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Monday, August 27, 2012

Viva El Peru: Pisac

This year, we decided that instead of flying back to the US every chance we had, we would expand our horizons and do some traveling within South America.  Our first real venture out of the country was this past week when we went to Peru.  And wow, what a great decision that was!

We booked our trip through Sundance Spirit travel agency, and would recommend that anyone who was traveling to Peru with children do the same.  When I was researching our trip, I had a difficult time deciphering between the hike/camp/adventure trips and the trips that were actually prepared to have a 1.5 year old in tow.  We wanted to stay in a decent hotel at night, hike a reasonable amount during the day but always have a contingency plan in order to accomodate traveling with a child.  

We decided on 6 days/5 nights in Peru, though that included our two travel days which were incredibly long.  It took us 5 hours to fly from Buenos Aires to Lima, where we connected on another hour long flight to Cusco.  From there we drove 1.5 hours to the Sacred Valley, and began our trip there.  We added the 1.5 hour long drive to the Sacred Valley in there because it is ill-advised to start your trip in Cusco due to the altitude, Cusco is 11,200 feet above sea level (for comparison, Denver is 5,280 feet) and if you're not used to that kind of altitude and you jump right into it, you're just begging for a problem.  

In the Sacred Valley we stayed at the beautiful Aranwa Hotel.  The staff is friendly, the rooms are large, they had the best accommodations for children we've seen to date (real high chairs and cribs!) and the food and drinks were outstanding.  The bartender, Andres, made the a passionfruit Pisco sour that was, perhaps, the best drink I have ever tasted.  They even had a doctor on staff to see Gretchen after the flight when I thought she might have pink eye (luckily she didn't).  The only negative thing that I would say about the hotel is that the dinner service was extremely slow.  To their credit, this was not the only place in Peru that we had this issue.

We had a busy schedule from the start, but we were told that the Pisac Ruins were not to be missed, so we added that onto our trip at the last minute.  This made for an early pickup on our first day in the Sacred Valley, but it was a well-advised decision, the ruins were a really interesting stop. It takes about an hour to get to Pisac from our hotel, and the road is most certainly not direct.  There were more winds and turns than I thought possible, but when you get to the top, it is easy to see why there are so many switchbacks.  We were really high up in the mountains, which made for an amazing view of the towns below.

Back in 2010 there was an obscene amount of rain in this region, and although they are used to a rainy season, the rain persisted beyond what the land was able to handle.  This influx of additional rain caused Machu Picchu to close down for a full two months, as well as causing landslides all over the region.  One of these landslides went right over the original road to the Pisac ruins, completely covering a good 100 meters of asphalt.  There is now a separate entrance point to the ruins, but it is a humbling thought that such a large part of the road could just disappear.

Part of the incredible nature of the Incas is their knowledge of how to use the land.  The fact that they could farm the land on such a steep incline is ingenious, and it looks pretty awesome too.  These terraces are a key identifying factor of the Incas and they are all over the mountainsides in Peru.  They served the multi-purposes of allowing the people to farm the land, preventing against landslides and enabling a natural irrigation system, where the water travels through each layer and settles on the layer below.  The terrace curves mirror the natural curve of the mountain, and generally just look cool.
This stop was our first experience with the baby backpacks, and it was a good starting point before we got to Machu Picchu.  Our hike around the ruins was a few hours long which was enough to teach us to adjust the straps to the right settings and gave us a good idea of what we would need for our future days at Machu Picchu.  This shorter hike also allowed us a window into how the girls were going to react in the backpacks, which they both did quite well in, but neither of them particularly loved.

The amazing architectural skills are evident in this location, more so here than at Machu Picchu because there is no mortar between the bricks.  To add to the incredible nature of this location, this type of of stone does not naturally occur in this location, so it has been found that the Incas mined the stone somewhere 35 km away (21 miles) and somehow traveled with it to this spot high in the mountains.

Holy Moly, that a lot of stone
After visiting the ruins, we drove over to the Pisac Market, which is one of the largest and most well known markets in Peru.  During the week it serves as a tourist market, but on the weekends, particularly on Sundays, locals come from surrounding villages to barter their goods for basic food staples and supplies. 
This market is full of goods, both handmade and processed, and they are generally more than willing to bargain and to a deal.  I loved the art that so many people had on sale. Oil paintings, watercolors, pencil drawings, there were so many beautiful things to choose from the hardest part was making a decision!

The center of the market also has a communal oven where people were baking bread, meat and this guy - who was baking a few little critters of his own.

 Can you tell what they are?  Those are cuy, or guinea pigs, ready for roasting.  There was a cage next to the oven where the luckier little guys live prior to dinner time.  Guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru, not my new favorite meal by a long shot, but it's good to try anything once.

 Peru has a style all it's own and this was a fantastic first day to help us get accustomed to the area.  Next up, our after-lunch ruins trip and how to take a baby to Machu Picchu!


  1. I'm so glad you guys had an awesome trip! I am beyong jealous and can't wait to hear about Machu Picchu!

  2. Can't wait to hear more!! I hope you enjoyed it!! :)