The region of Peru known as the Sacred Valley wraps itself around the Urabamba River. This fertile soil and rapid river has been used for many centuries by the inhabitants of Peru, even long before the Inca Empire took over. As evidenced by the thousands of ruins in this region, the river was recognized as an important provider of life and the mountains were worshipped as gods. The trails crossing this valley led to and from the various settlements along what we now call the Inca Trail. This trail is now a highway and also a train route to take travelers to the ruins of some of those ancient people.
We traversed through the Sacred Valley several times, for several different purposes. I will highlight a few of these here, beginning with our favorite campsite. The Inka Rey campsite is just a large field on the shore of the Urabamba river. There is a single toilet and a cold water shower (if the tanks are filled) No services, no internet, just breathtaking views.
Inka Rey is actually just the big backyard of a wonderful, kind couple. They raise a few rabbits, chickens and ducks. They have an energetic young dog that is infatuated with Nica. The woman brings delicious empanadas in the morning. And in the evening the couple invited us in for tea and crackers as they discussed their dreams and plans for this location. We camped there several different times. And even helped others who were camped there. From the Inka Rey campsite, you can look west across the grassy field and gaze up at the mountains ( Machu Pichu is in there somewhere) Clinging to the Andes you can see the amazing glaciers and dusting of snow that is hanging on there year-round.
This area is comfortably warm during the day and quite cold at night. We enjoyed the opportunity to wear ponchos, long pants and even break out the sweaters for the dogs. Pacha is unsure of this dog-sweater situation. This is a new phenomenon for a former street dog.
From this wonderful riverside campsite we had days of relaxing and watching others enjoying their recreation on the sacred river. And watching the clouds move through the mountains around this Sacred Valley.
Driving around the sacred valley area reveals many different opportunities to explore. In one location we explored the Moray ruins. These are believed to be the base of an agriculture operation. The various levels of terraces offer microclimates where different crops could be tested and improved. Water systems, drainage, irrigation, seed storage and maximizing production were all very important to the Inca’s. These ruins were probably the testing site for much of that work.
This region is inhabited by many indigenous and native peoples. They still produce textiles here, raise animals for toil and food and work the fields actively. This means they also gather weekly for markets. The “mercado” is a place to meet friends, exchange information, trade products, sell to tourists and generally socialize. Each town and village holds their markets on a different day. This makes it possible for the large vendors to work the circuit and sell at all the different markets. Often a truckload of a specific product will pull up, attracting great attention from the locals. This example is a truck full of cheese. The woman is buying enough to take back to her stand and resell the cheese for a markup. She has other items in her bundle that will be used for resale at her stand. It is a market economy in its purest form! Markets always include bright colors, a wide variety of foods and a wide variety of adults and children going about their business. Of course every market has a few dogs and cats doing what dogs and cats do!
Also in the Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado) are the elaborate ruins and village of Ollantaytambo. This town is still using the same streets, buildings and water drainage system that was built by the Inca. It is a fully functioning tourist hub, and yet an ancient village at the same time. And in the hills above the city are the ruins of grain storage, housing, crop terraces and places of worship.
Also located near the Sacred Valley are the ruins of Chinchero. This area is well-known for producing beautiful hand woven textiles of wool, alpaca and llama. The ruins here are enormous and well-preserved. It was a large and prosperous settlement at one time. And in this photo you can see the mountains of the Sacred Valley in the background.
There is so much to see in this region, we covered a lot of miles as we looked around. We drove across the valley and up into another section of the Andes. The plant life changes a little as we cross each new elevation and section of the mountains. Here you can see the camper rolling along a dirt road across a canyon. And a regional bus is winding along the curvy highway, many twists and turns below us.
One area that we really enjoyed with the region that included the Lares Hot Springs. The hot springs are recognized as an Inca bath which has been use for centuries. We made good use of it, too! This is located pretty high up in the Andes. When we got to the highest point (15,000 feet) we stopped for a bathroom break for the dogs. They don’t even notice the elevation. Then we turned back and looked toward the Sacred Valley behind us. The view was amazing.
We did have a little delay in this region, as we encountered a fallen eucalyptus tree across the road. With some help from the travelers with us and a tow strap we were able to move it and reopen the road.
We also had the opportunity to help another traveler along the road. His issues were larger than we could repair. But the views from the breakdown location were pretty spectacular.
After some dirt road exploration, we stopped to rinse off the truck in a creek. And while we were there, we looked around one more time to enjoy the beauty of the Sacred Valley, Peru.
We have a few more things about Peru to share with you. Keep following us as we wrap this up and head to a new country!