Sacred Valley

We had two days in the Sacred Valley. Our first stop on day 1 was a place called Chinchero. Every other place in the village seemed to be a weaving workshop. It was the usual schedule – a demonstration followed by the opportunity to spend money in the shop – though the demonstation we got here was particularly good.

Firstly the lady washed dirty sheep’s wool using some kind of root. She grated the root into a bowl of water then just agitated the water a bit with her hand to make it all frothy. Apparently they call it Inca Shampoo and use it to wash their hair as well. The bit of sheep’s wool did come up remarkably white.

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We then saw some spinning:

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She then showed us how they get all the different colours using a variety of plant dies. She had a piece of cactus with cochineal on it. It was quite amazing how much red juice she got from squashing 3 tiny beetles.

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Finally we saw some weaving:

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There were plenty of guinea pigs in a little run, enough for a few meals(!). These were short-haired guinea pigs; the ones I’ve seen previously in the North were all super-cute long-haired ones.

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We also saw some Inca ruins at Chinchero, with some nice agricultural terracing:

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We then went to a place called Moray, which dates back 1500 years before the Incas, we were told, but was also used extensively by the Incas themselves. It’s a system of circular agricultural terraces set in a natural geographical sinkhole. It was used as an “agricultural laboratory” to test out various crops, since the different levels and the circular nature of the terraces give a whole range of different conditions for the plants (the lower terraces being generally warmer and different parts of each circular terrace facing in different directions – N, S, E and W).

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I particularly liked the “floating steps” between the terraces. This stops llamas trotting down and eating all the crops (either it would put them off trying or, if they did give it a go and fell, they’d most likely break a leg or two in the fall – llamas and alpacas having spindly legs).

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Our final stop was at a place called Salinas, where there are some pre-Inca salt pans that are still used to produce salt today. I’m sure my Cheshire salt boiler forebears would have preferred to work here…… Apparently there are 3200 pools.

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The salt pans are fed by a small salty stream that runs out of the mountainside above. It’s 65% salt and quite warm. That’s used to fill the pans and then evaporation leaves the salt behind – much easier than mining it and boiling it!

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On day 2 we went to visit the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo. There was some very impressive stonework and terracing….

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We then walked back through the town and looked at a traditional Inca house, complete with ancestors’ skulls over the mantelpiece and guinea pigs scampering around the floor.

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We then walked up the other side of the valley to see some Inca storehouses.

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