Today was the first day of our tour, which involved visiting Incan ruins and Peruvian villages on the way to Ollantaytambo, where I am writing this while waiting for our train to leave for our hostel near Machu Picchu.
The day started with us getting a bus from the hostel in Cusco to the ruins at Pisac. On the way we stopped off at two markets. One was on a roadside, and the other was in a small village. These were typical tourist-trap markets, and featured the usual suspects from all around the world: key chains, wallets, rugs etc, but usually decorated with llamas. In the second market we did however try some enchiladas, which were decidedly tasty, and see some baby-llamas, which look like lambs, and you can pay the equivalent of 15p to hold.
Once at the Pisac ruins, the tour guide took us around and explained some of the history. They are essentially an old walled city set on a hillside, with steppes in the hills below for farming. The steppes were at one time fully irrigated with a system of complex aqueducts, but these fell into disuse, and are being restored to this day. When the tourguide was done, we spent some time climbing to the top of the city, which was where the nobility and religious elite of the community used to live.
Our next stop was for lunch at a lovely restaurant set right on a river in the mountains. The meal was a buffet, consisting of a large number of meats, including Alpaca, which we both sampled and found to be very nice. There was a panpipe band playing throughout, which added to the Andean atmosphere.
The final sight of the day was at the town of Ollantaytambo, which is a centuries-old town, with original houses from around 1500 still being lived in. These houses are at the base of what are now ruins, but were once the site of an Incan city, set on the mountainside much like the Pisac ruins. The tour guide explained to us how only the best materials could be used to build the temple, so lumps of 10-20 tonne granite were hauled for around 4km down a nearby mountain. The temple was never fully finished due to the Spanish invaders, and lumps of granite can still be seen lying on the path to the quarry.
At this point the tour guide left us to return to Cusco, and we opted to hike up another mountain to the ruins of what were once grain storage facilities. Since harvests were so unpredictable, as much grain as possible was saved and stored on the mountainside. We made the hike at the end of the day, so got to see a great sunset over the Incan ruins. At the top, we had our highest altitude game of backgammon ever, which I am proud to say I won.
Photos of the day: Us near the top of the Pisac ruins, a baby llama available for holding, the restaurant where we had lunch, the sun setting over the Ollantaytambo ruins, and the grain storages.