„To shut your eyes is to travel.“ – Emily Dickinson
This quote of one of my favourite poets might be true as long as you stay at home, laying in your bed and thinking about all the great things to see in this enormous world. But as soon as you actually start your travel, you can experience the places with all your senses in a totally different and authentic way. I spent my last weeks of this year together with my parents exploring the wonderful Peruvian cities of Cusco, Arequipa and Huaraz and there’s no way I could have used my time better.Cusco, formerly called Qosco, offers you endless information and archeological sites of the inca culture which only existed for a few decades (but still counts) with surprisingly advanced technology and traditions. As it was the dominating culture when the Spanish conquered Peru, it’s also the culture we know most about today although the Spanish did a great job destroying most of it. We started our stay on 3500m altitude with a City Tour exploring the most important inca centres such as the sacred temples of Qenqo, Qoricancha and Sacsaywaman or Puca Pucara, the red fortress. All these names represent a Spanish modification of the original quechua names.
The second day led us to the Valle Sagrado, the sacred valley of the incas. There we visited several different cities within the area (Pisaq, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo) and other inca sites. As the inca strongly believed in their natural gods, their temples were oriented according to the main sun events of the year, the two solstices and the two equinoxes, all of them celebrated in a special way. The architecture of the buildings was extremely accurate and full of their mysterious beliefs in the concepts of dualism and the three worlds represented by three characteristic animals. Dualism was omnipresent in the inca culture; black and white, man and woman, day and night. Also, the world is divided into the past or the underworld of the dead (snake), the present or the land (puma) and the future or the sky (condor).
These concepts accompanied us also during our trip to the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, Machu Picchu. Going there by the ridiculously expensive train, we had some free time in Aguas Calientes, the village of Machu Picchu, we spent walking around and bathing in the thermal springs. The next day we got up early to start our walk up Machu Picchu at 4.30am which was tough but worth it. We were extremely lucky with the weather and had an amazing view the whole day. Climbing up Wayanapicchu in the sun some hours later was even tougher but the view was more than rewarding.
If you think that we were tired by now, you’re certainly wrong. Hiking up the Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca Montaña de 7 Colores) on 5000m the next day was a totally new experience to all of us. It’s not so much that the way required special skills, but the altitude often provokes sickness (soroche) with sypmtoms like headaches and nausea. You can rent horses to carry you up the mountain but I promise you’ll be prouder having walked on your own. The panorama on top was breathtaking and as it was sunny again, the fresh snow just had melted enough to perceive the seven different colours that form due to various minerals.
15 more minutes and we got to see the red valley which was even more impressive to me as the landscape consists of so many different shapes and colours.Before heading to Arequipa by bus overnight, we spent one more day visiting the site of Moray, an impressive agricultural centre that benefits from a terrace system and creates tropical climates on top of the mountains.
Besides agriculture, Maras counts over 4000 basins forming salines where families extract salt from the highland’s water under the name of the company ‚Marasal‘.Leaving Cusco after this adventurous week felt so wrong – the city itself is so beautiful and the view from our hostel something I really could have got used to!