This morning we woke up to the llama chomping on some grass right outside our doors. He is adorable!! Great way to start off any morning. Today we visited the Fortress of Ollantaytambo, a massive Incan structure perched on a hilltop overlooking the town that shares it's name. The structure includes the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Chamber, the Incahuantana and the Princesses' baths. Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and the ceremonial center. The town is also the starting point of the Inca trail that you can take to Machu Picchu, it takes about 4 days to hike the entire trail.
To get to the Temple of the Sun we hiked up 280 huge, uneven stairs. Our tour director was nice enough to buy everyone a walking stick to help with the climb, we could create very strong bonds with those sticks as we
dragged carried them all across Peru .
The town of Ollantaytambo
Incan construction is unbelievable, they way they would fit these huge stones so perfectly together without any sort of mortar is amazing
We made it up to the temple!
We got a small glimps of the snow capped Andes mountains way off in the distance
Then we came back and did a little shopping in the market that is at the base of the temple! We didn't stay long though, we had a lot more on the agenda to do today!
When we got back to the hotel we had a cooking demonstration by the head chef of the Hotel's restaurant. He showed us how to make ceviche and a Japanese style beef referred to as "jumping beef" since you toss it out of the pan while cooking it.
After the demonstration we had a glorious buffet lunch that included, among tons of other things, the two dishes we had watched him prepare.
After lunch we all gathered in the courtyard to meet a local shaman who shared spiritual insights on the Sacred Valley and iconic Machu Picchu. Then we all participated as he did a special blessing that consecrated our journey as a group. I found this to be a fascinating experience. Part of the ritual is creating a a gift to present to Mother Earth so she would bless us and watch over us on our journey. He included lots of different objects, and he would explain the purpose of each item. When he included some flowers and chocolates he said "Mother Earth is a woman, so we will include somethings she likes to make her happy." Flowers and chocolates do make women happy, good choice shaman.
We went around the circle and asked every, single person's name, and gathered coca leaves from all of us to include in Mother Earth's gift.
After he included all the items he needed in the gift, he wrapped it in wrapping paper, tied it with a ribbon and wrapped it all in a woven cloth. Then he came around the circle again and gave each of us a blessing to help us have safe and happy travels as we held the present for Mother Earth close to us.