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Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!

Posted by Flo et Romain on October 3 2015, 13:30pm

Categories: #Peru

Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!

We arrived in Peru in the most famous city of this country: Cusco!! And if it is well known, it is because of a good reason: it is the cradle of the Inca civilization and it is from there that we can visit the sacred valley and the Machu Picchu!

As we told you on our last article, Cusco was supposed to be built by Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, born on Titicaca Lake. Nowadays we can still admire some Inca vestiges but the city was conquered by the Spanish in 1534 and they built a (very nice) colonial town. Even if there are many many tourist agencies, restaurants and souvenirs shops, it is lovely to spend some time there. (Especially if, as we did, you meet some friends there... Bertrand my ex-colleague and his brother and Johana and Romain, 2 travellers that we are following on internet... ;-)

Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Bertrand and Jean !!!

Bertrand and Jean !!!

Sa Ka Voyagé: Johana and Romain

Sa Ka Voyagé: Johana and Romain

But even “crazier” is to visit the sacred valley few kilometres away from Cusco. We spent 2 days across the valley and we chose the “Organised tour” option. Well, we don’t really like it but this time is had many advantages. First with this option we were able to visit the main sites in 2 days (and we would have need at least 3 days if we had taken the public transports); secondly we had the explanations of an English speaking guide… and it is really useful. Last but not least it is really cheap : 45 soles per person for 2 days (excluding entrance tickets) : around 12,5 € per person!!!

This valley, 600 metres lower than Cusco city, starts in Pisac and follows the sacred River Urubamba; the same river which arrives in Machu Picchu. It is a “sacred” valley for different reasons: First it is a very fertile place and it was the “bread basket” of the Incas (Still today the region is the biggest producer of corn in Peru). This valley is also the entrance gate of the jungle; for the Incas it was then like a control point very important. Finally, it was an important religious place because the Inca priests believed that it was the representation on Earth of the Milky Way such as the lama, the condor, the tree…

We started in Pisac.. and we were impressed by the terraces which follows the curves of the mountain. At the top of these terraces we then arrived in an old military and religious complex. The temple is at the top to be as close as possible from the sky (and so from the Gods); and the military complex is also high to have a good control of the valley below and see eventual enemies. We were also “surprised” by the “original” cemetery. On the opposite mountainside, we can see some holes directly in the rock. These holes are tombs of Incas. Many of them were profaned during the Conquistador time but some stayed intact and archaeologists found some well-preserved bodies in a foetal position. (Incas believed in rebirth).

Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
a "weird" cemetery

a "weird" cemetery

The bus then took us to Ollantaytambo. It is an unfinished Inca city. Incas were building it when the Spanish arrived. But even as unfinished, it is one of the most preserved village. Some of the houses are still from the Inca period and habited; we can also see the water canal dating from their period. In the sun temple, some blocks of rock more than 6 metres high were transported here with human resources from the opposite mountain. Like for the pyramids of Egypt, Incas used handmade ramps and stone or wood rollers to make the stones move (pulled by men)…We can easily believe that many of them died because of the hard work! From the sky, the site of Ollantaytambo looks like a lama shape.. (And Cusco is supposed to have a puma shame and the Machu Picchu a condor shape).

Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!

We finished our first day in the village of Chinchero. At the top of the village, stands a church built by the Spanish on the ruins of an old Inca temple dedicated to the Venus planet (Inca believed it was a star; the “gateway” to the Milky Way…). Inside the church we can see a fusion of the two religions. Some walls are from the Inca period and moreover, on some paintings representing Catholics scenes, we can observe an angel carrying a star…probably Venus.

We really enjoyed this first day and we were impatient to discover the program of the second day.

No pictures of the inside..it was forbidden
No pictures of the inside..it was forbidden

No pictures of the inside..it was forbidden

On the next day we left quite early to visit Moray terraces. In the middle of the mountains we discovered 4 complexes of circular terraces. These terraces were important for the Incas as they were used as “Agricultural research centre”. At this place, Incas acclimatized tropical plants to Andine climate and to achieve it they used simple methodologies (still complicated for their time): They built terraces of different length and height and different thickness. During the day, the stones of the terraces were accumulating the heat and during the night they were diffusing it to the plants. With this technique, they built a system where they had a difference of 10°C between the lowest and the highest terrace. They could grow more than 250 different species of plants. Once acclimatized, the plants were sent in other Inca cities! Incredible, isn’t it?

Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!

The last place we visited is not really from Inca time. It is the Salt Flat of Maras. In the middle of the mountain, we discovered 4000 salt pools. How is it possible? To understand it, we need to go back before the formation of the Andes. Do you remember when we explain you how the dinosaurs walked on the wall in Sucre? Here it is the same: before the Andes, the place was covered by an ocean (with of course salted water). After the Andes formation, some salted rocks were “captured” inside the mountain. With the rain, the water passes inside the rocks and dissolves the salt from the rocks. Then, the water is recuperated at the “exit” of the mountain, put in pools; and with the sun evaporation you can then harvest the salt. But it is kind of weird to see a salt flat in a mountainous region…. So we couldn’t resist of buying a small bag of salt ;-)!!!

Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!
Cusco and the sacred valley : An incredible Inca heritage !!!

We can explain you even more things but I think that you’ve already learnt a lot and it’s better if you go and discover it by yourself!!! We let you think about it until our next post about…. MACHU PICCHU!

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