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Traveling the mountain highlands at 13,000 feet above sea level, the farmlands stretched out further than the eye could see. Above them loomed the ever present Andes. At one point, I could count five over 18,000 feet peaks that were snow/glacier covered. It was breathtaking. One could think I would get used to the sight, but I am mesmerized every time. We boarded the domed PeruRail in the early afternoon in Machu Picchu Town for an almost two hour ride to Ollantaytambo. It was fun. The staff dressed in costume for dancing and also for a fashion show of native arts. Of course, the scenery along the way was fantastic, since we followed the river the entire way.
Once in Ollantaytambo, we boarded a bus for our ride to Cusco, the imperial capital of the Incas and now a city of around 500,000. We stopped along the way at a brewery named the best in all of South America. We had a tasting of five of their beers that have won major awards as the brew master explained each one. Really cool!
We have been treated to some excellent food along the way. Our hotel in Machu Picchu Town hosted a cooking class for us. We learned how to make Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru, as well as cerviche. We learned some important culinary tricks, such as, squeeze only 3/4 of the juice from the lime used in cerviche because, if you squeeze the lime next to the pith, it will sour the fish used in the dish. It was a great time, and we have an apron to prove we passed the class.
Our food has been excellent, and I did try the grilled alpaca. Delicious! One thing we have noticed is that much care is placed on appearance of the dish. The food looks good before you ever take a bite. Next, we have learned that only fresh and organic foods are used. Finally, Peruvian food is complex. The cerviche, for instance, had twelve ingredients, each used in a specific way at a specific time. I can say that Peruvian food is some of best looking and best tasting food I have eaten.
As we close out the day, we are encouraged and at rest. We have been blessed to have an adventure far beyond our expectations and, since it is fall of the year here in the Southern Hemisphere, the weather is gorgeous. WEG
We entered the Sacred Valley of the Inca’s today. The ancient Inca’s were astronomers and they saw that the river in the valley seemed to go toward the Milky Way. They believed it was from the heavens; and, therefore, sacred. The valley is mystical and magical. It varies from only 1/4 mile wide to 1 mile wide, goes forever and has wonderful mountains on each side with the sacred river running in the middle. It is rugged territory and the Incas built their cities on the mountains so that the valley below could be kept for farming. Because the need for food was great, the Incas developed a system of terrace farming on the steep mountain sides that is still not only visible today, but in use as well. Kathy and I simply soaked in the wonderful scenery.
Our plane landed in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas, but we immediately boarded a bus for a six hour journey to our hotel into the Sacred Valley. Along the way we stopped at an Alpaca farm to get up close and personal with alpacas, llamas and vicugnas (the fiber from which is considered the rarest and most expensive on earth). Further along, we stopped in Pisac Village, a market village, where the finest Peruvian folk arts are practiced and sold. Colorful and active, Kathy shopped until she dropped or ran out of money–you choose. I found a woman cooking Inca corn (hominy) on the cob–white and tasty served with a mountain cheese and in its corn husk. I couldn’t resist! Finally, we stopped at a ceramic studio where the ancient Incan art form is kept alive. It was a most appealing setting and we watched native craftsmen and women practicing their craft.
We arrived at our outstanding mountain country lodge hotel. It is in the hills all to itself, and it is the image of what I would have expected a South American mountain lodge to look like. Tiered up the mountain side, with manicured green lawns and beautiful flowers and an open fire place in the lobby, the staff stands at attention in strategic places along the way. Our room is white washed, plaster and stone walls and timbered ceiling–white washed. It is rustic and comfortable and roomy and modern–a 65″ TV built into the wall. It is cool in the Sacred Valley. We are no longer on the equator, but have moved closer toward the South Pole. We will sleep well tonight after our long and wonderful day. WEG
P.S.–I forgot about the Peruvian national drink, the Pisco Sour. It is Pisco brandy, key lime juice and ice blended with egg white foam (with bitters) on top. You can add a simple syrup to sweeten it, if desired. It is delicious, but one will do ya!