Apart from Machu Picchu (of course), I think me and Sash are officially “ruined” out!! After the city tour the day before we then went on the full-day Sacred Valley tour which is a whistle-stop journey to 5 different Incan sites.
First stop was Chincharo which sits 3700 meters above sea level. This was yet another sacred site for the Incas with many blocked out window platforms where they placed the mummies of past kings, queens and priests during religious ceremonies (a bit creepy but whatever floats your boat!).
Next, we visited Moray, this was a particularly impressive site made into three huge concentric circles which very much resembled the Greek amphitheatres. However, we found out that their use was entirely different. This site was actually used as an Incan laboratory for domesticating and acclimatising plants – how cool is that?! We wandered around taking pictures (eventually when the bloody Instagrammer deigned to get out of the centre of the ruins and stop ruining everyone else’s shots – I wouldn’t mind but she wasn’t even allowed to be there anyway! ….But anything for “the gram right?” (my eyes are rolling so hard right now) Do not get me started).
Next, we went to my favourite site of the day, though not technically an Incan ruin. The next place was called Maras and here sat thousands of salt ponds (The Salineras) originally used by the Incas and still in full use today! It was quite the spectacle seeing the blinding white ponds etched into the mountain, fed by a natural spring which was mysteriously salty ( apparently no one really knows why this is but it’s suggested that the spring washes minerals from the rocks to produce the salt) – it really did taste like you were drinking seawater! Three types of salt are produced here during the dry season at around one thousand tonnes per year, managed by around 400 local families. It really was fantastic, I bet the Instagram girl was loving it, probably splashing around in the ponds contaminating everyone’s salt!
Our next stop was Ollantaytambo, the ancient Incan settlement and the gateway to Machu Picchu, it’s here that everyone starts their journey up to one of the wonders of the world by train (which I am currently sitting on as I’m writing this! ). Ollantaytambo is a huge site with steps (for the Incans every day was leg day! For a smart set of people they didn’t half make life hard for themselves with all the stairs!! ) which we hauled ourselves up to appreciate the view from the top, which once again was pretty spectacular nestled in the mountains. The Incans liked this site because, not only did the altitude keep their grains fresh for storage, in one of the sheer cliff faces was what looked like a face cut into the mountain. This was a coincidence of nature but the Incans believed it held a spiritual connection.
Many of these days have felt like gym sessions, my cardio is definitely getting done that’s safe to say! I’m fully expecting to be Mo Farrah when I get back to normal altitude! I also never want to see a set of stairs again!
Our final site was Pisac, by now the sun had started to set and the wind had decided to arrive. So after getting wrapped in a few more layers, we fought against the wind to climb (you guessed it .. More stairs) to the top for some fantastic views we were promised….. Well, the view was beautiful, but we also saw an ominous looking thunder cloud so decided to retreat back to the bus. One of Sasha’s friends commented… “so ….. is it hot or is it cold in Peru?” referring to the fact that half our photos are in strap tops and sunglasses while the other half are togged up in coats, hats and sporting cold red noses. The weather here is so changeable, while the sun is out its gloriously warm and bright, however, the minute the sun goes in, the high altitude and strong wind make it bitterly cold. Not the easiest place to pack for!
On the way back we visited a silver store so we could tell the difference between real and fake silver (AKA buy from them) and when we came out after getting bored of being chased around the shop having prices shouted at us, it became apparent there was some commotion…. turns out ( we got one of the other girls to translate because we’re nosey) a family in a car had had a bit of a hoo-ha with the driver who was a bit flippant with the old overtaking (regardless of the blind bends) – I think 7 cars was his record. He was also not taking any prisoners when it came to pedestrians. This family had then called the police to report his bad behaviour. What’s interesting, I barely batted an eyelid at his driving, I think everyone seems like the world’s safest driver when you’ve experienced the chaos of Indian roads (though I should maybe have more self-preservation than that). He got away with a slapped wrist from the Peruvian popo and we were finally allowed to leave.
We are currently on our way to our final Incan ruin of our trip, Machu Picchu on the luxury train, stuffing our faces with Ritz biscuits and carving through Peru’s breathtaking and rugged landscape. I mean, what better way to end our time in Peru than visiting one of the wonders of the world!
If you enjoyed this post check out my other travel diaries here or check out the rest of my Peru posts here for more travel hacks and top tips.
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