Once outside Cusco, and on our approach to the Valley, we were given the opportunity to view the area from overhead. Formed eons ago by the Urubamba River, the Valley was historically, and still is, a fertile agricultural basin. Crops are grown without benefit of chemicals, and are rotated over 3-4 years with subsequent fallow periods to help sustain the health of the soil. The geographic and climatic variations allow a wide diversity of crops. Approximately 3000 varieties of potatoes are grown in Peru, and the crop was domesticated, near here, between 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.
We traveled next to Ollantaytambo, a military, religious and agricultural center, which was built on two mountains with strategic locations overlooking the valley. The Inca town is mostly intact, and descendants still live in some homes of the original settlers. Education of the indigenous children in the highland areas is difficult not only because of the geographic challenges but the linguistic problem. Children may need to travel hours to get to a school, and then classes are taught in Spanish, not Quechau or Aymara, which is spoken at home. Our guide had been raised in a home in which his family had raised crops on 12 terraces for generations. Decades ago, the government took over the ancient terraces to "protect" them, thus eliminating the livelihood for the family. Agriculture is still important, but tourism is taking over as a primary income source for many.
Ollantaytambo is a starting point for the 4-day, 3-night hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We opted to for a much easier route, via the Vistadome with PeruRail.
|Overlooking the valley|
|Young indigenous girl near Ollantaytambo|
|Quinoa growing on the mountainside|
|Terraces at Pisac|
|Alan at top of Pisac|
|Granaries and watch towers at Ollantaytambo|
|Main street, Pisac|
|One of the unusual potatoes found in the market|
|At the market|