The mountains rose up out of nothing and towered over us as we cruised through the rolling hills. Local women were herding sheep, standing amongst perfectly stacked and harvested hay in the fields and visiting nearby villages on foot. They wear their thick black hair in double braids, which hang long from their hats.
Aside from the burst of colour in the woollen dress of the women, this part of Peru is very brown and the scenery lacks vibrant colours, and yet still manages to wow me.
“Was that seriously ALL today?!” was the question I was asking myself after a day tour in Sacred Valley and yet we didn’t even scratch the surface of what there is to do in the Valley. Peru has really been giving us the time of our lives. Giancarlo, manager of the Sacred Dreams Lodge, arranged a private tour for us to visit a few of the main sites around the famous Sacred Valley.
Staring out the window, all I could think was, “How can I be here? We are so privileged.”
“Okay I’m sick of myself now. I can’t stop myself from taking more photos. I think Peru is one of my favourite countries,” I told Kees. “Mine too.” “But I feel like we keep saying that on every trip.” This is exactly why we can never answer the question, “What is your favourite country?”
Our first stop was the Incan agricultural terraces of Moray. We had the place to ourselves, making it a really peaceful walk down to explore them. They think these were used as a sort of experimental station to see how the temperature affected crops. The temperature differences, depending on the depth of the terrace (wind and sun being factors), are up to 15C. Not too much info on these, but the Incas definitely had great irrigation systems.
Next we stopped for a remarkable view over the ancient salt terraces of Maras before going down for a closer look. Despite how much tourist traffic they must get, the line of shops at Maras did not hassle us and it didn’t have a smothering touristic feel at all. Locals are really friendly and react well to smiles, always returning us with big beaming ones. The salt terraces are extremely impressive. The idea that they were constructed and maintained for a thousand years blows my mind. It’s such a work of genius, especially being carved into this canyon mountain side. The salt is still being harvested today and apparently anyone in the community can claim a pool and farm it, and if you aren’t part of the community you are allowed to have one of super far away pools…. I can imagine that would be a very long and strenuous, not to mention scary, walk to get to! The brilliant white of the ready to harvest salt pans is nearly blinding in the sun. If you visit Maras, you won’t be able to resist grabbing a pinch of salt and tasting it yourself.
At each stop our driver would jump out of the car to open the door for me, and the same would happen whenever I wanted to step in. I started to fear I might forget how to open my own door by the end of the trip.
Zipping past an old lady on our way to Ollantaytambo Kees insisted the driver stop. It took me a minute to understand what he was getting all crazy about when I realized the woman was hitchhiking. Using hand signals the driver asked, “Pick her up?” “Yes. Yes. Pick her up?” Kees told him. Checking that it was alright with our driver, we reversed on the country highway to save her from standing a minute longer on the roadside. Kees is such a hero with a big heart. The driver once again jumped out of the car in his nice dress shirt with name tag, this time to help the tiny woman unload the large sack from her back, put it in the trunk and get her in the front seat. She turned to thank us and took her hat off to the driver in grateful thanks, “gracias, gracias”. She was super withered with sharp broken off teeth in her gummy smile. Dirt caked, I had to wonder if she’d ever been in such a nice car before in her life.
It’s moments like these that seriously give the biggest warm fuzzies and reassure hope in mankind. When we dropped her off in the next village, the driver was eager to help her with her heavy load, and with a grateful nod she was on her way. She hobbled down the street so hunched over, the weight of her load nearly crippled her.
Our last stop was the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo. Kees was absolutely awed by the blind man singing outside the gates, playing his instrument (you can see this in the video below). We took about an hour exploring and climbing the ancient stone steps of Ollantaytambo. This site was a lot more impressive than I was expecting with it’s beautiful view of the mountains shooting up and encircling the Peruvian town below. It was a little pre-taste of the famous Machu Picchu which we would visit two days later.
The only complaint I have about the sites in Peru so far is the lack of signage and information. I wish they had some more information or pamphlets available with some history on the sites. At the bottom of the steps at Ollantaytambo you have the option of hiring a guide, but I personally prefer to have something I can read and absorb at my own pace. Luckily we have Google. That is, of course, if you can get a decent internet connection.
We stayed for lunch in the backpacker town of Ollantaytambo and I had my very first taste of alpaca which was suspiciously delicious. It was so tender and tasted so much like beef that I’m not quite sure I was even served alpaca.
On a roll in the unique food department, we decided we would have Peru’s infamous cuy AKA guinea pig for dinner. Giancarlo joined us for dinner at his friend’s restaurant who had been preparing the guinea pig for like six hours! I still cannot get my head around how it can take that long to cook a tiny rodent. Guinea pig basically tastes like chicken, but I would compare it to bony fish experience. It’s just too small and the amount of effort to get the bits of meat off all those bones simply isn’t worth it.
As I mentioned before in my birthday blog, it was the following day that I received the best present ever!
The owner of Sacred Dreams Lodge’s mother, Linda, found us at the restaurant. She came to the table, sat down next to me and grabbing my arm said, “Are you Savannah? Can I touch you?” Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time someone has said that to me. “I think you’re just the greatest and your mom too.” When we arrived in Urubamba Giancarlo had mentioned that the owner’s mother wanted to meet me because she had read my book. I was amazed and impressed, assuming she had read it after he had told her about it. But, no. She had read it BEFORE! When he mentioned he was having a travel blogger come stay at the lodge she said, “Savannah Grace? That sounds familiar. Oh, I just finished reading her book!” I was blown away. I asked her how she found out about “I Grew My Boobs in China” and she said one of her girlfriends in the USA recommended it to her. Wow. The excitement never fades for me.
Linda is a very interesting, older American woman who married a Peruvian man, and has lived here for decades. She raised her three children in the tiny town of Urubamba. She said they went to school where there were no books, and yet they STILL managed to go on to University in the States and become lawyers, doctors and own a fabulous hotel in Peru.
Mountains, salt terraces, ancient Incan ruins, book fans, guinea pig and alpaca on a plate! What a day. And to think, all this in less than a week!
As amazing as it was, packing so much in so quickly, going to bed late and then getting up at 5a.m. the next morning was a very detrimental decision for our health!
– You need MINIMUM two days in the Sacred Valley. There’s so much to see and if you do it at too fast a pace, you may end up sick like I did. Take the time to really explore this amazing place, as you’ll probably only be here once.
– If you’re into trying new and bizarre foods, you can’t leave Peru without trying cuy aka guinea pig.
– Don’t rush. You are at high altitude, if you forget that it may just come back to bite you in the butt. Take the natural herb Gingko or Diamox!
VIDEO: This video is of the fantastic market footage Kees took in Urubamba and of our tour in the Sacred Valley. Again, if you enjoy the videos, please don’t forget to share the love and subscribe to Sticky Visuals and follow @stickyvisuals on Twitter.
Categories: Savannah Grace
Looks very exciting! Wish I was there! Great Video also. Please keep them coming
Thought that was SO like Kees to pick up that old lady to help her out! Always so helpful and thoughtful! I do admit I would not be so eager to taste the mini-pig though… I’m sure, like everything else… it tasted somewhat like chicken, eh?
Beautiful story Savannah, as always you’ve introduced us to a corner of #TRLT in a way that brings its people and atmosphere to life. The Sacred Valley is now firmly on my list of “must” experiences. Thank you
Hey Roberta!! I’m so glad I’ve been able to show you The Sacred Valley and really hope you get there one day (soon!). See you on #TRLT 🙂
You really should have taken the time to actually get into Maras salt mines. They are so absolutly wonderful!
And they are not a touristy thing at all – in fact I only saw like a handful of them, since most tourists seem to just pass by on the road and not actually go into them. (Which is a pity but i liked that ^^)
Personally i spent 4 days in the sacred valley (and 3 more in cusco). 2 days would have felt like rushing and missing out. But i guess not everyone has that much time (and/or funds).
Great post you made dedicated to the salt mines. They are pretty incredible! Yes, I wish we had taken more time for SAcred Valley, one because there’s just so much to see and two, rushing like that only wears you down.
Oh oops. I didn’t read correctly – you went in. Hihi didn’t read that subordinate clause ^^
Guinea pig eating…….oh oh I can’t tell my daughter, she just got two of them. Not for eating!
Uh Oh!!! Sorry Melanee. Please don’t tell her. I’d never be able to face her again 🙂 Can’t wait to see you in October.