the night, Tom made a run to the bano, tiptoing carefully through the yard around sleeping cows, pigs, and dogs.

 

Tue May 16, 2000 - Moray and Maras

We awoke to cold light at 7, but it warmed up around 8:30 when the sun came over the mountain. Goya cooked us a good breakfast over the fire, even frying chicken for lunch, and we ate well.

Kids started arriving from every direction to go to the school next door. Most were wide-eyed at the .sight of gringos and tents in the yard, and came to stare. We remembered we had brought pens to give away to kids, so Tom got them and started handing them out. What had started as a few kids staring turned into a stampede of dozens, running from across the river and along the tracks for the presents from the gringos. As Tom handed them out, he reminded them all to study hard and learn a lot. We quickly ran out, but we were delighted with the sight of happy kids clutching their new pens and giggling. After taking a picture, Felix and Tom suggested that they should be in school, and they quickly dispersed. We found out later that there is only one, and sometimes two, teachers for the 100 students in this school.

We also gave toothbrushes as presents to the local families we stayed near, and they seemed to appreciate them.

An assessment of Louisa's ankle found it sore and swollen, but she insisted that riding did not hurt. We got assurance from Felix and Eddy that she would be able to ride the entire way, despite the very steep climb and descent on the agenda for today. So, we decided to go ahead with the rest of the ride.

Finally we loaded up and headed out, Tom with wet bandanna to protect the back of his neck, and long sleeves to protect his tender arms. We climbed high out of the canyon up some very steep paths towards a very high saddle, over 1000m up in the first couple of hours. Across the canyon was valley with many houses and lots of fields, but no roads, an elementary school, but no high school, and a teacher that only shows up 3 days a week. Their life is very different from ours.

As we climbed, we saw the beginnings of a huge water project under construction to bring fresh water to Maras from two mountains over, via a huge pipe and siphon. Near the top, we get on dirt road that seems to just start in the middle of the hill and switchback up to the saddle - nobody knows why it is not finished.

On the top of the saddle, we saw lots of fields that were invisible from below. The crops are mostly wheat, corn, quinoa (local grain), potatoes, lima beans, and other grains (maybe barley and oats). Although there is a road, most of the harvest is carried by working burros - there are very few horses. We saw pigs and cows and sheep grazing in the harvested fields, eating the stubble.

We descended gently through miles of small fields, all different colors and flavors. Occasionally we passed small guard shacks nearby, for protection from robbers. We found out that most farmers come 10kms or more from Maras to farm these lands. Across the sacred valley from here, we saw snow covered mountains, emphasizing our altitude.

We descended down to Moray, a set of Inca experimental agricultural terraces. We read in the Peter Frost book that the microclimate here can simulate an entire mountain, with up to 15deg celsius difference between the upper and lower terraces. This may be where they developed high altitude maize and other crops which made possible high concentrations of people, and civilizations like the Incas, at this altitude.

We continued on to an abandoned house for lunch. This place was the former hacienda of a landowner from before the civil war, which was abandoned when his lands were reallocated to the campesinos. We enjoyed a good fried chicken lunch, and Louisa peeled a huge mango for us.

We then rode on to the town of Maras, where we used their one public phone to cancel our Inca trail hike - no way was Louisa going to be able to do that and have fun. Then we headed down steeply through less fertile land towards the salt pans. There are hardly any crops here - the clay soil with lots of salt means maize takes 10 mos to mature, instead of the normal 6-7.

A bit further down we came to the salt pans. A stream here comes out of the mountain quite salty. The direct the stream into a series of shallow terraced pools, to evaporate the water and collect the salt. Louisa was beginning to feel an upset tummy, and her ankle was hurting from going down, so we kept moving after a few pictures.

As the day wore on, we got a bit frustrated with riding. Chacadero was fighting Louisa a lot, dropping his head and not obeying the reins. Bardo kept shying from chickens, pigs, shadows, and suspicious looking bushes. Finally we got to the valley, and went a couple hundred yards along road. Bardo shied from a sound into the middle of the road, almost getting hit by a car, and fighting Tom the entire time - a little scary.

Finally we arrived at Perrol Chico, took a final pic, and Louisa headed in to rest her ankle. Tom took a shower, and started to feel better, while Louisa got a bad stomachache. After a while got very sick, losing everything from both ends, and shivering between attacks. At least she forgot all about her sore ankle.

After a few attacks, Tom went to call the doctor. Unfortunately, Perrol Chico only has a cell phone, it's locked against international calls, and we can't figure out how to call AT&T or Sprint on it. Finally, after calling several friends to see if they knew how to call from a cell, Eddy gave in and drove Tom to Urubamba to call. Tom uses a coin phone that requires madly feeding 1sol coins in as fast as possible while talking, but gets the doctor on the line. Dr Shear sayss it sounds like dysentery, and to administer Cipro.

Back at Perrol Chico, Tom feeds Louisa a Cipro, which she promptly brings back up. The second pill stayed down, though and she relaxed a bit while Tom got some bread for her. Finally she went to sleep, and had no more attacks.

Tom ate dinner with Eddy and new arrivals John & Alida, folks our age from Pittsburg and just back from Machu Picchu. Then he joined Louisa in an exhausted sleep.

At this point in the trip we had quite a litany of ills: Louisa's GI tract problems and sprained ankle, Tom's bruises on his butt and sore knees from riding, sunburnt arms, annd he was getting over stomach problems too. We decided to try to take it easy and decide tomorrow what to do.

Despite all this, we really enjoyed our visit at Perrol Chico. We felt that we had a unique and amazing experience in the sacred valley, and had the chance to enjoy the nature and people in a way that most visitors don't.

The paso style of riding is indeed unique. When walking the horse feels much the same, to us anyway. However, when moving a bit faster, what would be considered a trot on a "normal" horse, the gait is surprisingly smooth and comfortable. This is the paso llano, and is unique to these Peruvian horses. There is a faster paso gait that we weren't experienced enough to find, because we were warned not to let the horses gallop - they will, but it ruins their paso gait. In any case, we found the paso horses to be more comfortable at the "trotting" pace than their more common cousins.

Revised: Wed Feb 13 11:37:55 2008 on www.shieldsaroundtheworld.com.
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