CARP Mississauga Director Peter M. Wong visited Peru in November 2015. Below are highlights of his Peru Travelogue – November 2015. To read the complete Peru Travelogue – November 2015, click here!
Day 5 – Sacred Valley – Ollantaytambo, Moray Incan ruins, Salt Pools
The first stop was a visit to the ruins just outside of Ollantaytambo and a climb of many steps to the top for a fantastic view. Amazing architecture and engineering exhibited by the Incas. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Araqhama, the Incan Terraced Ruins just outside the town, is bordered to the west by Cerro Bandolista, a steep hill on which the Incas built a ceremonial center. The part of the hill facing the town is occupied by the terraces of Pumatallis, framed on both flanks by rock outcrops. Due to impressive character of these terraces, the Temple Hill is commonly known as the Fortress, however, this is a misnomer as the main functions of this site were religious. The main access to the ceremonial center is a series of stairways that climb to the top of the terrace complex. At this point, the site is divided into three main areas: the Middle sector, directly in front of the terraces; the Temple sector, to the south; and the Funerary sector, to the north. The Temple sector is built out of cut and fitted stones in contrast to the other two sectors of the Temple Hill which are made out of fieldstones. It is accessed via a stairway that ends on a terrace with a half-finished gate and the Enclosure of the Ten Niches, a one room building.
Next was a visit to the archeological site of Moray to see the ancient Inca terraced depressions. The purpose of these depressions is uncertain, but their depth, design, and orientation with respect to wind and sun creates a temperature difference of as much as 15 °C (27 °F) between the top and the bottom. It is possible that this large temperature difference was used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops. Speculation about the site has led to discussion about Moray as an Inca agricultural experiment station. Its microclimatic conditions and other significant characteristics led to the use of the site as a center for the ancient study of domestication, acclimatization, and hybridization of wild vegetable species that were modified or adapted for human consumption.
On the way back from Moray, we picked up two musicians who were friends of our guide, Adelki, and who needed a ride to the next stop. They entertained us with local pan flute, drum and guitar music and got everyone clapping and singing along. We dropped them off at the salt ponds in the town of Maras. Great experience to have them on the coach for the 30 minute drive.
Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Almost all the ponds are less than four meters square in area, and none exceeds thirty centimeters in depth. All are necessarily shaped into polygons with the flow of water carefully controlled and monitored by the workers. The altitude of the ponds slowly decreases, so that the water may flow through the myriad branches of the water-supply channels and be introduced slowly through a notch in one sidewall of each pond. The proper maintenance of the adjacent feeder channel, the side walls and the water-entry notch, the pond’s bottom surface, the quantity of water, and the removal of accumulated salt deposits requires close cooperation among the community of users. It is agreed among local residents and pond workers that the cooperative system was established during the time of the Incas, if not earlier. As water evaporates from the sun-warmed ponds, the water becomes supersaturated and salt precipitates as various size crystals onto the inner surfaces of a pond’s earthen walls and on the pond’s earthen floor. The pond’s keeper then closes the water-feeder notch and allows the pond to go dry. Within a few days the keeper carefully scrapes the dry salt from the sides and bottom, puts it into a suitable vessel, reopens the water-supply notch, and carries away the salt. Color of the salt varies from white to a light reddish or brownish tan, depending on the skill of an individual worker. Some salt is sold at a gift store nearby.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped below the Natura Vive rock climbing pod hotel. The rooms are pods suspended on the side of the mountain with a glass ceiling. Clients have to climb up 1000 ft to their pod. In the morning, the clients zip line back down the mountain. US$300 per night for the serious rock climber.
Dinner was at Huacatay. Appetizer was alpaca carpaccio and the main course was Pachamanca, a Peruvian version of a luau. Meat, vegetables, herbs and spices are wrapped in banana leaves and buried in a pit with hot coals and left for several hours. At Huacatay, their version was a variation…not in a pit but in pots and cooked in an oven. The meal consisted of chicken, lamb, sweet potatoes and six varieties of other potatoes with a delicious broth. The owner came out with the chefs to give a short presentation on the history, ingredients and the process. Very enlightening.
The Train Ride to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu)
Day 7 – Machu Picchu – What a day! Up at 4:00 am, breakfast at the hotel at 4:45. Walk down to catch the buses at 5:00 am. Even at that time, there was a long line up. The weather was clear as we left the hotel, but the rain started while we were in line. Eventually the buses started up the mountain. The rain was heavier and everyone was disappointed. There was a line up to enter the park and the rain was beginning to fade.
We were met by a tour guide hired by G Adventures and for the next two hours we toured the main portions of Machu Picchu and learned some amazing things about the Incans. One highlight was the explanation of the Incan Calendar that is so precise that it only has to be adjusted once every 1100 years. The rain subsided during the tour occasionally, but as the tour ended the sun started to come out, just in time for some amazing photo opportunities, especially under or near the guard house.
A group of us decided to hike up to the Sun Gate which is the entry point of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and the highest vantage point on the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu. The Sun Gate marks the first time a hiker on the Incan Trail will see Machu Picchu. The Huayna Picchu trek is on the smaller mountain behind Machu Picchu and is a lower, steeper climb. Access is limited to 400 people per day and is a bit more dangerous, especially if there is rain. The hike to the Sun Gate is much longer and higher, but the disadvantage is that the while the views of Machu Picchu are stunning, they are more distant than from Huayna Picchu.
The hike takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes depending upon the ability and fitness level of the hiker. The hike is quite strenuous due to the altitude, but I found that if you pushed yourself a bit and stopped from time to time to catch your breath and rest, it was like a hard cardio work out. No matter what kind of fitness level you are, the altitude will affect you and rest and recovery will be part of the climb. The reward is the real sense of accomplishment and the spectacular views that you have of Machu Picchu at the top!
Our group of 10 spent several minutes celebrating, taking pictures and enjoying the views. There were another 10 to 15 people at the Sun Gate at the same times as us, but it wasn’t crowded. Everyone felt they had accomplished something special and we were all proud of ourselves for surpassing our expectations. The hike down back to Machu Picchu was much easier, but still tricky as the stones along the path were uneven. Still the time to descend is probably half of the ascent.
To see the complete Peru Travelogue, click the following link: Cruise Holidays | Luxury Travel Boutique Peru Travelogue – November 2015 with photos and videos
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