Day 4 with the True Blue Peru Crew! Every day in Peru is better than the one before! There is so much to share that I don't know where to begin.
The day started with a jog through the town of Yucay. I'm not sure how large the town is; I can only tell you that it has one traffic light. Running along the road was an adventure, as the drivers did not yield to me at all. I enjoyed seeing the dogs, donkeys, and cows, but was particularly inspired by the farmers who were out in the fields working the land by 6 AM. I returned to the hotel for an awesome breakfast. The contrast between our hotel and the poverty of Yucay is remarkable and has haunted me all day as we drove through other small towns on our way to various sites.
Our first stop was to view the salt mines in the town of Matas. About 400 families own and operate these mines, which are the product of a natural salt stream. The surrounding mountains were beautiful and the sheep herds and glacier-topped mountains provided an awesome backdrop. We then observed the circular terraces of Moray and then visited the women of Chincheros, who showed us how they weave incredibly beautiful blankets, scarves, and other items using baby alpaca, adult alpaca and sheep wool. They took us through the entire process of cleaning the wool, dying it with natural plants and then weaving it. They work 8 hours a day and will take 3 to 6 months finishing an item. They were dressed in traditional clothing and bartered skillfully with the Duke alums who purchased hundreds of dollars of handmade goods.
Lunch was outdoors between the Andes in a lovely garden setting at a hotel. We were in awe of the overwhelming beauty that surrounded us and were surprised by our tour guide when he took us to the stables at the hotel and introduced us to the Andalusian horse breed. These horses are bred and trained to trot in a very unique manner.
We then travelled to Ollantaytambo, the site of massive Incan ruins and a warm up for Machu Picchu. These ruins provided yet another example of the Incan ingenuity, physical strength, and perseverance, It remains a mystery how the Incas were able to move the stones (weighing many tons) to build these structures.
Our travel today was completely by bus, which sounds rather mundane; however, I still can't figure out how the bus driver was able to negotiate the very narrow streets that we encountered and the long, winding mountainous dirt roads.
Tomorrow, we are on to what everyone has been waiting for - Machu Picchu!