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Amazon Adventures, Day 2 – In Peru’s Sacred Valley
by -- March 5th, 2011

This morning started very early with a great breakfast at the hostel.

Peruvian breakfast

Peruvian breakfast

We made three stops in the Sacred Valley of Peru, also known as Urubamba Valley, where there are many ancient Incan ruins. The valley was appreciated by the Incas for its unique geography and climate; it was one of the empire’s main points for the extraction of natural wealth, and an important area for corn production.

We stopped at Saqsaywaman, Q’enco, Puka Pukara, and the ruins at Pisac. Some of the structures were at elevations over 3700 m, and climbing up to these locations proved difficult. The Pisac hike was amazing-excavations revealed perfect terracing by Incan architects and variety of shelter-like structures, some embellished with thatched roofs. As we climbed, we marveled at the innovative and intricate Incan designs and technologies from many centuries ago.

irrigation systems at Puka Pukara; photo by Davie Nguyen

irrigation systems at Puka Pukara; photo by Davie Nguyen

We witnessed resilient vegetation, well-adapted to its high altitudes. These included Black Eyed Susans and Polylepis Trees, which is a genus that grows at the Andes’ highest elevations. They have many-layered, papery bark, and can grow up to 1000m above the natural tree line. The hike was strenuous but very rewarding-the views from such a height revealed almost the entirety of Cusco, providing a sharp and dramatic contrast against the ancient ruins.

Ruins of Saqsayqaman over Cusco; photo by Stephanie Lavey

Ruins of Saqsayqaman over Cusco; photo by Stephanie Lavey

The most exciting event of the morning occurred at the ruins of Saqsaywaman. We encountered exposed rock among the ruins with distinctive markings that appear to have been caused by glacial movement. However, no other evidence of glaciers is present in the area. Scientists remain puzzled by the mechanics and anomalous natures of this geological phenomenon. We pondered the question while sliding down the smoothed rocks in the ultimate thrill adventure!

Sliding on the mysteriously smooth exposed geologic features at Saqsaywaman

Sliding on the mysteriously smooth exposed geologic features at Saqsaywaman

After descending from the ruins, we shopped and explored in the small town of Pisac. A short bus trip later, we were outside of the town of Urubamba in a gorgeous hostel called Las Chullpas. The site’s name, which is Spanish for “gravesites”, honors a nearby Incan burial ground. In the afternoon, we drank tea and relaxed before eating at a fancy restaurant for dinner. We are excited for a relatively late wake-up time tomorrow (7:30), when we will explore more ancient ruins. Our muscles are sore, but we are anxious to see what else Peru had in store.

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