Only 3 cocoa leaves allowed! We were greeted at the airport with a welcome gift of 3 cocoa leaves to chew (tastes like lucerne) – a very physical reminder that we are entering the zones prone to altitude sickness. So we chewed and chewed…and were glad that we had started our course of tablets a couple of days prior to this, and were well armed with cocoa lollies and were drinking loads of water and cocoa tea……fingers were crossed.
We will leave an assessment of central Cusco until we return and have time to look around at leisure, as we were whisked off as fast as the stoney roads, errant traffic and countless street dogs would allow – to Ollantaytambo (I have spelt this differently each time, but you get the gist). With 2 nights in the beautiful setting in the foothills we rested to adjust to the height, explored the town and enjoyed our adventures….despite a little glitch with the wrong tour having to be untangled.
Here was a chance to try Alpaca. Mine was stuffed with avocado, cheese and bacon and LSM Muz tried the Alpaca steak with pepper sauce. Both rather forgettable.
Our guide to Moray and Maras was a gentle woman who loved her work and shared her cultural calm with us. First stop was the Incan temple complex in Ollantaytambo – as always accessed through the local craft market. The temple complex served the spiritual needs of the surrounding villages, and although no written language has been found, the pottery, and symbolic architectural styles and engineering feats have slowly been unlocked by archaeologists, and through the generational story sharing. Here, the Spanish conquerers did not destroy the temple or build their Catholic church on top as they did in many other places, so the temple complex is remarkably clear in its outline. The prayer and sacrifice area on top, the agricultural terraces in the middle and the living area outside.
Only 1 of us had a dizzy reaction to the change of scenery at this 3,000 ish metres height, but managed to shrug it off by Day 2. Tip – chew more leaves 😉
This unexpected gem was a really good grounding in Incan history and styles, and we then drove higher to Moray through cultivated areas of potatoes, artichokes and grains to visit the huge botanical experimental laboratory of terraces where seed cross-pollination, modification and storage and distribution was carried out using the climatic variations of the stones and natural winds of the site. How scientifically skilled!
Maras was the next stop…higher again across back-shaking narrow roads with lots of reversing to find squishy passing spots for oncoming buses. This is a salt processing spot……..again the terraces of family plots extracting salt from the waters within the mountains in traditional drying methods were quite astonishing. Plenty of sunshine to see the differing colours indicating the days spent in the drying.
Lunches in these tourist places are buffet style…..but a wide range of choices of local fruits (plump, pulpy passion fruit; prickly pear; gooseberries) and mains such as the mashed yellow potato with chicken or vegetable fillings; local trout grilled or marinated raw – all delicious and plenty to fill any walk-weary, pampered tourist.
We were dropped off in the town square of Oll and strolled around. Lucky we didn’t want drinks on the balcony…lol! Our regular purchase of water our only splurge so far……..apart from the gelato. Hotel grounds were a swathe of familiar flowers and the woman weaving in her traditional costume. Such a delight to see the young giggly girls in theirs as well.
An early start for the challenge of the train, bus, walk to Macchu Picchu……definitely on the bucket list for the 4 of us.