This morning we got up and met the group around 8 am for breakfast at the Eco Inn. We then boarded the busses at 8:30 for our tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The first destination on our tour was the market at Pisac. It took about an hour to drive there from Cusco, through some truly amazing scenery. Once we got to Pisac, we had about an hour in the market. The market in Pisac is an interesting hybrid of a local farmers market and a tourist market. Andrea and I really enjoyed walking through the food section of the market and seeing all of the different meats and vegetables on display. Andrea ended up buying a pretty good sized bag of quinoa for 3 soles. We then walked into the tourist section and looked around. We ended up buying a set of pan pipes, the picture frame that we get on every trip, and some beads for Andrea's mom.
Once we finished at Pisac, we got on the bus for the drive to Ollantaytambo. The drive to Ollantaytambo took a little over an hour through the heart of the Sacred Valley. The scenery was really amazing with the 17,000+ foot peaks ringing the farmlands at the bottom of the valley.
We arrived in Ollantaytambo at noon for our tour of the fortress there. Ollantaytambo is the only site where the Incans ever defeated the Spanish in open combat. We climbed up a ton of stairs to get to the main fortress, but our guide was good at only taking about 3 terraces at a time so that everyone on the tour could keep up. Unfortunately, the only time that it decided to rain during the whole trip was during the tour of Ollantaytambo.
The ruins of Ollantaytambo were impressive in a number of ways. They were never finished due to the Spanish conquest, so we can see examples of how the Incans moved their massive stones into place from the quarry over a mile away. In the temple section, we could also see how the Incans built earthquake resistance into their buildings, using smaller stones as expansion joints between the large ones.
After Ollantaytambo, we were pretty wet from the rain, but we all got back on the bus to head to lunch. We had lunch at Alahambra Hacienda Restaurant outside of Ollantaytambo from about 1:30 to 2:45 pm.
We then got on the bus back to Cusco. On the ride home, after having to get up and ask our guide to repeat any question she got in Spanish in English, we drove through the altiplano as she explained what crops they grew there, how they dried potatoes, and the process of making Chicha de Jora, a sweet corn beer. We got back down into Cusco at about 10 after 4.
We then relaxed at the hotel a bit before heading across the street to the Cusco Artesanal Market to look around a bit. We ended up buying a few more souvenirs there before heading back across the street to relax for a little while longer.
For dinner, we decided to hike up to the Plaza de Armas and go to one of the restaurants that Edwin recommended, Paititi. Andrea had Pork "Chicharron" Style "Cusco," which was a herb roasted pork served with fried potatoes and boiled corn. I had Cuzqueña Style Alpaca, which was an alpaca filet topped with a sauco sauce. I also had a Cuzqueña Negra beer, which I liked so much that we brought a few home.
Following dinner, we walked back to the hotel, stopping to take a few night pictures of Coricancha on the way, before heading to bed for the night.