Peru Photojournal, Part 2

This half of my travel journal will cover what I consider the ‘spiritual heart’ of Peru. Namely, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu.

Chinchero

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Our journey began snug in the Andes, with a bus taking us from Cuzco airport…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

… past whispering hills

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

… deeper into the Sacred Valley.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

We passed striking scenes of mountain life, contented livestock…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

… and happy Incan children.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

We stopped for lunch at Chinchero, a picturesque village perched atop a hill.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Left: Quinoa soup, stuffed peppers Right: Coca tea

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Even though it was quite heavy on tubers and grains, I really enjoyed this lunch.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

And here’s a whole roasted guinea pig (cuy), a Peruvian delicacy.

We weren’t offered this, understandably… but later on, I caught our guide FEASTING on this platter with another local. Quite funny that our guide gets a ‘fancier’, more protein-based meal than us!

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

After lunch, we were shown hand-weaving techniques. Alpaca wool is dyed naturally using a variety of plants… and insects!

Ollantaytambo

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Another bus ride, then we spent the evening exploring the ruins surrounding this town.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2View from hotel room in Urubamba

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Ollantaytambo ruins (on the hill)

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Ollantaytambo town

We liked this township so much that we returned here the next day to explore it more.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Ollantaytambo is an ancient Incan town and archaeological site that, amazingly, has continued to function till today.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

It’s also considered the gateway to Machu Picchu. The 3-day Inca Trail that leads to the sacred ruins starts from this town.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

We decided to climb up one of the mountains to explore this ancient granary that overlooked the town.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2View from the granary

Cobblestoned streets, timeworn roofs, trapezoidal doorways, quiet courtyards…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

…circled by mountains with the breeze in your ears…

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…it was peaceful.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Walking down the narrow streets, the roll of clear running water down the stone aqueducts lent a beautiful audio backdrop.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Peru Photojournal, Part 2

We were definitely very, very far away from home…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Peru Photojournal, Part 2Papa a la Huancaína (potatoes in yellow sauce) | Rocoto relleno (stuffed pepper)

The comida tipica (local fare) here was less exciting though. Outside of Lima, most of our meals were not that appetising.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Different varieties of Peruvian corn

And… don’t laugh… but Peruvian fare made us quite gassy all the time.

Machu Picchu

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

We visited Machu Picchu the easy way… by training it there rather than hiking. And I’m thankful for that, the high altitudes (and rainy weather) made it hard to do anything strenuous.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Still, the whole journey took awhile, involving a 1.5hr train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2View from the bus

Then there’s a precarious 30min bus ride up the side of the mountain to the actual site. By this point, the scenery already started looking pretty spectacular.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

With my heart in my throat, we stepped into the Lost City of the Incas.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

I love ruins and lost civilisations…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

…this has been one archaeological site that I’ve always wanted to visit since I was a teenager.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

But after all the images I’ve seen in books and on TV, I half-expected to be a bit disappointed by the real deal.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Peru Photojournal, Part 2Peru Photojournal, Part 2

I couldn’t have been more wrong…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

The site was magnificent.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

In between bursts of phototaking, I just stood silently, and stared…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

and stared…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

And a part of me wished…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

it really really wished…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

… that we’d had more than just the one day to spend there.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

It’s the sort of place where you’d drink in the view silently, and then think to yourself  ‘okay. I can die now’.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Here I am, at the spiritual city of the Incas, built at an almost impossible spot. Placed atop a mountain… surrounded in all directions by valleys, rivers and even more mountains.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

It’s a site that gives a sense of changelessness,

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

of inviolable peace…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

…a location that I will never forget.

Cuzco

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Cusco is a big city (with half a million people) high up in the sacred valley. It’s where most people fly in to get to Machu Picchu.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Like many cities in Peru, most parts of Cusco looked a little bit unfinished.

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But its historical centre, where our hotel was, is very charming and European-looking.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Breakfast at Hotel Libertador, Cuzco

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

It rained quite a bit when we were there, so we didn’t wander all that much.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

However, a lot of doorways did beckon exploration…

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Peru Photojournal, Part 2

…and they always seemed lead into beautiful courtyards.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Being a bigger city, we had more interesting food here. Including lunch at a local cebicheria, complete with live music and indoor umbrellas.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Unfortunately, this meal gave a few of us tummy troubles!

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

We also tried Peruvian Chinese fare, called ‘Chifa’ – which is a loose translation of 吃饭 chi fan (Chinese for ‘eat rice’).

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Sadly, the cuisine has gone very tangential over the centuries and the flavours leant towards being too sweet for my palate. Only the hot and sour soup on the left was nice.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2

Still, I thought this was a very pretty town.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Dinner at Chicha

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Taboule Cusqueo (quinoa salad) | Chaufa Andino de Quinua y Cuy (deep fried guinea pig w chifera sauce)
Pannacotta de lúcuma | Creme Brulée Mazamorrera (served over purple maize pudding)

One of the better meals we had was at Chicha por Gastón Acurio. I had deep fried guinea pig with Chinese-style fried ‘rice’ (but using quinoa). It was fragrant with wok hei (fire of the wok). I also enjoyed the desserts, lucuma is a less common fruit (called chiku ‘चीकू’ in Northern India) that I used to eat in Singapore.

Peru Photojournal, Part 2Tram on wheels in Cuzco

That’s the end of the Sacred Valley leg of Peru, I hope you enjoyed it. To have a sense of the other parts of Peru that we visited, take a look at Peru Photojournal, Part 1.

In the next travel instalment, I will be covering the widely contrasting landscapes in Chile!