I am now entering my second week of classes here in Peru. We had a great weekend traveling within 2 hours of Cusco to visit various Incan and other Peruvian treasures. On Saturday a group of us went to Tipon (which is about 30 minutes outside of Cusco). This was an amazing place to see the agricultural specialties of the Incas. The Incas invented an irrigation system that still runs today and the water is extremely pure.
The Incas were very concerned about cultivating new sorts of plants so they used the knowledge they had to make new plants. Tipon is up high on a mountain and the road to get up there is anything but paved and barely has enough room for one car let alone two, so passing each other is always an interesting task. Regardless, the ride was fine and we were able to have amazing views the entire way up and down as well once we were at Tipon.
Our next stop was to Pikillaka, which is a pre-Incan village. Most of ruins that are still here are mostly from the Incan time, so people don’t typically know much about the other ruins but this was a huge village especially for that time, and everything was built with stones and bricks made out of clay and straw. This was probably also the first grid system ever made and we saw the map of the area and it was pretty fascinating that the grid system is still easily visible today.
Our last stop of the day was to an old church (Anallaya or something like that). Anyways it was very interesting, because there were 5 languages used in the church (Greek, Quetchwan, Spanish, Latin and one other one that i can’t remember). This was a church built in the time of the Spanish conquest but it combines many of the Spanish catholic beliefs with the Incan beliefs, as well as some Muslim traditions (such as everything has a sun at the top since the Incas prayed to the sun mostly) and the art depictions were based in some Incan beliefs as well.
After we got back, I went to a traditional dance competition because my family’s niece was in the competition. All of the women wear traditional big, colorful, dresses and the guys wear sombreros and special suits. It was really fantastic to be able to watch this. There were people who were 4 years old and then also some professionals.
On Sunday we went to the Sacred Valley. The drive down itself was fantastic; we had views of the entire valley as well as some of the few snow-covered mountains (even though its winter and freezing sometimes here we are too close to the equator to get much snow). The first stop was the famous Pisac market where there are many native artisan shops as well as a farmers market complete with coca leaves and special dyes for all your clothes.
Next were the Pisac ruins (yet another Incan treasure built on a mountainside.) Here there were holes in the mountains surrounding the city because they put their dead in the fetal position in the holes with provisions so they could be prepared for the afterlife. We had a nice buffet lunch in Urubamba, complete with Peruvian specialties like tongue and stomach intestines (I decided against trying those!). Another famous ruin was Ollantambyo which was where many royalty lived and their first kings have their faces in the side of the mountain. This is also where the famous Inca trail starts on the way to Machu Pichu for 4 days. Another amazing part about this area was that they carried granite rocks 10 miles from another mountain obviously with just manpower. At the end of the day we learned how they make the famous attire in the vibrant colors that we see (via all natural plants).
All in all a fantastic and interesting weekend. Family and friends are great here!
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Click for information on AmeriSpan's SALUD program in Cusco.