The trip had “themes” for each day – Inca-redible was today’s. As a small Disney touch – we were given a pin that corresponded with the theme each day. If you’re a pin-trading aficionado – I’m sure it’s a huge boon. For us – it was cute and nice, but we were glad that this was really the only place that Mickey and friends were introduced into the trip. We selected AbD because of Disney’s reputation for quality, not because we were hoping to see Mickey at the top of Machu Picchu.
One thing I haven’t talked about yet is the weather. In the Sacred Valley, the weather required lots of layers. The high might get to the low 70s – with bright sun, it could feel hot, especially if you were hiking. But the low got down into the low 30s – you could see your breath in the morning. So until the sun really came around – it was pretty brisk.
Today was the coldest of the days – it started out overcast and stayed that way pretty much the entire day. We met at 9am to go white water rafting on the Urubamba River. We got some brief instructions and they also provided wetsuits and windbreakers (thankfully).
Here he’s showing us how to hang on to the “rescue” kayak if we should fall out of the raft and be “given” the front of the kayak. I’m thinking – I’ll stay in the kayak.
Each raft held six of us and a guide. We hopped in with the four “teachers” – four women from California who we befriended pretty early on. Three are teachers and one is a guidance counselor – Deb, Karen, Monique, and Diane. Fico was our guide.
The ride started fairly peaceful – some little bubbly sections. The views were stunning and we also saw ruins all along the way. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the “white water” – I figured, Disney, it’s probably pretty tame. But, towards the end – we went through three nice sections of rapids (I think primarily class 2 with one class 3 drop). We had a total blast! When we went down the drop – I fell totally into the boat and into Derek – thankfully I didn’t toss him out of the boat! And – at one point, in the last rapids – we got bumped by another boat and didn’t quite make a turn, so we got beached on a rock. Fico had all six of us in the front of the boat trying to jump up and down to get us dislodged. All I knew was that I was laughing so hard, I’m sure I wasn’t helping at all.
Following the rafting – we headed to Ollantaytambo for lunch. Lunch was in a beautiful courtyard and the chef from Sol y Luna (Chef Nacho) came in to make lunch. It was buffet style and just delicious. While there were guinea pigs around – none were on the menu (they call it cuy in Peru and it’s a delicacy).
Then we toured the ruins of Ollantaytambo. These were terraced steps on the hillside above the town, that led up to a partially completed temple. The terraces were agricultural and provided a way for them to farm crops. I can’t remember the exact percentage, but very little of the land in Peru is arable (lots of rainforest) and what little there is, very little is flat (I want to say something in the low single digit percentages). Thus – they farm on the hillsides and still do. This is also why they still use some pretty old-fashioned tools – they still use oxen to pull basic plows and also some handtools to work the field.
The lower tiers were of rougher construction – Ernesto explained that they were made by a pre-Incan culture. He showed us some of the rocks that were incomplete and hadn’t yet been brought to the top. He also talked about where the rocks came from (a rock quarry/slide a couple of miles away) and the ramp that the Incans used to get the huge rocks up the hillside. This was also our first sight of the incredible Incan construction – the edges of the carved rocks were amazingly square given the use of handtools and the tightness of the fit between rocks amazing – no mortar. Our retaining walls can’t stay up for a year – so we were pretty impressed by these :). The rock next to Ernesto was a partially carved rock – it’s hard to believe that that is 500+ year old construction!
Ernesto also spoke about his tribe – the Wari – who were a great warrior culture. They still hold war games to this day. He demonstrated their slingshots – which of course prompted every kid in the group to want one (yes, Derek and I count as kids 🙂 ).
At the top of the ruins was a partially completed sun temple. The “knobs” sticking out of some of the best blocks were like artist signatures as the stone masons left their mark.
We then did some minor wandering through the town. The streets were very narrow. Ernesto pointed out a sign that says “don’t pee on the wall.”
Dinner was at the hotel restaurant – incredibly delicious. I had pumpkin soup, local trout with corn polenta, and a tres leches corn cake. Wow. Finally back to our casita to our magic hot water bottles and a good night’s sleep.