Angela's Andean Adventures.
Peru and Bolivia 2001 - Part 9.
The Sacred Valley.
Descent to the Valley
Next morning I was awoken with a tap on my door at 5 am! It was Alfredo saying we had to make an early start as it was quite a way to travel. After a quick coffee we all set out by taxi to the bus depot in Cusco - four of us as a friend of Alfredo's was accompanying us. We reached the bus depot at 6.45 and luckily managed to get seats. The buses depart as soon as they are filled (this being a family bus service which started with one bus and now is a fleet of them, travelling back and forth to the Sacred Valley all the time). When we got on the bus, Danielo said his farewells, as he was off to school first, playing basketball in the afternoon and going to a disco in the evening.
By 7 am we were on our way and I really enjoyed the one and a half hour journey to get there. We were soon out into the countryside, going through mountains that were greener than those seen from Cusco, or rolling countryside, through little villages etc. Soon the snow-capped mountains of the Sacred Valley could be seen and when it came time to descend deep to the valley floor the views were really breathtakingly stunning. You could see Urubamba far below, getting closer as we went around each bend, and also could see the cloud forests swirling between valley and mountains, giving the whole area an almost ethereal appearance. You could really sense the magic there. Out came my camera and I took quite a series of photos on the way down.
By 8.30 we had arrived and headed into the residential area, as our first stop would be Alfredo's other house there - the one in which all his children were born. The friend who had accompanied us was skilled at making adobe bricks from mud and straw and would be busy in that respect for most of the day. Once inside the gate in the inner courtyard we met the man who is custodian of the place, a chef who lives in the downstairs part of the house and pays rent but acts as custodian as well - he works at one of the top touristic restaurants somewhere in that area. Alfredo asked him to show me the cookery book he got his inspiration from and I was left happily looking through it whilst Alfredo's friend got to work on the adobe bricks and Alfredo had a good look round to ensure all was okay.
I loved that house. You could ascend to the upper story by stairs, which had an upstairs balcony/veranda all around - a really pretty house. I said to Alfredo it would make an excellent hotel in such an area popular with visitors and he agreed. We took some photos there and I picked out 40 pages from the cookery book and later took book plus list of the page numbers to a nearby photocopying place, and it only cost 6 soles for two copies of each page - one for Alfredo and one for me - I left these with a promise to pick them up later in the afternoon. Alfredo and I were pretty hungry by 9.30 as there had been no time for breakfast so we set off to look for a cafe offering one of my favourites and the first one we came to had Adobe de Chancho on the menu (one I quite often make at home) and we enjoyed a plate of this each along with a double portion of the lovely bread you get here and a litre bottle of coca cola to share. We both felt much better afterwards.
We then strolled towards the centre and there was some kind of demonstration and accompanying music, marching etc going on which continued throughout the day. Just off the centre of Urubamba the market began (which takes place there three times a week). Just before going into the market we popped into another cafe so that Alfredo could say hello to his friends there - a middle aged couple who ran the cafe and when we didn't stay long they made us promise to come back later and we said we would.
We spent a couple of hours strolling through the market - there was nothing I love more than browsing and strolling through South American markets - so interesting with all the fresh produce, the friendly people etc - a pleasure without danger in those country places (not dangerous like non-central parts of Cusco). I bought a flute - I now had a charango and flute as well as another set of panpipes, which I found easier than the ones I already had at home. I also had a circular ceramic flute instrument given to me by Adrian as well. We next went into a building in the centre of the market, which was full of juice bars, and we chose a Papaya and Orange combination and watched it being prepared in a blender in front of us. The blender held enough to fill our glasses three times and was really delicious. After the market we went to see another house of Alfredo's, which was rented out to a family with children. In the garden we picked a few oval shaped tomatoes from a tree, a different colour and shape from tomatoes back home. Then we met the family living in the house and some children were in the yard dancing to music on a portable player and I took photos of them and promised to send them when I got back home. Outside there were some children playing in the dust and I asked if I could take their photo and next minute one of them organised the rest into a group, one turning back to pick up a baby brother sitting half naked in the road- these I would send on as well as the ones with the girls dancing, having written down the address before leaving.
By about 1 pm we were back in the cafe and it was a delight to sit at a table with Alfredo's two friends and chat. Virginia went off to buy a bottle of Cusqueña for us to drink and it was such fun with the three of them. By this time the busy period had gone, all meals served and finished with, and they were able to relax with us. When I paid for the beer she disappeared and came back with another bottle and this happened a few times before I realised that payment indicated we wanted
more! We drank them all in moderation though and no one got light headed! I admired a Cusqueña calender on the wall and next minute they were taking it down and offered it to me as a present, and wrote such lovely words on the back before handing it to me that there was no way I could refuse it. I had bought two more CDs in the market (one by Proyeccion and another called Mi Ayacucho with various artistes on it. At one point I asked if they had a player and one of them disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a ghetto blaster which they had borrowed from a neighbour. I put Mi Ayacucho on first thinking they would appreciate that more than Proyeccion and I was right. Virginia loved the music, commenting on nearly every song and when it finished I went to change it for the other one, put the CD back in its cover and gave it to her as a present. She was really delighted with it and so was I, to be able to give something back to such lovely people.
The Local Kids
Her husband had been trying to explain to me an ecological project he was trying to get going, to protect some of the flora and fauna in the Sacred Valley, and although it was not easy to understand the finer points of the project, I understood enough to know that maybe there are organisations at home that would be interested in supporting such a project. As an illustration he brought me part of a plant and told me to rub the leaves between my fingers and then inhale. The resulting scent was amazing, a slightly medicinal but uplifting kind of smell, which I enjoyed off and on all the time we were there with them. This is one of the plants they are trying to save and is definitely well worth saving. It also has properties even more efficacious than coca leaves for altitude sickness.
We stayed with them for about three hours altogether and then Alfredo wanted to take part in something in the demonstrations that had been going on all day so he gave me the key to get back into the house (he had already showed me how to get into the upstairs part of the house previously) and we agreed to meet back there a couple of hours later. He assured me it was perfectly safe to go wandering about there - not like Cusco - so I decided I would pay another visit to the market as we had not seen all of it earlier on that day.
It was great strolling round - I was trying to find that plant - Mina - but unfortunately wasn't successful. I did buy prepared aji amarillo and panca though, ready to do some Peruvian cooking. When I had almost finished strolling through the produce section of the market I came upon a small livestock area, which is when I fell in love with some baby ducks. There were several in a crate all crying and I couldnt resist picking one up and it really seemed to welcome being held and quietened down and I was just so smitten that a few minutes later I found I had bought four of them, all in a little carrying box with a bag of the necessary food for them. I was very happy carrying them away with me and could hardly wait to get back to the house to look at them properly.
Back home and comfortably seated in an easy chair upstairs I had all four on my lap and spent the next hour enjoying their company until Alfredo's return. They were so affectionate, welcoming being cuddled and all four were snuggled down on me, jostling for the best position, liking to snuggle in under my chin. I was absolutely enchanted beyond belief. They were so pretty with their yellow and brown colouring, still at the fluffy stage with no feathers yet, the most adorable little faces and all different - one pure yellow, the others varying stages of yellow and brown, each easily recognisable from the rest. Their little wings were only about an inch long at that stage, each duckling standing about 6 inches tall when upright. They enchanted even Alfredo when he got back and Danielo thrilled beyond belief when he saw them later. We then had to dash to catch a bus home but had already decided that we would go back there again upon my return after the 18th, with Danielo as well over a weekend, so that we could visit more of the Sacred Valley - one definite stop being the ruins at Ollantaytambo, which is one of the places in the Sacred Valley that I had also hoped to see. Back at the bus stop we had to wait for a bus and one small one came along which was one of a series laid on for touring parties and we were allowed to get on it and had a nice safe journey back, the box of ducklings safely ensconced on my lap for the journey. The bus driver even dropped us off more centrally, knowing it would be easier to get a taxi from there, and we made it home in time to be there for Danielo's return.
Back at the house Alfredo filled a saucepan with water for them and the ducks all had a drink and even a swim! and Danielo and I had a lot of fun watching them for the next hour while they explored their new quarters. I then spent another hour just cuddling them whilst watching a bit of TV and they loved it. At bedtime I asked Alfredo if the ducks could sleep in their box in my room and he was okay about it. I left the lid open until the very last moment so that they could see me and they were quiet when I was in the room and all started crying whenever I left. When I settled them down to sleep and they knew I was in the same room with them they all went to sleep without any problem too. Next morning I couldn't wait to get out of bed and see them again and had them all up for a half an hours cuddle before getting up. Then later downstairs for a bowl of food and a drink and we were working out the best place for them to be safe during the day. Alfredo and I were out going into all the local shops once Danielo had gone to school, trying to find a big enough box for them to have plenty of room to play in and found a reasonable size one in the end. When we went out later they were enjoying the sun (and I had also provided some shade) along with their water to drink or swim in, and a bowl of food). They were perfectly safe from predators in the inner patio of Alfredo's house. The following morning they would be travelling with me in their box on my lap - as I had already checked with Aero Continente that morning that this would be okay. I was hoping I would be able to take them home at the end of the month as well.
The next day after an eventful day travelling I arrived back in Ilo safe and sound. I woke at 4 even before the alarm, gave the little ducks a cuddle and then had time for a quick shower before Alfredo got up. I was really sad when I got back from Cusco the previous day to find that two of the ducklings had died. Even though they were in a box with padding inside, and sheltered from wind, it must have been too cold for them. That day wasnt sunny like it normally was. I was really upset to lose two of them and could only think they got too cold by swimming in their water bowl.
We left for the airport at 5.30 in the end and had to wait until 6 am before baggage could be checked in. I was travelling quite light - my small case only weighed 10 kg, but with the ducklings in a box which just fit inside a breathable textile loose weave rucksack, plus another bag. At the airport I bought a load of different Cusco breads to take to Ilo and we had time for a coffee just outside the airport - large mugs of nice coffee for only one sol (if we had partaken in the airport it would have been around five soles each!!) I went through to the departure lounge about 25 minutes before the plane was due to leave.
Of course I couldnt let the bag with the ducks go through the Xray machine and when they realised I had livestock they said I could not take them through. I was devastated and pleaded with them and I think they felt sorry for me because they said they would help me. They just needed a signature and were on the phone trying to get the necessary permission from Aero Continente. The time was getting closer and closer to the time to fly out and I was getting really anxious. Eventually the man helping me took me through and was arguing with someone on my behalf to try and get a signature and it did not look as though there would be any success, when suddenly another earth tremor occurred. The man who had been arguing went white with fright and signed the book without any further argument. For me, I was so relieved that experiencing another earthquake seemed a small price to pay to get the permission to take them on board. There was a delay in the departure because of the quake and during this delay another female Aero Continente official explained that normally it is prohibited to take livestock on board but they were making an exception in my case. I was so relieved. I didnt relax properly until I was on board the aircraft, the bag at my feet where I could keep an eye on it.