To start off our adventure, we headed out of Cusco city to the Sacred Valley. Along the way, we stopped at the top of the hill with the Cristo Blanco overlooking the Plaza de Armas. Though the fog hadn’t burned off quite yet because it was early, the view from the top of the hill was amazing. Our guide explained that Cusco has changed and developed very quickly thanks to the double edged sword called tourism. While tourism has boosted the Peruvian economy greatly, it has come at an expense. As more and more people come into Cusco looking for work, new homes and buildings are erected at alarmingly fast rates especially in the seismically questionable mountainsides. There was a tinge of nostalgia from our guide as he spoke about how different Cusco looked in his childhood.
To our right, we could see the remains of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced like sexy woman). Not long ago, an aerial shot of Cusco showed the city laid out in the shape of a puma with Sacsayhuaman forming the head. It is believed that the Incas had three sacred animal: the condor representing the heavens, the puma representing earth, and the serpent representing the underworld. It amazed me how thoughtful and intentional these indigenous people!
After taking in the sights, we headed back into the bus and passed by another Inca ruin to our right. One distinctive feature of Q’enko (pronounced kinko) was its cavelike altar used to sacrifice black llamas and other animals for spiritual cleansing.
We continued our bus ride to a Planeterra-supported women’s weaving project in a local community. One of the great things about G Adventures is its dedication to the local communities. They make every effort to give back, empower, and reinvest in Peru, which was evident in their commitment to supporting the women in the weaving co-op and the restaurant we ate at for lunch.
At the weaving project, we learned how the natural dyes were made to create the vibrantly colored scarves and blankets we saw at the markets. We were taught how to tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama–the llama’s face and neck are longer and their bodies are relatively larger than the alpaca. After getting some time to browse and purchase any of the hand woven goods at the co-op, we headed back down the mountain to another Incan site, Pisac.