Jan 20

Inca Trail and Sacred Valley

by in Peru

Inca trail and Sacred Valley,

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Peru is a fascinating place, part if the Inca empire that rose from the highlands here in the early 13th century the empire was to become the largest in Pre-Columbian America, until the were finally conquered by the Spanish in 1527. The Inca King or ‘Sapa Inca’ was allegedly the child of the sun and the incas worshiped the sun. The empire was known as ‘four parts together’ and the ruling class or ruling family were called the Inka.

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We were to visit a few different settlements where we would be able to see the set ups of the communities, and then reach Machu Pichu on our last day. Many things became apparent to us while we were in Peru. Firstly the Incas had a very complex and original agriculture method known as the Vertical Archipelago method. They had already discovered that different parts if this land had soil that was different in temperature depending in which way it faced and how sheltered it was from the elements, and used that information to determine which crops should be planted and where. They also had an elaborate drainage and irrigation system that used rainwater to adequately water the crops. They also used the starts extensively to devise their own calendar which was accurate enough to only need adjustment every 11 years. There is still some reluctance to use our calendar which has to be changed every 4 years as it is considered not as effective as one produced over 500 years ago.

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The Incas believed in reincarnation, and a form of heaven and hell whereby people who followed the moral code would go on to live in the sun’s warmth, but other who did not would spend their eternal life in the cold.  They also made human sacrifices whenever there was a drought or such event, or even the passing of the Sapa Inca.

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We visited a number if the smaller settlements which helped us to understand the system before we reached the jewel in the inca crown- Macchu Pichu.
Pisca was one of the paces we stopped where they are still using the agriculture terraces today. Originally formed by dragging the topsoil up from lower level land he terraces them provided better soil to produce more crops. This was all done by hand and the results are remarkable. Similar to the rice terraces in Sapa, Vietnam there is something very calming about overlooking these semi circular land patterns.

Moray sits 600 meters above Urumbamba. There are three large natural depressions that house the agriculture terraces. Here the seeds were cultivated and then sent onto the other settlements in the Inca empire to help them grow better crops. Kind of like a start up nursery if you like.

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Ollantaytambo is situated at 2792 meters above sea level and was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti. He built the town with extensive terracing and agriculture irrigation systems.

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This town has some of the oldest continuously inhabited buildings in South America. It is a well preserved site with the wonderful Sun Temple which is home to the six monoliths. Huge rocks were lined up here and then secured with smaller stones. To have go them here must have been an enormous achievement (same as Stonehenge), and the Incas were clever enough to put them on a layer of small stones that would absorb the impact of earth tremors and quakes. Opposite this wonderful site are small storehouses built high up on the hills. The thought process being that they were in cooler temperatures at the higher altitude helped by the wind, and this would keep the food longer.

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We stopped at the Salineras where there is a large area covered in small salt pans and salt is harvested. It was wet season so we didn’t see any being taken, but we saw some of the different quality salt that they produce, along with all the salt tourist items you could buy, I was tempted to get some pink salt, but then remembered I would have to carry it, so the novelty soon wore off the salt pans are all individually owned and have no signs to indicate whose is whose. Not sure I would remember where mine was…!

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Salt mines of Salineras

We had a traditional lunch Peru style called a Panchamancha. Tradiitonal these meals were created using cooking lots buried in the earth.  We have had similar knew in Hawaii and Fiji. Here in Peru they cook chicken and lamb with vegetables and pineapple all together and the result is like a natural slow cooked meal. We had a great guy explaining the whole process and then got to try everything that was on offer. The cheese wrapped parcels were good, and they obviously had a few different potatoes as there are über one thousand varieties here. And yes don’t forget the mantra, the higher the land, the better the potatoes. Who knew?!

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Llama carpaccio…yummy..

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