Peru - Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley)

August 2006


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The Rio Urubamba (the Inca "Vilcanota") in the sacred valley was believed to fertilize the earth and emanated from where the sun was born .

The Inca archeological site at Pisac, with its sections linked by steep Inca trails, sits high on a hill above the Rio Urubamba

Quechua-speaking descendents of the Incas weave materials in cotton, wool and alpaca (Pisac Inca site).

Many Inca sites have a sun temple with a structure called an Intihuatana that projects a unique shadow at the winter soltice (June 21).

The common eight pointed star is called a chikana by the Incas. This stone and its shadow complete a perfect chikana at the winter solstice.

Quality of construction is indicative of importance for Inca structures; this building adjacent to the Intihuatana represents "imperial Inca" style.

Trapezoidal windows and doors and inward sloping walls are characteristic of the seismically-stable Inca construction.

Pilar, a professional tourist guide, led our group through the Sacred Valley, explaining in detail each site and its signficance.

Terracing, practiced by the Huarpa and later the Huari people, allowed the Incas to expand their agricultural lands up mountainsides.

Textiles continue to play a significant economic role just as they did during Inca times.

Public markets in the Valle Sagrado offer an overwhelming selection of beautiful handmade textiles.

Wood-fired hornos (ovens) are used to produce breads throughout Andean Peru.

Zoomorphic forms are common as Incas believed in the power of animal spirits.

The image of Tunupa, messenger of Wiracocha and unifier of the Incas, was sculpted into Pinkuylluna mountain near Ollayntaytambo.

Water is considered a male deity, while the Pachamama (earth) is female. Fountains were designed to allow water to fertilize the earth.

At the peak of the terraces in Ollantaytambo, the sun at the soltice dawn strikes the Intihuatana and creates a specific shadow that marks the event.

Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, sits squeezed between vertical Vilcabamba batolite peaks covered with bromiliads flora.

Aguas Calientes sits at the confluence of the Rio Urubamba and this tributary that runs just past its eponymous hotsprings.

Reaching Aguas Calientes is by foot (horse, bike) or by Peru Rail. Here a backpacker train approaches its stop.

Aguas Calientes survives on tourist travel to Machu Picchu. Restaurants compete heavily for every customer.

Aguas Calientes has no land to expand so it is growing upward and the effect isn't always very pretty.

This Aguas Calientes schoolgirl epitomizes the beauty of the Peruvian people.