Pisaq, Lamay, Calca, Yanawara Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo are some of the towns that populate the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Each has its own particularities: its streets, its plazas, its handicraft fairs, its markets, gardens, its strengths, its cosmopolitanism, its colonial houses showing its particular blend of mixing, and its art and living culture.
These towns with their Inca essence are united by the Vilcanota River, or Wilcamayu, that reflects like a mirror the milky way at night and by day, the course of the clouds. The entire route is full and is accompanied by the holy river.
When you arrive in the Sacred Valley from Cusco you generally see the main road lined with hotels and businesses. There are agencies and restaurants too. You see an explosion of commercial signs scattered all along the way till you reach Ollantaytambo.
The Willcamayo is made up from numerous rivers that come down the many small canyons that break up the Andean massif and flow at the feet of the holy Apus. These mountains give people security in the Sacred Valley. The belief in the guardian Apus continues to live since the times of our ancestors. Fields, like ancestral shawls stretched over the slopes and filled with natural colors from the crops they produce connect us happily with the Mother Earth.
One afternoon, my friends Walter and Fernando stopped in Urubamba at the golden hour to take pictures. This is just when the sun is bidding adieu. Nature comes alive in brilliance from the golden light. “It is the best time for taking photos”, said Walter. With that positive vibe we went towards the fields that were some thirty minutes from the main track. The weather felt different from that of our city, Cusco. It is warm in the afternoons and chilly at night. “Enjoy it,” said Fernando
Along the entire way, adobe houses of different designs kept us company together with the flocks of cattle, sheep, and even pigs. We saw orchards of cactus fruit, peaches, loquats, apples and fields of potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, barley, wheat, squash, and the amazing corn from the Sacred Valley. They adorned the beautiful and colorful late afternoon.
After dark we returned to the center of Urubamba. On a section of road there were no lights and the houses said good night at 7 pm and turned off their lights. Lost in the dark we arrived filled with emotion after all we had seen. We found a room and rested.
In the morning we went out walking towards the market and the main square. Everything felt fresh and renewed. At midday we began our return to the city of Cusco. As we were leaving, Fernando said “this place has the fame of producing the finest corn in the world. As a result its chicha is also the best. We have to drink some before leaving.
We stopped at a chichería along the way and asked for three cups. The casera, the vendor, brought us three caporales (very large glasses) filled with the beverage. While drinking it, I forgot about everything for a moment. It felt a little bitter but delicious. When you go to a chichería they fill your glass all the way to the top because they want you to enjoy all.
After the second and last glass before continuing our journey a lady who did not seem to be from there but rather from the city said: “The countryside is happiness because you only speak about vegetables. From early in the morning, as the sun rises, people go out filled with energy to o their labors in their fields. They sow and get to see their plants grow and then they harvest them and enjoy them.” Those words and the whole geography, filled with an air of freedom made me feel really happy. It is gratifying to see people who treat you warmly and who still farm with lots of energy. Their mere presence renewed and invigorated me.
Now I find myself some days later, walking calmly through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, see hoy it grows to the side of the Vilcanota River. I feel a bit of warmth, by the side of the mountains with their snow, and all of nature’s colors waiting for a revelation of what I should photograph, whether in the morning, the afternoon, or at night when the sun takes leave of our Sacred Valley.
The valley was much appreciated by our ancestors because of its unique geographic and climatic qualities. The varied and original decoration provided by the mountains crowned with snow, the flowering plains, the numerous archeological monuments, and the indigenous towns all make the Sacred Valley a principal place for tourism.
If you wish to go there, I would recommend you take at least five days, or maybe even a week, to fully enjoy this place filled with wonder. Let the towns discover you and let yourself feel.