From the Cusco airport, we had a driver take us to our Airbnb house in Sillacancha, a tiny town in the Sacred Valley between Pisac and Urubamba. We decided to have a couple of ‘down days’. Since the house had no TV, we played card games, ventured out to a small grocery store, and had the girls do their homework. The internet connection wasn’t always the strongest and we had some trouble getting RAZ-KIDS, the girls’ reading program, to load. Our host showed us how to make a fire, which the girls loved. We had never taken them camping, so this was actually their first fire!
On Sunday (September 6), we went to Pisac to explore the Sunday markets and see the ruins. The girls and I found a few things at the market. We didn’t want to get too much because we were only at the beginning of our 6 month travels. After awhile, I found the markets stalls to be repetitive in terms of what was being sold. I also was uncomfortable negotiating, as I wanted the vendors to be paid a fair price for their work.
While we were in the market, we saw the mountain people come down in a procession, wearing traditional dress, to attend church. Later that day my girls had their picture taken with a Peruvian girl in traditional dress, something you have to pay for.
While in town, we hired a guide to take us to the ruins. There is some competition and rivalry between the Pisac ruins and Machu Picchu. Our guide claimed that the Pisac ruins were better. It was quite the site. My older one didn’t do all of it with us. Between the altitude and all the walking and stair climbing, it was a bit too much for her. It was quite windy too.
Before we left town, we actually managed to find a little grocery store that sold marshmallows. The girls wanted to roast them later that evening. After all, what’s a fire without marshmallows?!
Maras Salt Flats, Awana Llaqta Weaving Center and the Moray Ruins
On Monday (September 7), we hired a driver and spent the day exploring lesser known sites in the Sacred Valley. First, we headed off to see the salt flats (or salt ponds) outside of Maras. It was quite the site and my younger one loved walking all throughout the flats. You can actually ride a horse in the area, but we didn’t.
We backtracked into town for a Peruvian lunch, then visited the Awana Llaqta Weaving Center in Chincherro. The girls learned how alpaca wool was cleaned, dyed, spun and woven. They also learned how different color dye was made, using ingredients from nature. Their favorite was learning that red came from squishing a parasite found on cactus, which they tried out for themselves when we got back to the house!
After the Weaving Center we went to the Moray ruins, an Inca site just outside Maras. It was quite impressive and there were very few tourists there. It was more doable for my girls because there were few stairs and they were more acclimatized to the altitude.
On Tuesday (September 8), we took the local bus to Urubamba for lunch and to check out the market. We found a restaurant that had a play structure for kids and good food. My younger daughter ended up having an accident, so I took her back to the house while my husband and eldest daughter continued onto the market. While they had a fun time, it was a bit more trouble getting a bus back than it was to go there.
On Wednesday, we headed into Cusco since we hadn’t seen any of the city when we flew in. We wanted to stop at Awana Kancha on the way in, but there was a mis-communication with the local bus driver, so we missed it. We ended up at Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary instead, which we really enjoyed.
Once in the actual city, we wandered around Plaza de Armas (the main square), tried some empanadas, went to the museum and catacombs of the Convent of San Francisco of Cusco, and stopped at a cafe before heading back. I found Cusco to be too touristy with too many vendors hawking their wares in Plaza de Armas (though they were pretty much limited to that area). That being said, there is a lot to see in Cusco, including more ruins, that we didn’t get to. The highlight for the girls was definitely the Animal Sanctuary outside of the city.
We are going to have another day of rest at the house in Sillacancha before heading off to Machu Picchu for a couple of days. Keep your eye out for my post about this forgotten Inca site!