28 November 2011

Cusco, Peru: Climbing and Ollantaytambo

Hello to all after a long, Internet-free weekend! While I had a good time on my adventures this past weekend, I will say that life here in Cusco just moves at a slower pace. It takes a long time to get anywhere, because the roads are really curvy, people show up to places on South American time (aka anywhere from five to sixty minutes late), and in general nobody rushes. It's definitely a big change, but it's kind of growing on me. Anyhow, my Friday night was made complete by an awesome back of popcorn that I bought from one of the street carts. Delicious!

Saturday morning, I got up early to go rock climbing with the kids from Azul Wasi, the orphanage where I volunteer. There is a climbing company in Cusco that offers high-risk kids a free day of climbing—including talks about physical fitness, drive, and reaching your potential—as a sort of outreach program. While they were setting things up, Valerio found a stick bug. After examining this for a bit...

...the real fun began! Watching all the kids try to conquer this rock, and listen to directions, and in general be really supportive of each other was awesome! I also gave it a couple of tries (I actually made it past the halfway mark!), as you can see below (though I'm not sure why this picture came out sideways).

After the climbing adventure, we all walked back to Cusco through a windstorm, then the kids went back to Oropesa and I went to a three-hour salsa class. Dancing certainly is good exercise!

Sunday morning, after a rollicking Mass in the church near my house, Christine and I went with some Australian friends, Sheri and Lars, to Ollantaytambo, a site of some very impressive Incan ruins. It was in this city, part of the Sacred Valley, that the Incas made their last stand against the Spanish. They actually won a huge battle by opening a dam and flooding the valley, but eventually, in 1544. they were overcome. I am standing in the city, and behind me is a huge hill on which the Incas built storehouses (it is cold and windy there, so the food stayed fresh).

The four of us by the sun gate, the sacred entrance to the Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo.

The terraces, the storehouse hill, and the current city stretched out in the valley below.

Back down at the bottom of the terraced hill of Ollantaytambo, which is shaped like a llama (my camera lens wasn't wide enough to capture the effect, but it was pretty nifty). The Temple of the Sun, the king's throne, and the living quarters are at the top of the terraces behind us (that's where the earlier pictures I included were taken). These ruins were well-worth the hour bus ride from Cusco, not only for their historical significance, but also because the Incan stonework at the top was incredible—pictures really don't do it justice!

My last discovery of the weekend was made on the way to catch the bus back to Cusco: giant corn! Seriously, this corn had to be at least 9 feet tall (the field was sunken below the level of the stone fence you see in the picture). When I asked someone about it, they said that this corn was unique to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and that it only grows there because of the very specific combination of climate and altitude. Apparently, the ears of corn are almost two feet long, and each kernel is around an inch. What a crazy end to the weekend!


linda feldt said...

I am so glad to hear from you. Sounds like your weekend was busy. Thanks for sharing. The kids look sweet. Your dad will be glad to hear you're enjoying popcorn. Let's talk soon Be safe Love & prayers mom

grandma feldt said...

Real interesting & love to see you with friends. Love ya