Ready to see some Inca Ruins?

Let's go check out Saksawayman!

We've been in Cusco for a week already, and it's been great!
On our first day, we stuck around our neighbourhood and just got settled in. We didn't get too affected by the altitude, other than some shortness of breath and feeling a bit tired. Then, on Wednesday, we toured the Inca Ruins above the city: there are four sites there: Saksaywaman, Q'enqo, Pakapukara, Tambomachay, and the statue of San Cristobal that stands over the city. That day, my health tracker said I had walked 8 km, and climbed the equivalent of 16 floors! 

 Partial view of Saksaywaman

Partial view of Saksaywaman

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 A water fountain at Tambomachay.

A water fountain at Tambomachay.

 San Cristobal viewed from Saksaywaman

San Cristobal viewed from Saksaywaman

 The lamas were just hanging out in the large field at the base of the ruins.

The lamas were just hanging out in the large field at the base of the ruins.

 View of Cusco from Saksaywaman

View of Cusco from Saksaywaman

 A ceremonial table in a cave at Q'enqo

A ceremonial table in a cave at Q'enqo

 
 
 

And now, on to the Sacred Valley!

On Friday, we continued our exploration with a tour of Sacred Valley. Lucas was our driver, a great guy who speaks English very well. He started our tour in Chinchero, the small village where he was born. There, we visited the Chinchero Ruins, and on our way out, we bought Choclo, a Peruvian variety of corn on the cob served with a piece of cheese.  Very, very yummy!

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 A church is now constructed on the site of the Chinchero ruins.

A church is now constructed on the site of the Chinchero ruins.

 This photograph does not do justice to the size of these terraces.

This photograph does not do justice to the size of these terraces.

And then, on to Ollantaytambo

But on the way, we saw some amazing views.  The valley's main industry is agriculture, and they grow a wide range of produce here, from corn, strawberries, quinoa, pineapple, avocadoes, and as many as 300 different kinds of potatoes! They also raise livestock.

 A view of the valley with farms and the mountains at the horizon. The clouds were very nice to appear for the photograph!

A view of the valley with farms and the mountains at the horizon. The clouds were very nice to appear for the photograph!

 A view of Urubamba from above, before we started our descent into the valley.

A view of Urubamba from above, before we started our descent into the valley.

The Ollantaytambo Ruins

When we got to the Ollantaytambo ruins, we decided we were just not climbing those stairs!!!  Our friend the llama encouraged us to go on, so we took a look and figured we'd just climb a few levels, take a few photographs and then head back down. But once we got started, it didn't seem all that bad. We would stop every few levels and sit for a few minutes, just to catch our breath. I would wait until my heart rate dropped down, then we'd continue. 

 Nope! not climbing those!

Nope! not climbing those!

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 At the top level on the left was the Temple of the Sun.

At the top level on the left was the Temple of the Sun.

 View as we were getting closer to the top.

View as we were getting closer to the top.

The construction in this section of the ruins is particularly remarkable. The size of the stones and the precision with which they were fitted together is simply astonishing. It is difficult to conceive how the Incas were able to achieve such sophisticated construction.

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Once you reach the top of the left side of the ruins, you then walk across to the right side. At first, this looked easy peasy! All flat! yeah!!! But then, at one point, we came to the top of the first section and we had to cross to another section. There was a sign at the beginning of the path that informed us that this part was "Peligro" (dangerous)... Oh well, we thought, let's try and we can turn back if we find it's too much. The thing was that there was no railing whatsoever, and after a while, the path got narrower, and the drop got much more cliff-like. It was still okay, but we took it very slowly. I kept holding on to the rock wall, always leaning inward! We finally managed to make it to the other side, but then there was a little path that led to some old house structure that looked really interesting. This path looked just fine, until we got closer... It got narrower, more uneven, and we had to climb a few steps and then take a sharp turn left, still with no railing! What was I thinking!???

I nearly turned back. One more step, maybe? And another? Well, I finally made it! Henry was ahead of me and he just kept saying "be careful"... I just kept thinking "now I got to go back the same way"... But it all worked out, and I feel like I conquered my fear of heights a little more with one more challenge. 

 That's a bit of a drop... See that path in the circle? It did say: 'peligro'!

That's a bit of a drop... See that path in the circle? It did say: 'peligro'!

 What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?

I nearly turned back. One more step, maybe? And another? Well, I finally made it! Henry was ahead of me and he just kept saying "be careful"... I just kept thinking "now I got to go back the same way"... But it all worked out, and I feel like I conquered my fear of heights a little more with one more challenge. 

The way down was easier, even if some of the steps were nearly knee-high. We both felt pretty happy to have made it all the way through.  Our health monitor on our iPhone measured 8,488 steps, or 6 km, and had climbed the equivalent of 23 floors! 

Feeling grateful for my physiotherapist who helped me fix my knee problem!

On to Pisac and then back to Cusco!

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We stopped for a late lunch and the food was unimpressive, but we were hungry so it did the trick. By then, we were pretty tired. We drove through Pisac and we went to see the Pisac Ruins, but we just took some photographs from afar. It was much too late for us to even think about climbing them.

After that, we drove back to Cusco. At that point, we were coming back up to Cusco's altitude, so the roads were winding back and forth, but it wasn't too intense, and the roads are in very good condition, much better than I had expected. The views were magnificent! The photographs I include here only hint at the grandeur of the Andes. It really is a case of "you got to be there to really see it".

 The view of Sacred Valley as we were on our way back up toward Cusco. The sun was just setting and the light was wonderful and the hills look velvety.

The view of Sacred Valley as we were on our way back up toward Cusco. The sun was just setting and the light was wonderful and the hills look velvety.

I plan to write a longer post on what I learn about the Incas, as we go and visit more sites, but for now, I can say that I was truly impressed with the scale of these ruins. It is difficult to understand how they were able to construct these structures, at such altitude. The rocks are enormous and they fit together perfectly. They also had very sophisticated irrigation system, collecting underwater water from within the mountain. The more I learn about their history, the more fascinating it becomes.

Tomorrow, we're headed to Aguas Calientes where we will sleep for two nights. Tuesday, we visit Machu Pichu. We're hoping for good weather, as this is the rainy season. I am very much looking forward to this part of our trip, and I will be sure to get back to my blog when we get back to Cusco.