|Today we packed up right after breakfast as we had previously arranged for a tour guide to show us around to some of the major sights in the area. At 8:30, our guide Brian, along with a driver, Jonathan, arrived at our hotel.
For our first stop, we backtracked to Chinchero, a town that we had driven through yesterday on our way to Urubamba. Chinchero is not actually in the valley, it is in the highlands and is at an even higher elevation than Cusco. We walked up the town's narrow stone streets where there were many Peruvian handicrafts available for purchase. At the top was an old Catholic church built by locals in the 1600's directly on top of old Inca walls. You had to step over a threshold about a foot high to get in. The church is still in use today. Just outside the church were more excavated Inca walls and examples of terraces formerly used for agricultural purposes.
Our next stop was a local weaving demonstration. The ladies were all dressed in traditional clothing and hats. They sat us down with cups of tea and demonstrated how to wash the alpaca wool with a natural detergent from a root. They showed us how they make various dyes from nature to tint the wool, and then spin it into a 2-ply yarn. Finally they demonstrated how to weave the yarn into beautiful table runners, clothing and other products. Then came the hard sell... one woman showed us a bone and joked that it was from a tourist who didn't buy anything! Since we were the only ones there it wasn't like we could blend into the crowd-- all their attention was focused on us. We ended up purchasing a very pricy table runner, a pair of gloves and a pair of socks!
Next up was Moray where we saw more stunning agricultural terraces. These are mostly round and were built to create various temperature zones so that the Inca could experiment with growing various crops. Nearby we drove through the actual town of Moray with its narrow streets and highly decorated doorways and walls.
The Maras Salt Mines were our next stop. This sounded like it would be boring, but actually they were pretty cool. They are a huge field of pools filled by naturally salty spring water. The water sits for about 4 weeks before it evaporates and the salt is collected. The salt fields are privately owned by locals who have farmed them for generations and date back to Inca times.
Driving back through Urubamba we arrived in Ollantaytambo, where Doug and I had reservations for the night. But first Brian took us to a buffet style restaurant where we sampled Peruvian cuisine such as Alpaca meat and fried pumpkin fritters, while listening to Peruvian flute music. It was a bit touristy but good.
Our last activity of the day was to climb the ruins in Ollantaytambo. By the time we got there it was very crowded, but the climb woke us up after our large lunch! This Inca temple was built on the side of a hill and consists of steep stone steps and terraces. Once up to the top, the view of the valley is gorgeous. Our guide Brian showed us many examples of the Inca's precise stone cutting work, and pointed out some interesting carvings in another nearby mountain.
Our hotel, La Casa del Abuelo Ollantaytambo, turned out to be almost right around the corner from the entrance to the ruins. It was a very long and active day, and we were happy to check in to our room and get off our feet for a little while!