We flew to Cuzco (center of the Inca world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site). There was a delay at airport; temporary evacuation with bomb sniffing dogs. No issue other than waiting an extra hour.
We didn't stay in town, but headed toward Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. We stopped at Chinchero which is a mountain weaving village at elevation of 12,500 feet (highest point of our entire trip). This village is the site of a 16 century Inca emperor’s estate; saw a weaving demonstration by three traditional Peruvian women. Along the way we stopped to see views of the Sacred Valley above Urubamba and tried coca leaves.
After a night in Urubamba, we started out Day in the Life by driving to Calca where we toured the cemetery. They rent their burial sites and build offendas honoring the departed.
Then we walked the streets near a Mercado. Tried quail eggs made by a street vendor. Bought items in the market for our home visit and learned about the different fruits/vegetables of the area.
Our guide hired several motor taxis (like a tuk-tuk) to take us to a place where a woman makes chicha, a local drink made from corn. During our visit we met a woman who was a victim of Fujimori's sterilization program; she shared her story and answered our questions.
Then we went to the school (as usual, a bit chaotic; visited a 6th grade) where Paul got the kids involved in playing a ball game. From there, we went to a home hosted lunch by Eleonora and her daughters in Urubamba. In the yard, there was a pen of live guinea pigs. We helped with some items of lunch. She then brought out a large tray with two stuffed guinea pigs which are considered a delicacy in Peru. Great soup and stuffed peppers also served. The host's granddaughter was precious while holding a guinea pig drumstick.
Back at hotel, some of us (not Steven) went with Henry to a local famous potters workshop (the man wasn’t there but he employs about 50 people so we got a tour and saw his work (I purchased just two round coasters). In the courtyard, there were 4 large beautiful German Shepherds. Afterwards at the hotel, we had a pisco sour demonstration before dinner.
Dinner was in the home of a chef who collects Inca ancient artifacts (museum quality). He and his artist wife have a home where it is part restaurant and part museum with a gallery to purchase art works by his wife). Cool place. Had to pack into a duffle for Machu Picchu for our one night there.
On the way to Machu Picchu we stopped an an Inca archaeological site at Ollantaytambo. We climbed up lots of steps alongside large terraces and took a portion of the Inca trail. The terraces had different levels of stone work showing the difference between quality work for leaders and priests vs. rest of population. Then we were off to Machu Picchu by train.
After returning to Cusco from Machu Picchu by train and bus, we took a walking tour the next day. Saw map of the old town from 1500’s that was part of a display sactually on the street. The city is Shaped like a Puma! Went to the cathedral Santa Domingo on the square, and then toured the Museum. Walked to the square where it started to rain.
We grabbed lunch at the square (lots of rain and lightning). Henry suggested that we visit Tipón 45 minutes out of Cusco. It was the 8th King’s retirement home. There are 12 ancient agricultural terraces and an Inca irrigation system which canals still carry water. It's quite an impressive example of Inca ingenuity and engineering skills.
For dinner, we went with Henry by local bus to his favorite pizza place. As we got there, all the electricity in the area went out. Restaurant looked nice with candles all over.
On our last day in Cusco we visited a hilltop citadel called Sacsayhuamon, It was built with huge stones assembled without modern tools; they fit perfectly together without mortar, even though each one differs in shape and size; some are as large as 125 tons. The site covers a large area with great city views from the top of the ruins.
On another hilltop nearby we stopped to look at the large ‘White Christ’ overlooking Cusco. It was given by local Muslims to Cusco Catholics in the 1940’s. Another archaeological site, Q’engo, is nearby and we walked through its ceremonial areas. In a ‘cave’, we saw a stone throne carved between the limestone rocks.
On way back, we stopped at Kenko which was a sacred ceremonial site. An Inca shaman from the highlands gave us each a blessing with special ingredients/materials he uses for the ceremony.