Cusco and the Sierra
I recently had the opportunity to visit Cusco, Machu Picchu, and a host of other amazing Inca sites in the Sacred Valley. Though I had travelled to the part of Perú with my family previously, it was undoubtedly a different experience this time seeing as I got to now the other people in the program better, see different ruins with a different guide, and experience other parts of the Sierra such as a farming community in Chahuay and a home for girls at risk run by the Catholic Church.
Almost immediately upon our arrival in Cusco many people in our group were suffering from altitude sickness, which unfortunately would continue to affect many of my peers throughout the trip. However, these bouts of altitude sickness rarely lasted long, and almost everybody was feeling well enough to begin seeing some of the historical section of Cusco after lunch.
That night I went to a jazz café and listened to a group that played in a style they called “Jazz en Quechua,” which was an interesting mix of bossa nova, latin jazz, and traditional música andina with lyrics sung in Quechua, the native language of the majority of Indigenous people living in the Cusco region.
Our second night in Cusco a few friends and I visited the famous club Ukuku’s, which is world-renowned as the best place to hear live music in Cusco.
The trip continued with visits to the many historic and sacred Inca sites throughout the region. Of these my favourite was Pisaq due to the fact that it was not very crowded during our visit, and this combined with the otherworldly flute music that was reverberating off of the ancient terraces as a solitary musician played combined to create an atmosphere of mystical serenity. Further, it had been threatening to rain all day and though it drizzled for a little, when the clouds finally cleared the sun was brighter than ever! A few friends and I were taking our time and lagging behind the group a little bit to truly appreciate the majesty of the ruins, and we were blessed with not only one but two of the most vibrant, beautiful rainbows I have ever seen shimmering one immediately above the other. Qenqo was a site I had not visited before, and our twilight journey through its walls was superb and a little spooky; seeing the sacrificial stone as night closed in around us was an eerie and unforgettable experience.
The ruins of Ollantaytambo are always fantastic due to the great view the provide of the town at their base and the sheer scale of the terraced walls. Though I wish we had been able to spend the night there, as it is a very interesting and charming little town with many buildings using original Incan foundations, we had to make our way to Aguascalientes, the village that is the starting point for the journey up to Machu Picchu.
We rose quite early in the morning to beat the hordes of tourists to Machu Picchu but even though we woke up at four in the morning it would seem that everyone else had the same idea so there was still a bit of a line. Machu Picchu is truly phenomenal, there is nothing in the world that can compare to it, and it is without a doubt impossible to describe the spiritual beauty of the place in words so all I’ll say is that everyone should definitely make the trip to the Andes and view it for themselves at least once in their lives.