Day 57: The Tension Mounts

Tues. 9th October 2012

Ladies weaving projectWe are now only one day away from starting the Inca Trail. We have packed 3.5kg of clothes and essentials into the duffel bag provided, packed our day bags and left everything else in our hotel room.

Today we are heading off to discover the Sacred Valley which runs from Cusco all the way to Machu Picchu, and so we begin our journey following the valley. The scenery begins to change from the urban spread of Cusco, to terraced farmland and finally to uninhabited tree covered mountains.

First stop is to a village called Caccaccollo where there is a weaving project supported by G Adventures. The villagers have agreed to allow G Adventure tourists to come and see how they collect wool, die it and weave it. This project is carried out in the ladies spare time and by selling their products they can earn extra money for their community. One of G Adventures core values is “We love changing peoples lives” and this project is one example of how they are achieving this.

Terraces at PisacThe next stop is Pisac archaeological site where we walk up to the ruins overlooking the terraced mountainside. The main period of the Incas was from 1438 to 1534, when the Spanish arrived.

The terraces were originally built the Incas to reinforce the mountainside against erosion, especially against mudslides in the rainy season. The level ground was then used for agriculture, including potatoes of which there are over 3,800 different varieties grown in this area.

As we stand and listen to Percy telling us about the ruins and terraces, as well as Incan culture, a flute can be heard across the valley. The haunting sound fits in well with the sights and Percy’s description of the purpose of the buildings.

Gradually as we explore the area more tourists arrive and we are grateful for Percy’s advice to start early to beat the crowds. The sheer number of tourist becomes more evident as we find the approach road has become one huge coach park. At least our minibus had turned around and parked for a quick exit.

Tourist traffic jamNext is off to Pisac market. The streets in the town are narrow and are only just wide enough for coaches single file. There are already a dozen coaches and minibuses of various sizes stationary in front of us. We set off on foot to explore the market. On returning to the minibus there is one almighty traffic jam, and the only way out for the coaches is through the marketplace. Announcements are broadcast and shouts of “vamos vamos” ring out. Finally the buses at the front collect their passengers and move on clearing the way for those vehicles stuck in the side street to enter the market and collect their passengers.

The whole of the valley seems to be overrun by coach tours. Peru may have solved the overcrowding on the Inca Trail by restricting it to 500 people including guides and porters, but they now need to address the rest of the tourist trail. It will be interesting to compare Machu Picchu with Chichen Itza about how crowded it gets.

The first of many stepsAfter an “all you can eat” buffet lunch we returned to the coach for the drive to Ollantaytambo with the promise of getting to our hotel for a siesta. However at the last minute our guide changed his mind and said leave everything on the bus except water and cameras, the afternoon walk to the top of the Inca site was to be now, whilst it was not (too) overrun with tourists.

I decided that was a step too far and went to the hotel for my siesta anyway! Apparently the walk was fascinating and not as hard as the enormous stairway of steps first appeared. We learned that Ollantaytambo was named after Ollantay, a famous Inca military leader. We were also able to see the different building techniques used for royal buildings, where they carve individual boulders to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The stones then fit flush together and no mortar is needed to hold the wall intact. And this is done by a civilisation that did not use iron tools.

Our groupJust time for final last minute shopping for energy bars and water. We are now as ready as we will ever be and all of us cannot wait for the adventure to begin.

Supper was in a restaurant which is run by ex chefs from the Inca Trail, which was alright but made us wonder whether the food on the Inca Trail would be as good as we have been lead to believe. Tomorrow we will find out…….

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