It's a creekmore world

Peru Day 6: Pisaq and Wildflowers

The pisac ruins are to the left.


It feels weird to get up and put on new clothes.  What luxury.  I make my way out to the KB Tambo lobby and begin to put together my scraps of notes and pictures from two different phones and my now usable camera. I’m beind in posting to the blog, partly because of the bag problem.  But also because we are going so hardcore that I don’t have time to write, edit photos and post everything.

Goodbye Sacred Valley

The valley below Pisaq.
Over the breakfast at KB tambo, we see new couples come in ready to do Machuh Picchu and Wayna Picchu.  I pass on everything we learned, as travelers do, and they appreciate it.  We’re the ‘experts’ now after three days, and we’re leaving the Sacred valley today.

We won’t say goodbye to the Inca without visiting Pisaq, the second best ruins in the Sacred Valley, in the Eastern part closer to Cusco.  Pisaq is a few hours stop on our way back to Cusco, where we pick up an overnight red-eye bus to Nasca, on the desert pacific coast of Peru where we will begin the second leg of our itinerary before the final one in the Amazon Basin.

Blogging our travels

OMG she's beautiful.
’Live’ travel blogging (posting full pictures, video and narrative within a day or two)  is a meta-game I play while traveling.  Keeping the gear powered, finding adequate internet access, and getting the time to write and edit photos is fun, somewhat stressful and rewarding.

But the real joy is recording our travel events with the level of detail you can only get when you take notes and write soon after the event.  It’s too easy to forget what we did, even a few days later.  And I definitely want the girls to have something they can look back on with pride and interest.  The content will be, I hope, someday appreciated by them.  This is our family photo album.

The surgery leaves three drains and a big wrap.
Despite the headaches of the lost bag and it’s effect on my tech gear, it’s really nice to blog about something other than cancer, too.  If you don’t already know our story, we decided to do as much family travel as our lives would allow after Trish’s first bout with cancer in 2003.

Our plan then was to save up and go around the world for a year but for several obvious and practical reasons, we are trying to do about 2 months a year instead.  With this trip, we are up to 14 weeks of international family travel (France, England, Italy, Ukraine, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Israel/Palestine, Mexico and Peru)

With some luck, we’ll be doing China, Thailand and a few other asian destinations for a month this summer, which will bring our total to 18 weeks, about a third of our way to a year of travel.  That’s pretty good especially considering we lost most of last year to cancer the second time.  (Have you figured out that I’m goal-oriented?)

The hard part about travel

Are these fantastically georgous adventure-girls or what?
Our driver is Julio again, who took us to the Salinas and Moray sites.  It takes about an hour to drive back through this beautiful region, but it feels less dramatic than when we arrives.  I think we are beginning to take it for granted.  It’s funny how something can be so beautiful but it becomes ‘normal’ after only a short while.

We’ve been seeing these stunning views for the last 4 days, and it begins to all look the same after a while.  I force myself to drink in the images.  I know I won’t see them again for a long time.

Lily and I help each other all morning.
Lily and I are both a little sick, she more than me.  Our stomachs are upset and we have the runs.  Pisaq is really high up, about 11,000 feet above sea-level.  The altitude is noticeably higher than Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu and we all feel weak.

Lily and I hang on to each other as we search the ruins first for the bathrooms.  The bathrooms in Peru have been pretty good so far, none of the super skanky public variety that one encounters when world travelling.  But these are smelly squat toilets with no doors, and Lily and I both opt to pass, feeling like we’d be more sick using the toilets than holding it in.

Narrow, steep stairs are everywhere.
That’s the way it goes when you travel.  She handles it with more patience and maturity than many adults.  I’m so proud of both mu little girls (and my adult girl too.)


Pisaq is, as we have come to expect of the Inca, a brilliantly situated city and the wildflower blooms are again abundant and vibrant. As a ruins go, it’s more of the same – small buildings with narrow streets and winding stairs that feel like a maze.

There are not many people here today, a Monday. Pisaq is also home to the biggest craft market in the Sacred Valley on Thursdays and Sundays, when throngs of tourists from Cusco pile into the ruins in the morning and spend money on souveiners in the afternoon.

The signature terraced farming of the Inca.
We didn’t get to see Ollantaytambo ruins because of my bag hassles, so even though my bowles are angry and my lungs are straining for oxygen, this is a great few hours. In the town of Pisaq, a few thousand feet below, it’s completely deserted.  We grab lunch and Lily and I both feel a lot better afterward.

The ‘turistico’ menu consists of really basic stuff.  There seem only to be sauteed chicken breasts with rice, lousy burritos, unappetizing pizza and soggy french fries on every menu in the Sacred Valley. I wish I has found more of the nuevo-andean gourmet food that is (suposedly) growing in popularity and availability.    But we aren’t seeking it out, either, so we can only blame ourselves.  We eat conveniently, opting  to save our time and money for other things.

An Alpaca surprise

Take me to your leader!
I thought there was a smaller market at Pisaq on the off-days, but apparently not.  Julio says (or I think he says) that he’ll take us some where the girls can buy a few things like I promised them.  But we’re pretty far away from Pisaq, almost to Cusco already.  I’m guessing I have failed to communicate in spanish or he’s taking us to a market in Cusco.

At the top of the pass, just as the Sacred Valley goes out of sight in our rear view, Julio pulls the car over.  We dutifully get out.  He motions across the road, through the gate of a long wooden fence.  I can make out some men with hardhats and hand tools inside a small courtyard constructing something.

This sure doesn’t look like an active market. Through the gate, there is a small coffee stand, which improves our possibilities. I grab a  cup of coffee, negro, of course.  He pours a cup of the coffee concentrate they keep cold and adds hot water.  And I look around to realize we are in some kind of alpaca and llama farm.

Emma likes this young-adult alpaca.
This isn’t the tacky souvenier shop I had promised the girls, but they quickly forget the excitement of dumb keychains and beaded bracelets when the Llamas get up close, really close.  In fact they eat from our hands.  It’s basically a petting zoo and they are incredibly friendly animals with really soft fur in black, white grey and brown.

There are even Vicunas up on the hill, which are the wild versions of llamas, and have been endangered and officially protected as far back as the Inca, which makes them one of the oldest legally protected species on the earth.

After we hang with the Alpacas, we turn around and see a few women in traditional garb weaving the tapestries and fabrics for which that the Andean people are known.   This is actually a weaving cooperative.  Hidden behind the alpaca pens are a few rooms where they show how the wools are died.  An adorable little boy mumbles in spanish non-stop, and leads the girls around the craft area showing them the different stuff from which dyes are made.

Score!  We all get great gifts including these awesome alpaca hats and a beautiful tapestry for our house.
Inside we all buy some great stuff.  The girls get those cute hats made from baby Alpaca wool and Trish and I get an expensive tapestry for our house that (they say) took four months to make.  They won’t bargain with me, which is unusual.  The saleswoman explains that the prices are fixed so that the craftswoman gets her full price.   If that’s true, I’m glad to pay the full amount.

The Wildflowers of the Sacred Valley

One of the most fantastic aspects of our 6 days in the sacred valley were the wild flowers.  We were blessed with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it in it’s spring glory.  The air was always sweet and in the dry breeze there were flowers of every color blooming in the most unusual places: rock cliff sides, cobblestone streets, and dotting the entire landscape.

I’m an amateur gardener myself, and enjoy the flowers of spring.  But to see them wild while hiking Machu Picchu or zip-lining over the Urubamba river is a special experience.  I think the kids will remember the Sacred Valley as a lush colorful place, when in fact it’s more often brown.  (Still beautiful, but not the same as what we got.)

If you get a chance to do Machu Picchu et. al. in spring time, do it.  Here’s a wildflower slideshow for fun.

Goodbye to the Inca heartland

We couldn’t ask for more from our first 6 days.  The high-altitude river valley of the Inca’s is as interesting as it is beautiful.  One could easily spend two full weeks here at a leisurely pace and not feel bored for a minute.

But we travel faster than that, and next up is the Pacific southern coast of the desert Ica province with it’s ancient Nasca civilization, the highest sand dune in the world, internationally famous Ceviche, and animal reserves with thousands of penguins and sea lions.

5 days ago, we bought our tickets for the over night ‘VIP’ red-eye bus to Nazca from Cusco on the Cruz Del Sur lines.  Cruz Del Sur is a newish busline aimed at foreign and high-end domestic travlellers.  It runs up and down the pacific Coast, where plane flights don’t go easily.  Or if they do, you have to go back through Lima, which is expensive and time-consuming, which is why we are taking an overnight bus from Cusco to Nazca.

Photo doesn't exist

It’s a new double decker vehicle, with the downstairs being the VIP section with larger seats, and the upstairs are coach.  The larger seats are, I assume, better for the winding red-eye trip over the Andes at 15,000 feet and then down the other side to the desert of Nazca.  And VIP isn’t much more expensive.

There is a television that loudly plays music and some movies, but I was warned of this in advance by Trip Advisor forums, so we all have ear plugs.  And they serve us some kind of faintly warm, chicken and rice dish that is no worse than airplane food.

We doze off in the dark.  Tomorrow begins our second leg of this trip.



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