In preparation for our excursion to visit the beautiful archaeological sites Sacred Valley has to offer, we left at 7:30 (the equivalent of the crack of dawn for our students!). We met Luis, our guide, and we all loaded into the bus, excited to explore these sites and learn about the history of the native Peruvian tribes. After a short sleepy bus ride, we arrived at our first site: Pisac.
For hundreds of years, this area was home to many different civilizations of South America, the most well-known of these being the Incas. Luis pointed out the different archaeological styles and taught us how each different style is either indicative of a different leader of a civilization or potentially a new civilization altogether. After giving us a brief tour of the site, he invited us to try to climb to the top of the main structure. While this may seem quite easy for those reading in North America, we are currently at an altitude of 3500 meters above sea level, so climbing this tower proved to be more difficult than expected. Zaela noted that “the climb was difficult because of the altitude, but it was worth it”. Once we reached the top, we were given a nearly unobstructed view of the valley beneath us, and it was breathtaking.
After we left Pisac, we headed to a nearby town to explore their markets. Thanks to Luis, we were lucky enough to be shown how to identify real baby-alpaca wool by feel and weight. We were also taught how to identify real silver products and how to differentiate them from low-quality silver alloys. After this enlightening presentation, we were given time to shop and explore the marketplace, with many students walking away with silver souvenirs and comfortable clothes to remember our day in the market.
The second archeological site we visited was on the hilltop above Ollantaytambo. Even the rain could not spoil our interest in exploring these Incan homes and religious sites.
After climbing back down from Ollantaytambo, we visited the nearby town. We were invited into the home of a family that still lives by the traditional Incan way of life. The family had many guinea pigs scurrying around their home (did I mention that some of us had sampled the traditional dish of guinea pig on the way to lunch). The family explained how these animals are normally wild but they are herded into their home.
Soon afterwards, we walked around with Luis telling us about the history of the city. One particularly interesting fact about the city near Ollantaytambo is that the town was originally built in the shape of a llama, though it’s now grown out of this shape. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a traditional Peruvian wedding, where many members of the family and friends donned colourful masks and costumes in the Peruvian tradition. We joined the wedding procession through time and pretended we were paparazzi taking pictures of this colourful festive occasion.
This experience taught us about the importance of Incan history and the colourful history of the Incan civilization, and we are all very grateful we got the chance to learn and experience what remains of the Incan civilization.