My South American Adventure

Date: January 15,2015 By: Laura Ross Categories: News

I traveled to Peru, Argentina and Brazil in November 2014. This first blog traces my route from colonial Lima to stunning Cusco and through the lush green Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu…

The plane flies high over the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and is bathed in sunshine, haloed clouds drifting below. The sun starts to set but we chase the daylight as we head west. It’s dark when we arrive in Lima but the next morning the city beckons. It’s a cosmopolitan place with buzzing restaurants and bar, lots to see and do. Colonial Spain stands proud in Plaza das Armas where you can watch the changing of the guard in Government Palace, visit the Cathedral with adjoining Bishop’s Palace built in the 1600s and nearby visit the catacombs of the lemon coloured Church of San Francisco. Lima is becoming well known for its delicious fusion food and people flock here to savour creole dishes and ceviche fresh raw fish marinated in lime, chilli and onions. It’s worth heading to the sea to enjoy the parks along the sea front where you can try out parasailing. Or retreat to the view filled restaurants at Larcomar shopping centre, hidden in the cliff with a multitude of tempting designer shops…

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The next day only an hours’ flight over the rippling Andes mountain range takes you to Cusco. At a height of 3400m above sea level, Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are so many fascinating Inca ruins in and around Cusco from Tambomachay with its intricate water channels. Then it’s onto Qenko with its fascinating carved rocks and cave where mummies were prepared. The largest and most impressive Inca site of the area is at Sacsuayhuaman. The site was used as a ceremonial centre, then later as a defensive site in the battle between the Conquistadores and the Incas. It is an incredible example of the engineering skills of the Inca people and offers beautiful views over the city and mountains beyond. Cusco is a stunning city which is perfect for strolling around. From the glory of the main square with its’ gold and silver filled Santa Domingo Cathedral to the Koricancha, the Temple of the Sun to the cobbled streets that lead up to San Blas, this city is bursting with history. In the evenings the place comes alive with bartenders at hotels, bars and restaurants mixing Pisco Sour cocktails by the hundreds and the beat of the city goes on until the early hours. Great fun!

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Women and children from the surrounding villages convene inChinchero for the Sunday market. Chinchero is known for its traditional weaving techniques and we visit a local cooperative. Juliana, aged 10 gives me a demonstration of how they turn the Alpaca wool into thread, how they die it using natural plants such as purple sweetcorn and cochineal beetles and finally how detailed patterns of nature are woven into cloth. The Incas valued nature highly and worshiped animals such as the condor, the puma and the snake. The local people laugh easily and wear stunning costumes with red cloth intricately woven with patterns. Women here all wear hats – be it a bowler or a fedora or a hand woven one. They carry everything from babies to vegetables in colourful throws they carry on their backs. Traveling down to the Sacred Valley a different note starts to play. The earthy colours of the valley reveal themselves with lush green corn growing abundantly at this lower altitude (2800m), the pace of life slows and I feel myself start to relax. At Ollantaytambo the Inca site rises steeply from the valley floor through stepped terraces and the view opens up. From here you catch the train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, the fabled Inca city that I have been dreaming about…

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