Peru wedding and honeymoon, 1999. Seattle reception, 2000.
The day after Christmas, we boarded our bus for the trip through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We began to recognize the same people from our first tour. To reach the valley, it is first necessary to traverse the switchbacks, which carry us to the top of the mountain. The drive carries us past the fertile lands terraced years ago by Incans, which are still farmed by present day decendents. The area reportedly produces over 2000 varieties of corn and another 1000 kinds of potatoes. The growing season was well underway as we made our way to the small town of Pisac. I wonder if knee high by the 4th of February is the mantra of Peruvian farmers, as knee high by the 4th of July is in Wisconsin.
The muddy waters of the Urumbamba River cut through the valley bringing minerals from the mountains above and spectacular views to those who witness its splendor. It is easy to see why this area obtained sacred status. We descended into the valley to the market at Pisac.
Families of locals, waiting for tourists to take their picture, greeted us. Sylvia steered us through the stalls of souvenir items, past the catholic church (mass is said in Quechuan, the language handed down from the Incas), to the area of the market dedicated to food. Here she showed us several different varieties of corn and gave us a sample of choclo-corn with kernels about 5 times the size of our corn. There are a large number of toursits that visit Pisac during the Sunday market because of the various groups of Indians coming down from the mountains to sell their goods. We were able to see women trading potatoes for lima beans, which in turn were traded for dye. Huge machetes hacked away at massive hunks of pork. The other part of the market is packed with stalls aimed at selling trinkets to the tourists. The hillside behind Pisac is home to another supposedly spectacular Inca ruin. We were told the hike to it is very rewarding, but alas, we did not have the time.
We were treated to a special surprise on the way to lunch. One of the local towns, Yucuy, was having a special parade in honor of the holidays. We were able to see the Dance of the Black People and the Dance of the Young Ladies in addition to the processional of Virgin Mary. Santa Claus even joined in.
We visited Ollantaytambo, another amazing Inca ruin before working our way up to Chinchero on a high plateau of more than 14,000 feet above sea level. There are not many visitors because the relatively recent history of terrorism. Chinchero was the headquarters of the Cusco branch of the Shining Path. They couldn't have picked a more spectacular location. With views of mountain peaks and glaciers, Chinchero was one of our favorite spots. While it does not boast spectacular archeological ruins, it does house a primitive Spanish Colonial church. It is built on an Inca foundation with stucco walls. The interior is covered with paintings on every conceivable surface. The altar is made of gold and there are beautiful wooden carvings throughout the church. It seemed a perfect spot to remember our family members who are no longer with us. May the candles burn bright forever.