Crossing the Sacred Valley: Chinchero to Moray and More

By Karen and Duane Sherer Stoltzfus
Peru SST
Co-Directors, 2014-2015

Early on Monday morning, students said good-bye to their Cusco area host families and we made our way into the Sacred Valley by bus, accompanied once again by Amadeo, our faithful guide.

Our first stop included an opportunity to upgrade our wardrobes or, in many cases, the wardrobes of those we love. Chinchero is a textile capital at 3,800 meters, or 12,467 feet, above sea level. It is home to many textile workshops that provide a living to local families.

A young woman shows us how wool is cleaned and dyed using a variety of natural dyes to make a wide range of colors.

A young woman welcomed us to a small weavers shop, where she and others demonstrated the process of cleaning, softening and coloring llama and alpaca wool. The natural coloring agents included corn (purple), a cactus parasite (red), and eucalyptus (green).

Our host reminded us that there’s a commercial aspect to this educational stop by holding up a bone and asking what it was from: cow? puma? llama? No, she said, the bone was from “a tourist who didn’t buy anything.” (Actually, she said, the femur bone was from a llama — who didn’t buy anything).

We also visited a colonial-era church that now sits on the foundation of what was once an Inca temple. “Here is where I plan to have my wedding — it’s beautiful,” Amadeo announced.

IMG_3929 crpd
Christian holds up a large rock in Chinchero.

Amadeo pointed out the nearby valley where an international airport is scheduled to be built, allowing visitors to bypass Lima and arrive in Peru in the middle of the Sacred Valley.

We also wandered the grounds beyond the church, which included more terraces, and impressive views of small fields and big mountains.

After leaving Chinchero, we took a short-cut across rough terrain, passing solitary shepherds tending their sheep and other animals, to arrive at the archaeological site of Moray.

Our group poses for a photo after climbing into the basin of terraces at the archaeological site of Moray.

Moray features an agricultural experiment station way ahead of its time with more than a dozen concentric terraces arranged in an earthen bowl, each terrace lower and more protected than the one above. Incan plant scientists used the terraces to simulate growing conditions at various elevations and climate conditions.

There’s a difference of 15 degrees from the bottom terrace to the top, Amadeo said, a gathering coolness that we felt as we descended to the bottom terrace.

After another brief stretch on dirt roads, we arrived in Urubamba in time for a late lunch, which included an ice cream treat for dessert before our last bus ride of the day – to Ollantaytambo. Next stop: Machu Picchu.

Noemí Loayza welcomed us to our quarters at the lovely Las Portadas hostal, where we had a chance to relax and play sapo (a coin toss game) in their hideaway garden. Her husband, Leopoldo, who served as our bus driver for the week, cultivates beautiful flowers throughout the grounds of the hostal, including a sweet-smelling white flower called trompetas de ángel, or angel’s trumpet.

Students were given the remainder of the day to explore the charming village of Ollantaytambo, before sharing a meal together and collapsing into bed for a good night’s sleep — breathing fresh mountain air.