Holber and his Ruins

June 3

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In the morning we were picked up by Holber for a day trip to the Sacred Valley. By now, Holber was something of an institution with us, and it felt like he was happy to have guests who share at least part of his passion for rocks and ruins. The first two stops were at smaller Inca ruins, the Pukapkara and Tambomachay. Holber showed us first hand how ancient pilgrims used to perform ritual baths at the springs. These days, the water from the springs is still used for drinking and is even bottled.

At the next stop at Pisaq, I violated my own rule for not paying people for having their picture taken, and paid one Sol for a picture of little Sonya, who was according to her own account (filtered by Holber) already 5 years old; quite small, if that number was accurate. Leaving the usual tourist stalkers behind, we went on a 1:30 hour easy hike through the ruins of Pisaq. In the usual passionate fashion, Holber explained to us the specifics of terraces, temples, and plants.

Click on the first image to start a slide show for this day (61 pictures)
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From the Pisaq ruins we continued to the city of Pisaq, specifically to the market. Here we spent almost an hour looking for minor things for friends and family. Essan's quest for a small, dark blue alpaka sweater came finally to a successful end when Holber intervened with a seller; once Essan had a sweater, I had to get the matching style, in bright red of course. And off we were to Urubamba for lunch. We stopped at the very good Tunupa restaurant - the same brand as we had pretty horrible experiences with two nights ago. Here, the setting, the service and of course the food were excellent. After some chicken with walnuts I especially enjoyed the Black Forest cake.

With way too full tummies we headed off to the last ruins of the day, the Ollantaytambo, by far the biggest ruins of the day. This huge temple was work in progress, as its construction was abandoned once the Spanish conquered the Incas. Holber pointed out the sea shells embedded in the rocks, indicating that a while back these rocks were in the sea; now they are almost 4000m above sea level. We also learned about the ramps which the Incas used to haul these huge, heavy rocks from the quarry located 6km away, at the other side of the valley. Further showing the Inca's love for everything mystical, we got to see the "Inca Face" in the mountain - a natural rock formation resembling the face of an Inca, visible in this way only from this temple - which is the reason why the temple was built at this specific place.

On the way home we inverted the roles and answered many questions about Europe, mostly from Ernesto, our driver, translated by Holber. Topics such as Czech explosives and cars, the Swiss parliament, and and Taiwan's geography were touched. We also collected Holber's address so that we can send him some of the pictures from the trip for his album, as he requested. Once we parted we went to the main square for dinner. Again we were stalked by many menu wielding boys, but this didn't deter us from going straight to a new restaurant. I ordered an excellent beef, while Essan stuck with the usual healthy fish. After dinner we saw more of the riot control police and their cattle truck, and we headed for some more strolling through the narrow roads; we also bought some more alpaka socks and hats and thus finished shopping.

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