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Sacred Valley and Lares Trek: Off to Machu Picchu!

Hi Folks,

Gordon and I are checking in from the beautiful Inkaterra Hotel at the gateway to Machu Picchu. Believe or not, we’re in the jungle! The hotel has 378 varieties of orchids on its grounds along with a tea plantation and hummingbirds galore.

This morning we woke up early and hiked up to Pinkuylluna, the Incan granaries above the town of Ollantaytambo. It was a steep but short hike that got the blood pumping and helped burn off some of the quinoa pudding we ate last night.

The view from inside the site was breathtaking.

Our next stop was across the valley, the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo. During the Spanish invasion and the conquest of Peru, Ollantaytambo served as the last stronghold for Inca Manco Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance at the time.

I found an Incan bouldering wall at the top of the site. Looks like a V3.

We were amazed at the huge stones the Inca carved and brought to the top of this site.

Here’s another shot of Gordon thoroughly enjoying the tour. Don’t let that face fool you. He was really impressed 🙂 Tomorrow we are heading to Machu Picchu! Stay tuned for lots of photos.

-Mary

Sacred Valley and Lares Trek: Down the Inca Trail

Hi Folks,

Today was another mix of incredibly scenic trekking coupled with fascinating exploration of Incan culture. From Lares Pass (14,566′), we hiked down the Incan trail to the small community of Totora (12,070′).

For the roughly four hours we were on the trail, we basked in the rich solitude of the Lares Valley interrupted only by gangs of llama. They mainly kept to themselves.

The llama did seem a little nosy, but we were on their turf.

In addition to the llama, we did run into a group of local women bringing potato seeds up the valley.

As we dropped deeper into the valley, the terrain changed drastically. It was almost like we were on a completely different hike!

Dotted in the cliffs above the trail were countless burial niches. I scrambled up a side trail and peeked into one but there was no mummy home.

While in the town of Totora, I ran into a gal that looked just like me! I wonder how she scored that sweet Rab tech tee. Nice.

After the hike, we headed to our gorgeous hotel outside of the town of Ollantaytambo and refueled with fresh delicious salads and grilled chicken. Yum!

After lunch, we toured the town of Ollantaytambo and explored the town. There were traces of the Inca everywhere from the aqueducts that still run down the streets to the original stone masonry at the bottom of most buildings.

Natural barbed wire?

If you ever wondered how locals raise cuy (guinea pig) wonder no further. Cuy coop!

To wrap up the day, we visited an artisanal brewery. Many of their beers are made with local products. We were impressed.

Do you want to trek through the beautiful Sacred Valley while eating gourmet food, communing with llamas AND getting up close and personal with fascinating Incan archeological sites? You’re in luck! Gordon and I have been so impressed with the Sacred Valley and Lares Adventure that we are going to be adding it to our trekking repertoire for 2018. Stay tuned for more details on that and photos from the rest of our recon mission.

-Mary

Lares Trek Day 2

Hi Folks,

We just wrapped up another wonderful day in the Sacred Valley. After saying farewell to our jacuzzi llamas, we strolled through the small town of Lamay and picked up bags of freshly baked bread to hand out to local children we might meet on our travels.

From Lamay, we headed to the archaeological site of Ancasmarca.

The Incas used the circular structures to store myriad varieties of food.

Think of how many pounds of quinoa could fit in there!

From Ancasmarca, we loaded into our sweet Mercedes van and drove through lush valleys dotted with llama and sheep of all colors. The drive was spectacular! After about an hour, we arrived at Cuncani (12,595′), the start of our hike.

We followed the Inca Trail up into the clouds and left the valley far behind.

After hiking steadily upwards for a few hours, we reached Cruzccasa Pass (13,838′) and basked in the amazing view while noshing on a tasty sack lunch.

The hike down to Huacahuasi Lodge was just as beautiful as the way up to the pass. I couldn’t get over the rich texture of the hills and all the shades of green. The clouds were racing across the sky which made for a dramatic scene.

Our trusty support horse with extra water, a full medical kit, and additional safety supplies.

After another few hours, we arrived at Huacahuasi Lodge. From the brightly colored traditional textiles and hats dotting the space to a jacuzzi on every balcony (seriously) this place is divine. I told Gordon I was planning on staying and working remotely. Unsurprisingly, he vetoed so you can expect another post from our next location tomorrow. It was worth a shot.

-Mary

Lares Trek Day 1: Into the Sacred Valley

Hi Folks,

We just wrapped up our first official day of the Sacred Valley + Lares Adventure and we are currently communing with llamas WHILE in a jacuzzi. If you don’t believe me, scroll down to the bottom of this post!

We left Cusco not so early this morning and headed into the Sacred Valley. As you can see from the photo, it was gorgeous! Even Gordon was impressed.

We winded our way up through the hills to the small community of Amaru (13,150′) and picked up a couple of burros and the most adorable burro whisperer- Nadia. We hiked up and over Challwacasa Pass (14,200′) and down to the community of Viacha.

Nadia and the burros.

Up close and personal with the burros. Yes, I wanted to burro-nap them.

The terrain we crossed was beautiful.

When we were almost to Viacha, we came across a herd of sheep with a couple of rouge alpaca in the midst. Yes, there were many little lambs and they were adorable.

When we stopped for lunch, there was a display of local Peruvian crops for us to investigate. Peru provides half the world’s supply of quinoa and several types were present along with a medley of beans, corn, and a ridiculous variety of potatoes.

Gordon’s found a new friend. Anyone wearing a Yankee’s cap is a good egg in his book.

During lunch we feasted on a traditional Peruvian meal cooked under hot stones called Pachamancha.

There were potatoes galore, giant corn, succulent meats, delicious salads, mushroom ceviche (!!!) and…cuy (guinea pig). The g-pig was…pretty okay. To soothe our mountain air patched lips, there was warm purple corn drink favored with cinnamon and cloves. Yum!

After we were way too full to be hiking, we headed down to the archaeological site of Pisaq; an ancient Incan citadel.

After touring the ruins, we headed to the beautiful Lamay Lodge. From the jacuzzi, you can gaze out into the verdant hills of the Sacred Valley and…make eyes at llama.

All in all, it was a fantastic start to the Sacred Valley and Lares adventure!

-Mary

Cusco Day 2: More Sightseeing + Delicious Food

Hi Folks,

Today was our second day in Cusco and we were excited to get out and tour the city. After a ridiculously good breakfast at El Retablo that featured everything from traditional Peruvian grains and granolas to crepes, we went out exploring. First we strolled around the bustling Plaza de Armas and then headed to Mercado de San Pedro for Gordon to track down the perfect bag. Fun fact: Gordon buys a local bag on every one of his travels. At home, he has over a hundred bags from his travels all over Asia and Europe. He located a stylish faux alpaca tote complete with tassels for a mere 15 soles (about $5). Both straps on the bag broke later in the day…

After finding the doomed tote, we visited the Museo de Arte Precolombino and marveled at their collection of objects from pre-Incan and Incan cultures. After getting our culture fix, Gordon desperately needed a cappuccino and I couldn’t possibly tourist another cobblestone step without a smoothie. Cusco delivered on both counts. Refreshed and caffeinated, we met our designated tour guide for the afternoon. She lead us up the hill from our hotel where we got an awesome view of the city.

From our vantage point over the city, we headed down to La Factoria Vicunita which had a gorgeous collection of traditional Peruvian textiles and a fantastic gift shop. It took all my willpower not to walk out with a handful of baby alpaca sweaters.

Next, we headed to La Catedral which stands over what was once the palace of Inca Wirancocha. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any photos in the cathedral but it was very baroque and chocked full of paintings from Cusco School of Art. Local artists would often insert Peruvian touches to traditional religious themes, the most famous being The Last Supper as painted by Marcos Zapata in 1753. It features Jesus and his disciples dining on guinea pig and other local fare.

After visiting a very Spanish church, we got a chance to check out Inca architecture which is widely known for its fine masonry. We were amazed by all the effort that must have gone into making the wall in the photo above.

Next on the agenda was Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun and the most important temple in the Incan empire. While some of the temple remains, most of it was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors and much of its stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and covent. The juxtaposition of colonial and Incan architecture was fascinating.

The view from the porch of San Domingo church was stunning! Hi

Had to get this photo as proof of Gordon smiling. He claims his street cred will be ruined. Unlikely, but I’m glad to help.

After a full day of sampling the architectural wonders of the city, we met the rest of the folks on our tour at El Mercado Hotel. What an awesome space! There were soft alpaca blankets everywhere which were fabulous with the dipping temperature.

Don’t even get me started on the food at La Taberna Restaurant inside the hotel. I had bright and fresh ceviche, flaky grilled trout with buttery potatoes, and finished the meal with a dense corn cake with passion berry cream and elderberry ice cream. So. Good.

Tomorrow, we head out to mountains!


This is really a very, very nice, upscale trekking experience and I really enjoyed it. Treking around the Peruvian Andes was fabulous.  Days trekking were just long enough so you could sit back and enjoy the wonderful lodge facilities every day.

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