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Peru : Sacred Valley

Chinchero, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo

Sunday 26th August – the Sacred Valley

A not-too-early get up and we were met at our hotel door by the coach driver to walk to the next street. We left the reception with the instruction that we expected to be moved to a proper room (as paid for) that very day, and set off. The coach drove up past Sacsayhuaman again where a chap got on board to sell us a book or postcards or DVD or CD of the area (guess he was covering all his bets!). They were not too pricey and he demoed the DVD and it looked good, so we bought one. Then we travelled on up the hills from Cusco, stopping first at the village of Chinchero (3,762m) which had an outdoor market (where Steve bought a leather wallet with a coca-leaves motif), some llamas wandering and just about every European flag you could think of flying. The nice thing about Chinchero is that it is a typical small-medium size Andean village with typical views over the Sacred Valley (Cordillera Vilcabamba). It is on the plains of Anta with the snowy peak of Salkantay dominating the skyline west. There is a story that it’s the birthplace of the rainbow, but I could not find anything else about this, though no doubt it would be a colourful tale! Certainly the village was a more important Inca town- a massive Inca stone wall with 10 trapezoid niches is in the main plaza and Inca terraces (still in use) are clearly visible. The plaza also contained a 17th century colonial church (probably built over an Inca building), which we did not go in, although the decorations were said to be nice. The building has been attributed to Inca Tupac Yupanqui. We didn’t stop for long, before carrying on over the hills. The guide for the day was a self-educated person who had recently discovered he was more Quechan (and less mesitzo) than he had previously known. He had an interesting life, teaching himself Spanish (not his first language) and putting himself through college later than most (which is why he was deeply committed to helping Andean farm children get an education). He was planning to save up to become a teacher and set up schools in remote areas for non-Spanish speaking children.
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Inca Religion
Like many religions, the Inca divided the universe into three realms:-
• Hanan Pacha (celestial realm or heaven)- often represented by a condor
• Cay Pacha (earth)- usually represented by a jaguar
• Uku Pacha (underworld/ inner world)- represented by a serpent
Deities could occupy any of these realms, or move between them, depending on the deity and their strength / position.
Their main god was Viracocha (left, also called Wiracocha, Kon-Tiki Viracocha Pachayachachic). He is their creator god, setting the universe into motion. Sometimes he was just “The First”. As he created the universe he does not occupy any realm, but sits beyond or outside it all. He is the father of Inti (Sun God), Mama Quilla (a mixture of fertility and moon goddess) and Pachamama (nature goddess). Like many Inca stories he is linked to lake Titicaca with a story that he caused a great flood, saving on Manco Capac and Mama Oclla on an island in the lake’s centre. Viracocha is sometimes linked to a wife, Mama Cocha (Sea Mother) who controls the waters- I suspect this was a later addition down to conquest of the Pacific coast (where an ocean god/dess would be of obvious importance given the aridity of the land).
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Below Viracocha is Inti, the Sun God and the most important to the Inca. Their Temples to the Sun were always the grandest and their festivals, particularly the Inti Raymi, venerated him especially. The Inti Raymi mid summer festival (or Hitching the Sun) was the highlight of the year, with the Intihuatana (or Hitching Post) the centre of any Inca settlement. The Inca year, likewise, started with the Capac Raymi in
mid winter. Inti was married to his sister, Mama Quilla, and the Moon Temples are generally second only to the Sun temples. The Sapa Inca saw themselves as directly descended from Inti through his son Manco Capa and daughter Mama Oclla (brother-sister/ husband-wife). Looking after the inner world was Pachamama, an earth/nature Goddess who is found in ALL Andean religions. Supporting her were Mama Zara (grains) and various Inca ancestors or heroes. She was sometimes given Pachamac as a husband.
As the Inca had a large pantheon they had, like the Romans before them, no problem incorporating any conquered people’s (ayllus) deities (see entry on Pachacamac). For instance Pachamama, previously a top level goddess, was placed below Mama Quilla. Other more important deities include Apu (God of Mountains), Apocatequil and Catequil (Gods of thunder and lightning), Llapa (God of Weather), Kon (God of wind and rain), Kanopa (fertility), Supay (God of Death), Copacati (Goddess of lake Titicaca and later all lakes), Chasca Coyllur (nature goddess), Pariacaca (an odd God of water who was born a falcon, became human, then raised to a god). Human sacrifice was certainly known, as evidenced by the frozen mummies we saw in Arequipa. In general it appears that sacrificial victims went willingly, suggesting it was seen as an honour.
In addition to the straightforward pantheon, there were also huacas. These were sacred sites, often natural wonders, such as mountains, rivers, volcanoes, or important sites such as battlefields or past Inca Imperial palaces (which were sealed on his death), or even important pieces of pottery. These sites were imbued with god-like spirits (though chained to the spot) and people would give offerings at them, often coca leaves. Indeed, we saw
quite a few instances of this at Inca sites we visited (Racqi, Machu Picchu) or even at beautiful spots (Mirador de los Volcanos), so the ancient customs are still very much alive. The tradition of adding a stone to a pile relates to this (apacheta). In exchange for the offering you could ask for a favour, or advice.

PISAC
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We dropped down to the modern town/village of Pisac, over the bridge across the river, then snaking up the other hillside to the entrance to Pisac Archaeological Site. As with yesterday we had a Boleto Turistico (Tourist ticket), which gave entrance to all the Inca sites in the valley (170km). We had to get off, walk through the entrance hut, get back on the bus! Then we drove half a mile more to park just outside the Inca site. At first we listened to a guide as we walked up/ across the site until his explanations became so preposterous (“those holes in the hillside are filled with Inca ghosts”) that we set off to explore by ourselves (otherwise we’d never have got to see the intihuatana or anything really).
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The ruins of Pisac are at the top of a ridge/ hill overlooking a valley. They are clearly in four distinct groups- the urban area including baths (Qantus Raccay), a military area (Q’alla Q’asa), a cemetery (T’antana Marka) and the terraces. Our first view was across to Pisaqa (from which the name), which is an urban (elite) area of 30 houses on a semi-circular ledge just below the rest of the site. They are accessed through a tunnel from the higher
ceremonial area. Below are all the terraces (andenes), which are supposedly in the shape of an Andean partridge wings (P’isaqa in Quecha), though we couldn’t really see it. To the right are some watch towers.
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We then walked along the ridge terraces to the main site. Opposite us was the T’antana Marka or cemetery area- a vast rock wall filled with over 1000 cave/niche tombs. We were now standing in the Kinchiracay (baths) part of the Q’ntus raccay (ceremonial) area. The fountains and baths were probably used by priests and pilgrims to the Temple.
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At this point we headed off to the Q’alla q’asa (often called The Citadel, though Q’alla= cut and Q’asa= pass) ourselves. The area is also known as Upper Pisac as it is the highest part. The natural spur gives it a great view of the valley below, making it easily defended. The garrison (and associated people) had houses (about 30) literally hanging off the rocks, with vertiginous steps to them. Each stone building had running water and a small garden terrace. From here we took a thin tunnel (10m) up to the ceremonial (and administrative) area. When we finally got to the top I was very keen to get to the Intihuatana (which we managed just in time). There was the expected Temple of the Sun, altar, fountains and a ceremonial platform with an intihuatana carved directly from the rock. It is probably one of the best preserved of all Inca intihuatana (certainly better than Machu Picchu) and the base suggests an orientation to the seasons. Sadly you can no longer go right in to the Temple as some silly ad agency, whilst shooting an ad, let a boom hit it and chipped a corner, thus depriving everyone else of a chance to enjoy it as it is now off-limits. The Temple walls, as normal, slope inward to protect from earthquakes. The Intihuatana is at the centre of the Temple (picture). At the Temple was an attractive (and probably religious giving its position) fountain. Above the Temple, looking down was a solid rock chair (Tianayoc) whose significance is unknown.
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We then moved along the area following a sign to Snake Gate (Amaru Punku) where the stone hinges were intact. Less exciting than it sounded, actually. The site, with its military, agricultural and ceremonial areas, suggests it served a variety of functions. It’s probable that Pisac defended the southern entrance (towards the Amazon forest) of the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo the northern and Choquequirao the western.
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Then we drove back down to Pisac, which has one of the largest markets in the area. The central square had a huge pisonay tree. The coach dropped us off and our guide led us through all the stalls to an open air café where we drank purple maize (Peru’s national drink, Chicha Morada) and tasted roasted guinea pig (well, I did but Steve couldn’t bring himself as he’d had a pet guinea pig molti anni fa). The food was being cooked Pachamanca (earth oven) style, typically pre-Hispanic Peruvian (basically a hole with hot rocks to create an oven). Then we had a coffee (quite a nice one) before heading into the market on a mission to get a vicuna rug (which finally we managed, haggling completed) and a bonus of earrings. Then we went back to find our guide, but he’d left the café and we spent 5 mins chasing each other round the market maze. Luckily he found us and got us back on board to head to our lunch. It took an hour or so, travelling through the beautiful Urubamba Valley to reach Urubamba town. We were there at the end of the dry season, but it still looked green and fertile in the Sacred Valley- apparently a few weeks later, as wet season started, it would be transformed. I imagine that this is the reason that the Inca (and pre-Inca) held this valley sacred in the same way that the ancient Egyptians saw the Sacred Nile- life giving in a hostile environment. The irony of the pyramid functions was not lost on me.
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The Inca
Early History- the evidence we have suggests that they started as a relatively unimportant Quecha-speaking tribe in the Lake Titicaca/ Puno region (Altiplano) until the 12th century AD. Then they appear to have headed north. Early Inca style mummies are known from Wimpillay prior to their taking Cusco and the Sacred Valley area. The Urubamba River (also called Vilcanota) in Quechua is Wilcamayu, which means sacred river. It’s probably they were attracted by the greater fertility of the area compared to the altiplano from which they originated.
Restaurant
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Manco Capa
Manco Capac (Capac means “warlord” so his name was Manco) pulled together his tribe into a city state (Kingdom, not Empire) called Quecha Qosqo (later Cusco), which he conquered from a previous group called the Killke. He ruled for some 40 years, during which time he codified Inca laws (probably abolishing most human sacrifice and banning near-relative marriage except for nobles- similar to Egyptian rules and probably for the same pure bloodline reasons). He married his sister and his son was Sinchi Roca. He died c.1230 AD. Manco is often called the first Sapa Inca (=Great Leader). Actually, Inca should really be used to describe the LEADER rather than the people who did NOT use the term for themselves.
Sinchi Roca (sometimes Cinchi)
He succeeded his father and expanded the early Inca Empire. He, too, married his sister (or half sister). He died c.1260 and was succeeded by his son.
Llorque Yupanqui
The son of Sinchi Roca, he ruled c1260-1290 AD. The name Yupanqui, interestingly, means left-handed. He too married a sister.
Mayta Capac
The son of Lloque, he ruled c1290-1320 AD. His Capac title shows he was a warrior ruler who greatly expanded the Inca Kingdom. He is recorded as marrying “Princess” Mama Yacchi, and thereby bringing the Colca valley (Collawas union of Aymara speakers) area under his control. His son succeeded him.
Capac Yupanqui
He was the last of the Hurin Dynasty, ruling c1320-1350 AD. Unusually he married an outside, Qorihillpay (a daughter of another tribal chief). When he died a short-lived rebellion/ coup d’état led to the death of his son and heir and the installation of his son, Inca Roca, by a concubine.
Inca Roca
He was the son of Capac Yupanqui by a concubine and his new dynasty was the Hanan Dynasty. He ruled c1350-80 AD.
Yahuar Huacac
He was the lazy, ineffective son of Inca Roca and ruled c1380-1410 AD
Viracocha
Viracocha was the son of Yahuar and ruled c1410-1438 AD (our first certain date). Viracocha had changed his name to that of a god due to a dream. He was much more effective than his father and began serious efforts to extend the kingdom into an empire (rather than raids on other tribes). His son, Pachacuti, inherited his dream.
Pachacuti
He is often considered the most important of the Inca. He succeeded his father in 1438 AD. As Sapa Inca (Inka) Pachacuti Cusi-Yapanqui (to give him his full name- Pachacuti means “World Shaker”) expanded to control most of the Andean region, even as far as distant Lima. He did this through a mix of political alliances, threat and as a last resort, military action. Most targeted leaders would simply agree to join the empire and reap the benefits. As with European medieval kings a system of fosterage (children effectively used as hostages and also educated as the Inca would like!) was used to control the new acquisitions. He organised his new empire or Tawantinsuyu (= tawa/four + ntin/group + suyu/region) into a system of four provincial governors reporting to him. The four provinces were Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE, Amazon), Kuntisuyu (SW-Cusco-Arequipa), Qullasuyu/Collasuyu (SE, Titicaca, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina). Each province was run by a member of the imperial family. Under this were 10 district governors (the emperor’s concubine sons) covering approx 10,000 people He probably had Machu Picchu extended. Below them were Village Official (about 1000 people), then Foremen (about 100 people) and finally Official (10 peasants). Pachacuti died in 1471 AD leaving a well-organised empire.
Tupac Yapanqui
Tupac was the son of Pachacuti and he was already a seasoned warrior when he succeeded in 1471 AD. He continued the process of expansion and was succeeded by his son, Huayna in 1493 AD.
Huayna Capac
The son of Tupac, ruling 1493-1527 AD was successful in expanding into modern Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Columbia but was less successful in organising his own succession. He married his sister and his legitimate heir was Huascar. However, he favoured a concubine’s son, Atahualpa and proposed splitting the empire in two. When he died of smallpox from the newly arrived Spanish, a civil war (perhaps inevitably) broke out.
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Huascar and Atahualpa
On Huayna’s death in 1527 AD the empire was split between Huascar (Cusco and the south) and Atahualpa (Quito and the north). Huascar promptly attacked Atahualpa who managed to capture and imprison Huascar. At this point Pizarro and the Spanish arrived. It is difficult to imagine a more propitious (for the Spanish) time to arrive. The empire was in disarray and Atahualpa easy pickings. Pizarro attacked and defeated Atahualpa’s much reduced army at Cajamarca and captured Atahualpa. To secure his release Atahualpa promised to fill The Ransom Room with gold. He fulfilled his promise, but Pizarro executed him anyway in 1533 AD.
Tupac Huallpa
Tupac was a younger brother of Atahualpa and was made puppet emperor by Pizarro in 1533. He died of smallpox shortly after.
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Manci Inca Yupanqui (Manco II)
Manco was another brother of Atahualpa and after Tupac’s death Pizarro put him on the throne in 1534 AD. He hoped Manco would be another puppet, allowing him to continue his robbery of the empire’s riches. However, Pizarro left Cusco, leaving his younger rapacious brothers (Gonzalo, Juan, Hernando) in charge. Their mistreatment of Manco (including raping his wife) was so bad that he escaped Cusco in 1536 to start a rebellion. He recruited 200,000 warriors and besieged Cusco. Although he regained the city (killing Juan in the process) a smallpox epidemic amongst his troops forced a retreat to the mountain fortress of Ollantaytambo, which he used as a raiding base. For uncertain reasons, Manco decided a second retreat to a remote jungle fortress at Vilcabamba was wise and this became his capital. He was not finally defeated until Diego de Almagro’s soldiers assassinated him in 1544 AD. He married his sister, who was murdered by the Spanish in Cusco in 1539AD.
Paullu
When Manco II retreated to Vilcabamba the Spanish crowned a younger half brother, Paullu Inca in 1539. He did not last long
Sayri Tupaq
On Manco II’s death in 1544, his son Sayri announced himself Sapa Inca. He met with the Spanish to negotiate and in 1558 agreed to leave Vilcabamba and live in Lima. He converted to Christianity and renounced the title of Sapa Inca. The Spanish gave him the title Prince of Yucay and he died mysteriously shortly after in 1560 (long suspected that the Spanish poisoned him as a possible rallying point). When he left Vilcabamba a half-brother took control.
Titu Cusi Yupanqui
The half-brother of Sayri, he took control of Vilcabamba in 1558 when Sayri left for Lima. He controlled the resistance until 1571, when he “became” a Christian but in practise he probably followed the old religion (politically expedient, then).
Topaz Amaru
The younger brother of Titu, he became Inca when Titu “converted” to Christianity. The Spanish then “intervened” on Titu’s behalf (or so they said) and Tupaq was forced to abandon Vilcabamba and flee into the jungle in 1572. This was the effective end of the Inca Empire. Spanish soldiers pursued the Inca, capturing Tupaq and his wife (she was giving birth, so they had stopped). Viceroy Toledo claimed Tupaq had killed priests (unlikely) and beheaded him. His children were banished first to Mexico (a descendant Tupac Amaru II led an unsuccessful uprising from there in 1780), then to Spain and finally to Sicily where the Amaru family live to this day.
Plaza Manyarakay at Ollantaytambo

We pulled in to our restaurant in the outskirts of Urubamba town (after dropping the cheapskates off at a cut price one) which was a lovely upmarket buffet one with lovely Cusco school paintings, a vista of manicured gardens opening to river and hills. We were really stuffed- the puds in particular were AMAZING. There was one sweet one made from the “ice-cream bean” which is a peanut family pod. Another was a cupuaçu mess (like Eton mess) with a lovely citrus-chocolate smell and a banana meets pear flavour. Apparently it is beginning to be used in body creams.
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We had 40 mins before we had to leave and went to see the semi-wild parrots and macaws they kept. The waiter said they were free to fly anytime (clearly true) but that they chose to come back frequently. Urubamba is Quecha for Plain of Spiders (I do not know why) and is on the Urubamba River under Mt. Chicon. It is the largest town in the Sacred Valley.

OLLANTAYTAMBO
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We drove on to the Town of Ollantaytambo (our guide’s home town), an Hispanic town built on top of an Inca town. We stopped at the Plaza, looking up to the remains of the temple on the hill above. The modern(!) town was basically the Inca town (streets, walls, houses). We walked into the site through an arch and waited at the bottom, by the Water Temple. Opposite we could see the head of Wiracocha/ Viracocha, the Inca Creator God or possibly Tunupa, on Pinkuylluna Hill. There are also storehouses and a prison hanging off the hill. In Quecha pinkuylluna is a chiming musical instrument, suggesting a place where it was used.
Our guide started taking us up the terraces that led to the top talking about how Incas used to be giants. We gave up at this point (this took 20 mins of talking) and said we’d meet them later. We headed straight up to the Building of 10 niches, the Intihuatana and Temple of the Sun, and the Palace buildings behind. Above us were the pre-Inca ruins and the original Inca walls and on the opposite hill were the storehouses and watchtowers. We walked around the top to a look out post before returning back down.

The current town of Ollantaytambo (2792m) is built right on top of the Incan one and incorporates most of it. In the 15th century Inca Pachacuti decided he wanted the town (which was pre-Inca as well as Inca) for his personal estate. He razed much of the original town, rebuilding a fortress, ceremonial and town. He added terracing and irrigation around the town. We parked in the plaza (Plaza of Manyaraki), now the town centre. This part of the town, across the Patakancha river, is called ‘Araqhama. The town retains much of its Inca layout of 4 longitudinal streets criss-crossed by 7 latitudinal streets. The east side is an open area, the north are rougher, unworked stone buildings, but west and south are nicer polished stone structures with larger than normal doors. Most of these are still very obvious as you go into the town.
The south buildings (the ones we saw driving in) are blocks of 2 kancha (walled compounds)- four rooms around a central courtyard. Many are still occupied, making the town one of the oldest continuously occupied in South America. The Inca plaza is now a Plaza de Armas with a church, café and gift shop.
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from left- path looking down on Pumtalis; Temple sector with pre-Inca walls above; Palace sector

We walked up the Cerro terraces. The Cerro Bandolista is commonly called Temple Hill or The Fortress (a misnomer less commonly used now). The site was mainly religious. To access it we had to climb a series of steep steps up the terraces. The steps led to a large platform- terrace of Pumatallis. Here the site divided into three main areas. In front of us the Middle sector contained several rectangular buildings (some two storied) and fountains.
We then turned left to the Temple sector. This area was clearly high prestige as it was built from attractive fitted red stones (rose rhyolite) rather than the greyer fieldstone of the other parts. The steps that accessed it were via a half finished gate (Manay racay) on a thin terrace with the Room or House of ten Niches. This long, 1-room building must have been ceremonial in function. Carrying on up was an open area with good views containing the Platform of the Carved Seat and two unfinished stone walls which would have been monumental had they been completed. Further up we arrived at the incomplete Temple of the Sun. The most striking thing here was the Wall of the Six Monoliths. From the blocks on site it’s clear that this temple construction was abandoned mid-point (around the civil war/ Spanish conquest period). Above the monoliths, some of which were decorated, was the intihuatana, a wall with deep niches and a building on a cliff edge (for astronomy?).
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Temple of the Niches (both)
We continued up to the palace area and could see above us the pre-Inca walls and fortifications. Then we headed back to the terrace area to go right towards the funerary sector with its associated structures. It was quite a narrow path. From here we could see the sunken Callejon terraces towards the river (quite deep and presumably to protect the crops from the colder night air). At the far end of these was the Q’ellu Raqay plaza and building, which was probably Pachacuti’s residence.
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When Inca Pachacuti died Ollantaytambo was administered by his family (panaqa) who used it to provide nobles lodging whilst their tenant farmers (yanaconas) farmed the terraces. After the Spanish occupation of Cusco, Sapa Manco Inca retreated to Ollantaytambo as an easily defensible town. He added fortifications, and in 1536 he defeated the Spanish at the Plain of Mascabamba nearby. However, he moved his capital to Vilcabamba in 1537 (though it did him no good in the end). The Spanish crown awarded Ollantaytambo to Hernando Pizarro in 1540, in encomienda (in theory he was given the population and was responsible for their protection and education in return for tribute of gold or labour; in practise it was basically slavery).

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When we met up we asked what time we’d be back in Cusco as we had an anniversary dinner reservation at Chicha. He promised to get us back in time (and he did!). Some people stayed in Ollantaytambo and we dropped some others off in a rather nice looking country lodge as we returned via the Quecha village of Chinchero and Poroy in the dusk (amazing sunset views). He was as good as his word and dropped us off at Plaza Regocijo for the upmarket restaurant. We’d booked ahead and were treated really well, with a window/ balcony table on the second floor. The Plaza view over dinner was lovely, with lit up fountains and church. The waiter was lovely. He suggested a potato starter for Steve- by which I mean 6 different potato varieties (most of which aren’t even available commercially) all cooked in different ways, including 1 of a potato stuffed inside a potato! I had to try chicharron pork and it was beautifully cooked. The waiter brought us a quality Peruvian wine (Tacama Seleccion Especial. This is the oldest Southern American vineyard founded in the 1540s in Ica Province close to Nazca. It is 400m above sea level, which is an interesting note to our own wines 500m and with similar issues I’d think.

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This wine is a Tannat/ Petit Verdot blend made in oak. It was crimson-purple with a woody nose, but a rich cherry taste. Brilliant- no wonder its their top wine www.tacama.com and nobody rushed us AT ALL (even though we’d heard this criticism).
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Potato (Papa) was domesticated in southern Peruvian Andes at least 10,000 years ago. Along with corn and quinoa, it was a staple of the Inca empire.
We returned to the hotel via La Merced church (as we got some money out) and were handed our original room key- we simultaneously refused to accept it and said if we didn’t get the type of room we’d paid for (i.e. a double, rather than the smelly, pokey single they’d given us) we’d go to the tourist police. Amazingly (!) they suddenly had an available room (which apparently they had not had before- they must have thought we were stupid! Cue one slamming report on Tripadvisor, so silly them). Whilst they moved us we went for a walk around Plateros shopping area. We stocked up with a nail file (yes, essential) and water for Machu Picchu tomorrow. Then we got back to a proper room. La Merced Church and Convent was founded 1536, destroyed in the 1650 earthquake and rebuilt in 1675 in Baroque Renaissance style.
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Posted by PetersF 16:51 Archived in Peru Tagged history peru cusco archaeology ollantaytambo inca sacred_valley pisaq Comments (0)

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