Machu Picchu isn’t the only thing to see around Cusco. So I could use a few more days in the city. I had tried to find a couchsurfer before going to Machu Picchu but was a bit on the late side. Once I was back, however, I had a positive response from Jeremias, an Argentinian who had been living in Cusco for a few years and where he was creating his own company. He happened to host two other Argentinians at the same time as me. Or should I say three? Vero and Fer were traveling in their minivan together with their trusted four-footed companion: Pachy. A lovely poodle – and I don’t usually like poodles a lot – with a raincoat. The threesome had been travelling for about 5 months when I met them. While travelling, they had created and developed a set of handcrafted products that they were selling in shops along the way. That allowed them to earn enough money to sustain themselves. Both of them had been working in the event industry and you could see that they were truly creative people. I couldn’t resist buying one of the notebooks they were making. Travelling this way also meant they had to make regular stops and work. What, in addition to the minivan and the dog, made their experience very different from mine. Not mentioning the fact that they did not have a return date. And, for that, I truly envied them. But everything is a matter of choice. Therefore, there was nobody to blame for my frustration but myself. Holding on to some sense of security, I suppose.
We shared two beautiful evenings in Jeremias’ house, talking about our lives, what took us there, eating a badly cooked meal – my fault – and some mates. Argentinian style.
In the meantime, I also visited Pisac and Moray. Pisac is known for its crafts market and its ruins. The most important ones of the Sacred Valley. I was late – some things never change – so I had only time for the crafts market, which turned out to be a big disappointment. All the products that were sold there were clearly manufactured. As I discovered afterwards, the few places where they still sell crafted work is in some little shops around the village. They also did in the little restaurant I picked out to have a drink. From the moment I entered the place, I admired the cloths that were covering the walls. They had amazing colours and designs. Then I heard the restaurant owner explain that they had been made by autochthons living in the Peruvian jungle, after they had been taking ayahuasca, a drug I have been talking about earlier, and which gives incredible hallucinations. They were truly unique. And it was hard to choose just one from all the ones that were hanging there. I finally managed to pick one. And questioned the owner about another topic I had heard him talk about with the French tourists who were there just moments before: the San Pedro. Not as strong as the ayahuasca, which is obtained from a dried up liana, San Pedro is derived from dried up cactus. And, unlike the ayahuasca, it doesn’t require to be taken under the supervision of a chaman. It is a legal drug in Peru and Boliiva. Not sure whether I would try it or not, I nevertheless decided to buy some. I was advised to “clean” my body a few days before taking it , being attentive to what I was eating. As I told that I was going to be near the Titicaca lake in a week or two, I was told that the Isla del Sol – the Island of the Sun – would be a perfect spot to enjoy the effects of the drug.
I had one last thing from the restaurant – a tuna sandwich, not very likely to give me any hallucinations that one – then took a bus back to Cusco.
My last excursion in the region took me to Moray and the salinas – salt lakes – of Maras. But first, we were taken to an association of widows who made handmade textile. As soon as we got in, we were invited to sit down and a lady explained to us the whole process of colouring the llama wool and then turning it into useable material using a weaving machine. However, the products they were selling on the displays at the cooperative were obviously not handmade, as they were the same as the ones you could find in any touristy shop and market. I have to admit I was getting fed up with people trying to make us think the moon is made of green cheese.
Next stop: the circular ruins of Moray. Apparently, it is not clear what the purpose of these terraces was. It is thought the Incas used them to study the impact of different climate conditions on crops – potatoes and corn. Their depth, design, and orientation with respect to wind and sun creates a temperature difference of as much as 15 °C between the top and the bottom. I took some time to walk around the whole site, then have a look at the surrounding landscape. Gorgeous, as usual. And an impressive sky with thick clouds. I could see it was rainy and stormy in the distance. Hoping it wasn’t coming our way.
The last visit of the day were the salinas. Here also, terraces were used for the exploitation of natural resources. Salt in this case. And men had been doing so in Maras since pre-Inca times.