Saturday, July 12, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 9 (Sacred Valley)

Saturday, July 12, 2008
Another early start: didn't want to miss the plane. Watched the sun rise as we took the boat up the Rio de la Madre de Dios to the Boca Manu airport.
We "posed" for a photo while Kirby was really taking a picture of Rufino.
Fake pose
Percy, Willi, and Rob
At the airport, we had a short hike through the jungle to reach the open, thatched-roofed terminal in front of a cleared grassy area.
Airport terminal
Some men were digging a trench to put in a white t-marker for the end of the runway.
Runway work
Rufino and Willi carried our suitcases up from the boat. We tipped everyone very well on this trip to Manu!
Jan and Willi
Percy showed us restrooms at the nearby restaurant, which asked for 1 Sol, but Percy said he had an agreement with the restaurant and we didn’t have to pay. Wow, saved a couple Soles!
Back at the airport, two guys were on the radio and learned the plane had finally left Cusco. If the weather was too rainy, the plane would not come!
Airport check-in
Security warnings
Our suitcases were weighed, then each passenger was weighed, supposedly with our carry-ons, but I was the only one wearing my backpack.
Weight scale
One of the fellows carried the luggage out near the “airstrip”.
Luggage carrier
The birders from the groups that were waiting were birding still (Dark-billed Cuckoo?).
Still birding
Rob hangs out with the other guides
Finally we saw the lights of the plane as it came in for a landing.
Here comes the plane
Taxied up to the end of the runway and turned around.
Disembarking passengers
Passengers disembarked, and we headed out to board. We sadly learned Percy was not going to accompany us, but was staying to take on another group. But he walked us to the plane, and we said our goodbyes. We were supposed to board the plane in size order, biggest to smallest, but our biggest did not arrive until last.
So there was some re-arranging, and Kirby and Rob got to sit right behind the pilot and co-pilot!
Kirby behind the co-pilot
The seating was four rows of 1 and 2! The plane was brand new, a Cessna Grand Caravan, put into service in March 2008. The cabin was not pressurized, but we did have seatbelts, and "fasten your seatbelt" signs!
Fasten seatbelt lights
No beverage service, but great views on the 40-minute flight to Cusco.
We took off in one direction,
Taking off
made a big turn,
Circling over the Manu River
and headed back over the airport in the other direction.
Over the airport again
Over the jungle
Towards the mountains
Over the Andes
Approaching Cusco
Into Cusco nestled in an elongated bowl surrounded by mountains.
Cusco from the airplane
Right over town
Plane tail markings
Cusco Airport
At the Cusco airport, Rob took care of the luggage as the rest of us used restrooms,
then went out to the tourist van for the ride to Rob’s house.
Loading our van
We saw Ernaldo meeting another group, and he was wearing his seatbelt!
Apparently there was a national strike on July 9th, protesting the policies or non-policies of President Alan Garcia. On July 12th (today) and 13th, the strike was against the Fair Trade Agreement. Uniformed soldiers with heavy-duty armaments were all around the airport, protecting it in case the strike got out of hand. Otherwise we did not see much effect of a strike.
Soccer Day is for girls, too
At Rob’s, Jan and Kirby had coca tea and I had hot chocolate. I was just thirsty, but they were feeling the effects of altitude. We were to re-organize our suitcases and leave other clothes to be laundered, but Brynne and I figured we would just take both our suitcases. Anahi delivered our clean laundry to us. A doctor arrived to see Rob, and he concurred that there was an allergic reaction, but to what? He prescribed an injection and a salve.
We met Edward, our new guide, who accompanied us to lunch at the nearby Sabor de Cusco, a small storefront restaurant.
Odd spacing around grass
Sabor de Cusco restaurant
 Brynne had a chicken sandwich with potato sticks, and I had Sopa a la Criolla, a creamy noodle soup with ground beef and vegetables. We drank lemonade. Edward related that his parents were fans of the Kennedy clan, and that his name was Edward and not Eduardo. He also reported that, the day before, he participated in a local tradition when a friend invited him to a cookout. They gathered in a field and built a makeshift adobe oven to grill a meal. The oven was then left to crumble and return to the earth. We returned to the house in the small tourist bus to pick up Anahi and the two boys, and we were off to the Sacred Valley.
Ollie and Alex were so happy to be with Papa!
Horseback riders
We passed Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, and Puca Pucara. Puca Pucara means “Red Fort” in Quechuan. It is made from a pink granite and was likely a tambo, or post house for traveler lodging.
Puca Pucara
Our first stop was Awana Kancha (meaning “Place of the Weavers”),
Awana Kancha
South American Camelids
with a display of the four Camelidaes species, all of which are found in Peru. In corrals just up on the hillside were the two native species; the guanaco
and the vicuña.
Llamas are the domestic descendant of guanacos, which have a warm soft feel to their coats, making it a luxury fiber along with that of vicuñas. To survive high altitudes, guanacos have four times the hemoglobin of man. There are two types of domesticated llamas: lanudas (wooly or q’ara in Quechuan)
and peladas (non-wooly or ch'alcu in Quechuan).
Nursing llama
Llamas (pronounced “yamas” in Spanish) have a fine undercoat for very soft fibers which are lanolin-free for garments, and rougher outer fibers for rugs and lead ropes. Llamas are also used as pack animals, but alpacas are not.
The two types of domesticated alpacas (suri
and huacaya)
descend from the vicuña, which once provided fiber for garments woven specifically for royalty. The vicuña can only be shorn every three years, having the softest and warmest of fibers. Now vicuñas are protected, but poaching for vicuña wool still exists.
Young huacaya alpacas
Sneaking a snack
There are 52 natural colors of alpaca fibers in Peru, more than anywhere else in the world.
Alpaca fibers
Alpaca fibers are light-weight, lustrous and silky, and warm.
Indigenous citizens from 12 communities work with Awana Kancha to share in the profits. Several indigenous people in traditional dress were demonstrating their spinning and weaving at Awana Kancha.
Young boy
Women usually do the weaving on backstrap looms, but apparently there are many famous men weavers. A new loom has to be made for each weaving.
Woman with backstrap loom
Man spooling wool
Another weaver
There was an area showing a large variety of natural and dyed fibers.
Dyed wool
A diorama depicted the history of raising llamas.
Lastly there was a gigantic shop, with room upon room of alpaca-fiber products and weavings, from traditional to modern designs. One particular design looked like colorful M. C. Escher stairs, which represented Inca terracing. The shop products were very costly! So I just left a tip.
Across the street, and on most of the homes in the area, you could see a pair of ceramic bulls perched on the top of the roofline, often along with a wooden cross.
House with toritos and cross
The little bulls, or toritos, bring good fortune, protect from evil and symbolize togetherness and fertility. Sometimes there was a ladder leaning on the cross to represent when someone gave Christ a taste of common wine on a sponge, or else to show upward progress. And sometimes there are other small objects to represent either the occupation or desires of the house occupants.
After crossing one set of mountains, we descended into the town of Pisac, surrounded by Inca terraces on the hillsides, with a major Inca ruin perched precariously above the town.
Town of Pisac
Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley
Inca ruin
I had read about a Sunday market that ran 9 AM to 3 PM, and also ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but here it was Saturday, and there was a large market set up.
Pisac market
We agreed to a stop, and Brynne and I did a quick scan of what was for sale, found an ATM to get more Soles, and then quickly made purchases. We did a bit of bargaining, but were generally willing to pay what was asked, because it was still cheap! We bought lucky seed bracelets and a pair of earrings from one girl, and I started my bargaining too low, because I paid less than what I was going to settle for! Then we returned to a hat vendor, and purchased a typical knit hat with ear flaps with a llama design. However, we recognized that it was machine-made, and also bought a handmade one.
Hat vendor with Brynne
The vendor tried to sell us a gaudy virgin’s hat, and other hats, so that she wouldn’t have to make change for us, but we were done shopping!
Inca Cola t-shirt
We then sat with the Rob's family as Jan and Kirby finished shopping. Small children begged for money, asking us to take photos of them. The plaza was surrounded by the typical Spanish colonial architecture with the second-floor wooden balconies.Back in the bus, we continued on to the Sacred Valley. Alec fell asleep, but Ollie kept exclaiming over things he saw out the window.
Ollie: “Montaña! Montaña con nieve!” (Mountain with snow!)
El Valle Sagrado de los Incas (Sacred Valley of the Incas) is the valley of the Rio Vilcanota or Wilcamayu, as it is called upstream from Pisac, and Rio Urubamba as it is called downstream from Pisac. It is very fertile for growing white corn, oca (a tuber similar to the potato), and potatoes. The Incas maximized agricultural areas with terracing far up the mountainsides.
We also saw lots of cactus with white patches on them. This was evidence of the cochineal insect, the source of a deep crimson dye. The cochineal insect is “domesticated” in the Sacred Valley.
The Rio Urubamba is thought to be a reflection of the Milky Way, and the cities in the valley were laid out in shapes to mirror the constellations. The valley is also the route to follow to the jungle.
Our next stop was in Urubamba, a large town with a view of the Chicon snow-capped mountain peaks and glaciers.
We opted to stop at the Seminario-Behar Ceramic Studio on Calle Berriozebal, which was lined with immense pisonay trees. Pablo Seminario established his studio in 1980 on the grounds of the former Hostal Urpihausi. He investigated pre-Columbian techniques and designs, and uses handmade ancient glazes. The ceramics are fired in a reproduction kilns.
Seminario entrance
Seminario courtyard
The place was filled with ceramics, in and on the walls,
floors, fountains,
etc. of the building, even in the restrooms.
Restroom door
Restroom wall
Then of course the shop had all types of tiles, sculptures, murals, vases, dinnerware, trays, soap dishes, mail holders, frames, business card holders, buttons, bells, mirrors, clocks, lamps, candle holders, windchimes, furniture, and jewelry. There were also display cases with samples of ceramics from the different Peruvian cultures through history. Prices were high,
But that coffee table was cheaper than ours by Sticks!
Coffee table
We made some purchases and waited in the courtyard with the hummingbirds, a couple caged macaws, and a Night Monkey co-habitating with a rabbit. Edward mentioned that the Cusco area has yellow and white clays due to crushed shells in it, good for ceramics. The shells exist here because this area was once all underwater, until the Andes were pushed up.
It was dark when we climbed back in the bus and headed to the next small town of Yanahuara. We turned right and headed up and up a dirt road. Finally arrived at a posh hotel, the Libertador Valle Sagrado Lodge. We have really moved up from the jungle!
Lodge building
Large rooms were in several adobe buildings on the hillside, each with a patio or balcony overlooking the landscaped grounds with water running through it.
There were two double beds with wrought-iron headboards depicting hummingbirds.
We had full-time electricity, hot water, and a basket of snacks and drinks.
We had satellite TV, a DVD player, a telephone, and a hair dryer. There were two large wardrobes, with a safe in one, and a portable electric heater.
A bathroom with colorful tiles of hummingbirds and flowers, with beautiful thick towels with appliquéd flowers on them.
The lights appeared to have fabric shades with the same flowers stamped on them.
Lamp shade
When we went to the jungle, we left our passports at Rob’s, as they were not needed. Apparently the government does not keep track of tourists in the jungle. But here we were required to let the hotels take a copy of our original passports along with the tourist card we received at immigration. The government could check on the hotels to see if they had this information for every person staying.
Went to the hotel’s Patacancha restaurant for dinner. Alec and Ollie ate their spaghetti and lomo saltado with gusto. Brynne and I had soup and “entrees” which were actually appetizers, but that was all we needed. Mine was trout done Tiradito style, a cold dish with strips of sashimi-like trout in a spicy red sauce, along with roasted corn and sweet potatoes. Brynne had thin slices of roast beef with mustard and pickles. Later in the room, she watched Scooby Doo in Spanish on TV.
Next: Day 10 Malaga Pass.

1 comment:

-hh said...

What a wonderful surprise tonight!

We visited Manu in 2004 ... and that same airstrip. The Terminal Building was just starting its construction then; looks like it turned out to be quite nice.

A small footnote, of course. Glad you enjoyed your trip.