Mystery and Majesty

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“Urubam, Urubam, Urubamba!” Shouted the driver. I’d just arrived in Peru and decided to spend a few days up in the Andes. I wedged myself between a man balancing a child on his knees and a woman sucking the life out of an orange. I suddenly caught the driver taking my rucksack and putting it on the roof. I decided to get out and supervise. “It’s OK!” he shouted, “Safe!” I handed him my chain lock just in case. As we made our way through the Sacred Valley, the mental images I had of Peru suddenly came to life – snow capped mountains, women carrying children in their mantas and even the odd alpaca.

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Once we arrived in Urubamba, I found myself in the middle of the Señor de Torrechayoc festival. Hundreds of people were parading through the streets carrying an image of Christ. Apparently, it celebrates a time when travellers in the town experienced weird dreams near the site of a cross.

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I wondered if that was why some of the dancers wore weird masks. The festivities lasted for days but my dreams were no stranger than normal.

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In the morning, I’d walk into town and go to the market. It had the best tomatoes and avocados I’ve ever tasted. I turned down the guinea pig.

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The women here are fit. I don’t know how they carry their children and their groceries up those hills. The altitude made me feel like there was an elephant sitting on my chest, but it was good preparation for what came next.

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What little breath I had, was taken away at this point. Hidden high in the mountains, Machu Picchu is mysterious and majestic. The questions about why this city was designed with such definitude are only replaced by more questions about how it was all achieved.

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Can you make out the condor with its open wings on the rocks behind it? This temple represents the ‘upper world’ inhabited by superior gods. It’s thought the head may have been used as a sacrificial altar.

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These reflecting pools were used to watch the sun and the moon.

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It was then time to spend a few days in the historic capital of the Inca Empire. I wasn’t expecting to see a Starbucks and a McDonald’s in Cusco, but I suppose that’s a positive side of being in a busy travellers’ hub – there are places that have treats. And when I say treats, I also mean fresh green vegetables. I made up for lost time in the cafes around Plaza de Armas and San Blas. The odd salad, milkshake and cake may have been scoffed more than once at places like Green Point, Cafe Morena and Jack’s Cafe. (By the way, Green Point does a brilliant four course lunch for just S10.00 / £2).

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For the more traditional side of Cusco I went to San Pedro Market. You can by-bass the tourist gifts and go where the locals go. There are lines of stalls making any kind of juice that you want …

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… or any kind of food that you want. All of it fresh and all of it local.
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Is there anything cuter than this? It was one of many parades in the city. I picked the right month. June is apparently Cusco’s anniversary month and all these events lead up to the Festival of the Sun.

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I wish I could have stayed on to experience it. Peru is such a beautiful and mystical place and I only saw a small part of it. Next stop – Chile.

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