Urubamba valley, also known as El Valle Sagrado, which means the Sacred Valley, is one of the most popular places of interest in Peru. It contains famous ruins of ancient Inca buildings. The valley was called Sacred as it contains the most perfect land and has never been just part of the Empire, but belonged personally to the Inca Emperor. It is a picturesque place situated fifteen kilometers from Cuzco. It can also boast of the most beautiful citadels Ollantaytambo and Pisac, where ancient warriors could find refuge and modern travelers seek excitement.
Peru is a beautiful country with spectacular landscapes and lots of interesting places to visit. It is enough to say that this country has nearly 85 climate zones to understand that one can never be bored of this place. This is the third biggest country in South America. Due to a great variety of ethnical groups and climates, there are so many new places to visit, interesting people to talk to, and fascinating stories to hear. Both the country’s present culture and ancient history give a person enough thrilling impressions and ideas to think about after the trip, a new perspective for understanding the world we live in. One will never regret visiting this country.
I travel a lot in this country and it is amazing how many unbeaten paths there are in one of the most touristic places in the world – the Sacred Valley. I felt confident enough to venture out of my hideout near Urubamba. Ollantaytambo was to be the first Inca spot I would visit. Having seen papas rellenas – a kind of fried mashed potato filled with egg and other tasty stuff – everywhere for sale in the village the day before, I really had my mind set on having at least one of those for breakfast. But to no avail. I looked everywhere in and around the market, and everyone was selling other stuff, which I was not craving for that morning. Could it be that Tuesday is papa rellena day? Well, there must be papa rellenas in Ollantaytambo, I consoled myself while drinking my morning fruit juice. The day began and not a moment was to be wasted as a trip to Ollantaytambo was waiting for me; but I was determined to try papa rellenas some time later.
I hopped onto a combi, a shared minivan taxi, to Ollantaytambo, which is probably slightly over half an hour away. Time runs differently here, sometimes making me lose feel of it. No papa rellena at the market in Ollantaytambo either. Guess what? I even went to the tourist information office to ask where I can find a “mamita” selling those tasty snacks. The man working at the information desk said that there was a lady who made a round of the village with her basket full of them and that if she was not in the plaza, she would most likely be at the entrance to the ruins. Well, I saw her at neither spot. So, deciding that almost a liter of fruit juice was enough for the breakfast, I paid my entrance and started the circuit in the order one is supposed to.
It was a glorious experience. I will not dwell too much on what the ancient spots are considered to mean and their history and all that. Wikipedia is there for that; although, of course, the official versions of history are very doubtful, to say the least. I even heard guides asserting that the Incas built the site, when that is a more than uncertain theory, one that I do not buy at the face value. If it were human beings that built the site, they must have been humans in shape only. One can watch documentaries about the ancient spots with monoliths weighing up to 70+ tons each in the Sacred Valley and read books about them, but finding oneself face to face with them and touching them is a whole other story.
This question really occupied me for a while and I gave it a lot of thinking. Could these Godlike humans have built these just in order to remind generations to come that we humans are Gods, too? Thus wondering I continued my journey.
The archeological site is immense; and one could easily spend the whole day exploring it, especially if one has had papas rellenas previously. I spent a little over three hours there, and so much of it escaped my attention and a map would have been a nice touch taking into account that the entrance is not cheap. Yet, I was mostly focusing on the monoliths, which to me seemed like remnants of a more ancient culture than the rest of the comparatively shabbily built structures more recently. Of course, the people versed in official Peruvian history – one that states that the Incas did all of this – explain that the Incas used different technologies for building different kinds of structures.
The most sophisticated and effort-consuming techniques were used for building the level for the Gods, the next level down was for the rulers and then, what I call the shabby technique, there was a level for the commonfolks. I do not buy that explanation, simply because some of the holiest places that have these huge monoliths are also filled out in places by the least sophisticated technique, most likely where for some reason the original structure was damaged and the later cultures had no capability to restore it to its original state. One can dwell on this subject forever discussing lots of theories and presenting numerous arguments. But discovering the ultimate truth of the archeological mysteries of this place was not the point of my trip. So, let this problem be left for researchers and for everyone to develop one’s own point of view.
For me, one of the highlights of the visit was spending time in some of the niches cut out of the mountain itself so smoothly as if the mountain were warm butter cut with a sharp knife. And it was not only because signs were up trying to prevent one from climbing up onto them. The inorganic stone seemed to have a memory of sorts and that memory connected to some part of me that I did not even fully have access to. But let’s not get too far into the mystics here. Suffice it to say that a niche relatively high up in the Temple of the Condor sector charged me with something.
The day was far from being over. New impressions, revelations, and adventures were waiting. After washing my face and hands in the icy water flowing down the ancient channels from the glaciers, I got exited with the ruins thinking about going back in the same day as the ticket allowed doing so. I walked around looking for food; I was not yet hungry enough to go to the first place that happened on my path. I found myself in some narrow streets though they were all really narrow. Ollantaytambo, apart from Cuzco, is apparently the only Inca-inhabited town that still has a population. I was admiring the light reflecting off of the water-carrying channels, when two tourists that I crossed paths with several times in the ruins, bumped into me. They were going up to the lesser-visited ruins across from Ollantaytambo. Well, having skipped breakfast, lunch could be skipped as well. I tagged along with them. We followed the path most of the way, diverging from it at one point and doing some minor rock climbing.
I have never regretted this turn of events. Even one of the most visited places in the Sacred Valley had such idylls of peace where one could sit for hours enjoying the view, being “caressed” by the wind and wanting nothing, at least until hunger levels rise sufficiently. Having exchanged phone numbers with my new friends, I parted from them after supper and made my way back to cozy Urubamba, which is my home now.
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Since the ticket I bought for Ollantaytambo also included Moray, provided I visited both spots in two consecutive days, I decided to head out to these enigmatic ancient “crop circles” the next morning. I left relatively late as the sun started warming the Valley up later than usual and I made it by car to my point of departure, Maras, at 11 am. Everyone tried to offer me rides from there to the ruins themselves, but the point was walking possibly even more than getting to the place itself. They all kept saying that it was 9 kilometers all far and uphill. I think they lied. Without any rush, I made it in an hour and a quarter. No way I could walk that fast.
Although I promised not to bore with historical details offering the services of good old loyal Wikipedia, I shall say a couple of words about Moray. It is considered to be some kind of experimental agricultural endeavor, where the Incas tested different crops in different climate zones. They say, the difference between the top and the bottom layers is up to fifteen degrees centigrade. I did not feel much of a difference in temperature or climate, although I did hear tourists acknowledge that they did when their guide would mention this fact. Nor was this “bowl” deep enough, in my opinion, for such a difference in temperature. Nevertheless, it was certainly a wicked place. It was almost certainly used for agriculture as well. But was that its only purpose? I do not know. We shall never really know. I spent almost two hours chilling at the bottom of Moray, alternating between shade and sun. It was quite a trick watching the tourists come and go. There were periods when they would leave me all alone with the great circles.
People on vacation do the dandiest things. Walking back, however, was possibly more thrilling than the site itself. The people at the entrance all tried to convince me if I had to walk, I really should go back to Maras and then get a car back to Urubamba; but I had already done that route, and no way was I going back the same way. Finally some workers a little further away told me that indeed I would get back to the valley if I walked in the opposite direction from the village of Maras. Their estimates differed between 3 and 20 kilometers. Well, even if it were twenty, I would make it just as it would be getting dark; so, I headed off. In all, the route took me two hours and twenty minutes to the highway that goes back to Urubamba. But all in its due time.
I first followed a winding road with not a soul to be seen anywhere. When it got too winding, I decided to take a shortcut and walk down the steep incline. No danger there. Just had to step carefully and take thorns out of my shoes every once in a while. It saved me a bunch of time for sure. The hillside was littered with mollusk shells, which led to researching later on where they could have come from, coming upon mind-boggling theories about the formation of the Andes, only to be told later on that these particular shells I saw were not ancient marine shells, but remnants of the rainy seasons. After walking through fields of wheat (or is that barley in the photo?), I finally found myself on top of a cliff overlooking the Urubamba valley. The road at this point was really far away, and I felt adventure calling. To me, this is what travelling is all about; especially travelling on one’s own (other people usually do not go for what they call my “follies”).
It is about the unknown, about not knowing where you will end up and what you will see on the way. Isn’t that the main reason we escape our routine and go to places we are not familiar with? It is, to put it briefly, about getting lost. Ideally, one does not get so lost as to never find one’s way again, but just enough to get nervous and not to know when one will get to one’s ultimate destination. If one never gets lost, how can one be found? After several attempts to find a way to get down the mountain, I finally found several. But the awesome thing was the mountain itself. At first, amidst the millions of shells, I started seeing pieces of crystals here and there. But gradually, the crystals became more and more common until at one point I realized I was climbing down pure crystal. I was walking on a mountain of crystal, all the way up to its surface. In exchange for some coca leaves, the mountain allowed me to take a small piece with me.
The mountain goat that I am, I finally skidded all the way down to the valley bottom, finding thorns absolutely everywhere in my clothes and shoes as a result of the descent. A short walk along the bank, and there I was amidst human civilization crossing the river on a railroad bridge and making it to the highway. Once back in Urubamba, I knew that if I made it home, there was no way I could make myself leave again; so, I scarfed some chicken and hobbled up to my residence letting the oldest of men pass me by. Once inside, there could be no thoughts of showers or anything else but beds. The next day, I had plans to go the holiest of holies – Q’osqo, for which Cuzco is a new spelling.
Waking up bright and early, although still feeling that descent in my gluteus, I had my breakfast (papa rellena, of course) and was on the bus to the capital at 9:30. What can I say about Cuzco? It is absolutely magical. I have never seen anything like it in my life. In all honesty, I could not even imagine that a city could look like that. And it is not just about aesthetics; it is also the feel of the place. It is something. I walked around, sat in parks, went into a church, ate, walked around more, sat more, etc. The day flew by before I knew it.
Altogether it was an amazing experience that is valuable in the influence it has upon a traveler. The Sacred Valley is a magical place that makes one throw aside all the former prejudice about the way life should be lived and remember things that are really dear. The beauty of the country, the new acquaintances one makes on the way, the spirit of adventure, the experience of an explorer change a person a little and one enters a new day being a better human being than before.
The Sacred Valley was a cradle of Inca civilization, the source of strength of their Empire. It is difficult to present the sole emotional impression of this place overlooking the rich history of the Inca Civilization for it is closely connected with the present culture of the country. No wonder the Secret Valley attracts so many tourists from all over the world for not only Peru has beautiful landscapes due to a variety of climate zones but also because its history presents a lot of questions to be solved considering the foggy past of humanity and its natural potential.
A travel to Peru differs from general amusement modern tourists usually search for nowadays. The ancient wisdom of this place inclines to walking while enjoying the beauty of mountains and rivers and ancient ruins. The place has some unique energy, which one cannot experience anywhere else and which cannot be easily described but felt once and treasured for the rest of the life since.