Peru’s Sacred Valley

This time I decided to change my way of travelling and tag along to one of my auntie’s tour groups to Peru! I managed to convince my cousin to come along with me so it’s been quite nice to have some family around after such a long time.

The Sacred Valley is a region of Peru in the Andes that spands approx 60km. The area included Cusco as well as Machu Picchu and other smaller Inca cities.

We landed in Cusco early in the morning and immediately the altitude took effect on us. Cusco is around 3200m above sea level and the amount of oxygen in the air is dramatically lower than at sea level. So you walk a couple of steps and you already feel out of breath. The altitude also makes it seem like you’re squashed and it gives you a headache. To acclimatise to it, you should relax, not do any exercise, drink lots of water and consume coca (a leaf from the plant that produces cocaine that helps your body adjust to the altitude). They say that it takes at least 48h to get used to the altitude. Fortunately, my fortnightly runs in the USA allowed me to retain some sort of level of fitness so the altitude didn’t effect me that badly, however on the second night, my auntie didn’t quite make it to the hotel and lost all of her dinner on the side of the road.

Cusco has the closets airport to Machu Picchu so naturally it’s a big tourist destination. The city is filled with hostels and hotels everywhere and lots of people speak English to accomodate the foreign crowds. Cusco back in the day was considered the main hub for trade of the area. Recently though it has majorly expanded  from all the revenue the tourism brings and you can see how the people have started to construct their houses up the nearby mountains.

Walking along the streets you can still see the effect the Spanish colonisation had on the city. But the interesting part is that when they colonised Cusco, they constructed over the Inca city, so you can see the bases to the Inca buildings they originally used. For example the Church of Santo Domingo was constructed over an Inca temple of Qorikancha, the temple of the sun. The streets also still retain the Inca architecture so the water drains run along the middle of the streets and the roads tend to be very narrow. This kinda causes a problem for the traffic because there isn’t really enough space for pedestrians and cars at the same time. In Cusco watch out for aggressive drivers. There are no traffic lights in olden part of the city so cars don’t give way to pedestrians. They tend to also have a short patience when it comes to driving.

As well as Cusco, we visited the Inca ruins Pisac. Pisac is located around 40km from Cusco and it’s believed that it defended the southern entrance of the Sacred Valley and that it was also built to connect the Inca empire to the edge of the rainforest. The ruins in Pisac were mostly agricultural. The different ledge levels provided Incas with different temperatures and altitudes to grow different crops. Pisac is also know for its market. A thing you should know, I’m a sucker for markets, however I hate getting hassled. In Peru people will chase you down to street to sell you things. In the market, the owners constantly try to sell you things and to get your attention to their merchandise. Personally it made me feel overwhelmed and I made my auntie haggle for prices instead of me. The vendors know that you’re a tourist so they will naturally increase the prices of the goods. While I morally believe that they should receive more money as they probably don’t make minimum wage, I also don’t want to be taken advantage of.

More on Peru to come!

– Nadia


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