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Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India and England

Latvia, Lithhuania, Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, U.A.E. and Denmark.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

10/21: The Andes, Weaving & Terraces en route to Ollantaytambo, Peru

We’d made arrangements months ago to be picked up at the airport in Cusco and then whisked away to the town of Ollantaytambo located in Peru’s Sacred Valley about two plus hours away as the altitude was so much higher in the former city and travelers are normally advised to spend time there later only after getting accustomed to the change in altitude.
Photos of Cusco, a city we visited about a week later after time in the Sacred Valley:

Palacio de Justicia:
A tile map of Cusco known as the capital of the Incas. Note the rainbow flag in the upper left-hand corner - more on that later.
Once we left Cusco, we were mesmerized by our first views of the Andes in the distance. 
I found it interesting to learn about the origin of the country’s name. Of South American countries, Peru’s name is one of the more unusual. While neighboring countries have relatively obvious derivations - Ecuador from the Equator, Bolivia from Simon Bolivar, Colombia from Christopher Columbus – the origin of Peru is more complex. 
One theory is that when the Spanish first arrived and asked a native the name of the land he was standing on, he replied "Pelu ," apparently an indigenous word for river. Another possibility stems from when the Spanish first arrived in Panama and asked the local tribesmen about the land to the south. They replied it was called the land of the “Biru” after the tribal leader of that territory. Another theory contends that the word peru translates to “white mist” by Chinese sailors who used it to describe the foggy coastline who visited before the Spanish in the 15th century. 
On the way to Ollaytantambo which I will shorten to Ollanta from now on as the town’s residents do, our driver mentioned that there were over seven thousand varieties of potatoes in Peru! Some of them are so difficult to peel because they have so many eyes. Our travel book said the potato comes from the Andes of Peru and Chile (not Idaho or Ireland!), where it’s been grown on the mountain terraces for thousands of years. Some of the varieties are hardy enough to be cultivated at 15,000 feet. The Spanish introduced potatoes to Europe in the late 1500s. 
The driver kindly offered to stop en route in Chinchero, one of the most famous textile villages in the Sacred Valley, so we could see a weaving demonstration and some local handicrafts. 
As the town's altitude was over 12,300 feet, Steven and I were more than a tad woozy after getting out of the car, almost as if we had enjoyed too many glasses of vino!

I was amazed to find out that Peru’s potatoes appear in all colors of the spectrum including purple, red, pink and blue as well as in many strange shapes. 

The woman told us this was baby alpaca wool that she was cleaning, the first step in the weaving process.
This root product was a natural shampoo and was necessary to clean the sheep’s wool as the sheep never take a shower, the woman joked!

She showed us the different items that had been collected to produce the assorted dyes.
I would never have thought that the red dye came from these minuscule white sea creatures. 

The red color was so colorfast it was good for 24 hours or 100 kisses, she joked!

Sulphur was used for black; green came from coca leaves that were placed in boiling water for twelve hours; lichen produced orange shades; the brown came from boiling brown-colored corn for one to two hours.

In the weaving she showed us, each design had a different meaning: the Inca calendar, puma eyes, the mountains, etc. To make a table runner would take her about six hours a day for a month! She didn’t need to follow any pattern books as she had about 45 designs in her mind.
She joked this was a tourist bone from someone who hadn’t bought anything! Really, it was a llama bone. I bought a lovely scarf for our son, Alexander's fiancee, Cory, which I gave her when they were here for Christmas with her family.
The woman was part of a textile cooperative in which the women worked together making handicrafts to sell to tourists while the men worked in the fields.

We had been so used to seeing tuk tuks all over Asia as a mode of easy and inexpensive accommodation. But we didn’t expect to see something so akin to those here in South America! Here in Peru they were called moto taxis.

Our driver confirmed that there was snow on the mountain all year long.

The homes and rugged terrain reminded me of the area outside of Taos, New Mexico, which we drove through this past June on the way home from Florida.

The town of Urubamba in the valley:

It was surprising to see farmland halfway up the mountainside!

A roadside shrine as we entered Ollanta:
There were only a few streets in the small town; otherwise, a maze of narrow cobblestone lanes took you where you needed or wanted to go.
A view from our hotel window in Ollanta of the Inca fortress and terraces we'd be climbing in the morning:

I was entranced with this sight of three young girls walking down the lane from our hotel toward the town's plaza, especially as they were all dressed in native attire. We didn't realize until a short while later, they and women, also similarly attired, dressed that way to earn money from tourists.
It was intriguing walking past water flowing in ancient Inca foot-wide canals that were still being used to this day.
3ish on a Saturday in Ollanta's main plaza:

Don't these views from the plaza of the archaeological park make you want to put on your hiking boots and strap on your backpack?! They did for us.
As we walked through town, there was no indication that less than a half mile away, a crush of tourists descends every day on the railway station to board trains for Machu Picchu Pueblo, gateway to Machu Picchu. What many don’t realize is that Ollantaytambo has some of the most impressive megalithic ruins in the world. We were glad that we had allotted time to spend a few days here in Ollanta to hike among these ruins before going onto those far more famous ones at Machu Picchu.
The woman carrying a baby or often bundles of wood or other items was a very common sight once we were out of Peru's capital.
Market time as it was a Saturday.

Delicious chicken kebabs were only two Peruvian soles each, about .65!

One mandarin orange was half that in the small market. The little girl was crying so I shared mine with her. I should have realized that would mean she’d want even more, forcing her mother who was cooking the chicken to go buy another one or two from the adjacent market! We were sure that there was a two-price system: one for the locals and one for the gringos!
The road away from the plaza was only wide enough for one car to pass at a time so the traffic cop had to allow a few to go in one direction before permitting others to pass going the opposite way.

The town's only church was located on the road to the archaeological park that we'd be seeing the next day. 
When we walked inside, we thought initially a baptism was taking place. Only later did we realize actually a young man was being confirmed. We walked by the church several other times while we were in Ollanta, including the Sunday, but never saw it open again. 

We walked through the market stalls next to the entrance to the archaeological park which had all sorts of local handicrafts for sale. The most popular items were silver earrings and scarves – I ‘needed’ more of the latter, don’t you think, Darlene!

While the elevation of Ollanta was 'only' 9,000 plus feet, we figured it still would be tough to hike the following day up the terraces that towered over the town.
Because it was late in the day, we put off entering the archaeological park until the next morning when we’d have more time to fully enjoy it AND have the energy for all that hiking!
It was sad to see people taking photos of the blind man playing music at the park entrance without donating any money. I don’t think that would have happened as much if he were sighted.

The view from our window:
Next post: Hiking the Inca Terraces.

Posted on New Year's Eve, 2017, from Littleton, Colorado. Steven and I wish each of you good health, much happiness and safe travels in the coming year.