After yet another delicious breakfast prepared by Margarita, our driver picked us up for a big day of touring. Rather than stay in the valley, we made our way up the mountainside, first stopping at a viewing point looking down over the town of Urubamba. As soon as we got out of the van, I made a little friend. She grabbed me by the hand and took me up to the viewing point where she insisted on sitting on my lap, hugging me and, I do believe following instructions from her mother, putting my sunglasses on. Her brother soon enjoyed the fun. Dressed in traditional clothing, they could not have been more adorable….
We continued up the mountain and into spectacular countryside whichever way we looked. Our first stop, after a rather dramatic descent on a steep and windy dirt road, was to Salineras, the terraced Inca salt pans which are still in use. A fascinating place that was unlike anything most of us had ever seen. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to buy salt and delicious salted chocolate. We also got our first taste of Chicha beer, a homemade fermented corn concoction that tastes fruity. There was a lady at a stand with a big pot of it. It won’t sway me away from the Pisco Sour, my drink of choice here, but it was interesting to try it! When you drive through towns, places that sell it have a red flag outside indicating that it is available. It’s cheap, and it’s strong!
After leaving here, we drove through the nearby town of Maras, a charming place. At one point we had to stop to allow a funeral procession to pass us. Not wanting to be disrespectful, we decided not to take photos, however I did manage a somewhat blurry shot after the procession had passed us. Everyone was on foot, dressed in black, the coffin was carried by on the shoulders of men and the playing of brass instruments accompanied the proceedings. A fascinating spectacle to witness and somewhat reminiscent of the tradition of funerals in New Orleans.
Our second stop was to Moray where we saw the concentric crop terracing, started by the Incas as a way of growing multiple types of crops that require different temperatures to grow. The lower the terrace, the cooler the temperature. It’s a dramatic and interesting sight. The surrounding scenery was breathtaking.
After our volunteer photo taker got us in a somewhat buoyant mood, we declared loudly that it was time for a Pisco Sour and lunch. Apparently we proved to be too rambunctious for an English tour group, as one of the women came over to ask us to be quiet because they couldn’t hear their guide, at which point Cherry muttered to DJ, much to his amusement, “Oh f@&$ ’em”. It was definitely Pisco Sour and lunchtime.
We headed up to the small town of Chinchero, the birthplace of our driver and a place famous for its market, weaving and textile centers and the 400 year old church at the top of the hill, built on an ancient foundation of an Incan temple. We stopped first at a restaurant which was empty and despite slow service, produced a delicious lunch complete with the desired Pisco Sours and beers. The trout Ceviche was one of the best I’ve tasted so far.
It turned out that the lady waiting on us was our driver’s sister and she also worked at the weaving center just behind the restaurant. After lunch we were invited to a presentation on how the wool is treated, turned into yarn and dyed using natural substances to include vegetables and the insect, the cochinelle, the blood of which can be combined with things such as limes to produce different colors. It was fascinating and the ladies were delightful and naturally invited us to shop afterwards. I bought one of the lovely table runners which evidently takes many days to complete. I just love all the color here, everywhere, in clothing, food, the contrasting colors in the scenery, and of course the markets.
After our weaving education, we headed up to the church. Some of us made the steep trek up there, others were happy to rest or shop. Those of us who went up to the church were glad we did. No photos allowed but it was stunning inside. You could see the Incan base of the wall then all around, beautiful painted walls, ceilings, wood carvings, art work and gold leaf at the altar. It seems unbelievable that a place this opulent exists in such a small rural town. We were both moved and in awe of the such a special place. Outside, a number of vendors were on the lawn selling yet more textiles. Had I had an unlimited budget and unlimited luggage space, I probably would have bought half of it. The colors are so vibrant and the textures so very rich. I’m still going to have to buy an extra bag for all the goods I’ve already purchased! As we made our way back, the sun was setting and we enjoyed the beautiful light that it cast on this little mountain town.
Our big day out exhausted us and we were happy to be “home”. It all led to a bit of a meltdown moment for me, quickly remedied by DJ (thank you!) who decided I needed wine and refilled my glass the minute it emptied, more than once…we then shared restaurant stories which was of course highly entertaining and it wasn’t long before laughter and good cheer filled the room. It was an amazing day!