Thursday, May 28, 2015

Urubamba - Day 5

Wednesday, May 27
Our focus today was on the Urubamba Valley, from its early times to present day life.
The sun was shining beautifully this morning and was perfect for a lazy raft ride on the Urubamba River.
I say lazy because, since this is the dry season, the river is not fast and it was more of a float trip. But more time to relax, enjoy the scenery and take pictures.
Afterwards we went to the nearby Ollantaytambo ruins where Pepe gave us a complete tour of the well-preserved site.
It was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region and built a town and ceremonial center in the 15th century.  It is characterized by these terraces which were used as a kind of retaining wall for the mountain rather than for farming.
We walked up more than 200 steps to reach the top where we saw the ruler's throne and the Temple of the Sun, from whom the emperor received his divine power. Everything we climbed faced Mount Pinkuylluna on the right where the sun rose.
This view from the back shows where the people farm today, with a glacier in the background.
Afterwards, we stopped in a "bar" for a cultural experience. I use the term bar loosely because bars are often set up in the kitchens of people's homes. The only alcohol that is sold is "chicha," a mild beer made from fermented corn. It is home brewed in large batches and must be consumed within a day or two. Customers know when a bar is open because the "proprietor" puts a long stick with a flag or some other kind of marker in front.
We tasted the chicha, which was kind of sour, but our hostess made one with strawberries and sugar and it was quite tasty.
This particular bar was quite enterprising. In a room next door to the kitchen she was raising guinea pigs, and she had a small gift shop on the premise.
Then we left for our lunch hosted by a local resident.
This was an interactive experience. I won't go into much detail or show pictures, although the whole experience was very interesting. First we watched how Emma, our hostess killed the guinea pig (quickly with a twist of the neck), removed the fur (leaving on the skin), and prepared it for frying. Then we learned how to make Peruvian tortillas, with corn flour, potatoes, eggs, and seasonings and then fried like a roll. Lunch was delicious with potato soup, a pasta dish, lupine beans, rice, and, of course, "cuy," the Peruvian name for the animal. We all tried a small piece and it tasted like chewy chicken. Then we all gave her hostess gifts we had brought from home.
One more stop for the day was to an artist's studio. His name is Seminario, but unfortunately, he was not there. But his work is exquisite and he employs 50 local people in his workshop. He originally was an architect but decided to become an artist. He started out selling sculptured clay houses on the street in Cusco and the rest is history.  
Loved this picture of his studio - it looks so typical of an artist.
Tonight, before we went to dinner, Pepe hosted us at the bar with a lesson on how to make Pisco Sours. They resemble whiskey sours because an American on tour invented it years ago and it stuck. Then we went to a local restaurant and enjoyed one of Peru's most popular dishes, "pollo a la brasa"(rotisserie-style chicken) which was very good. Tomorrow - Machu Picchu!

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