So we left Cuzco yesterday afternoon headed for Ollantaytambo, a small rural town which is part of Cuzco province, and a couple of hours out of Cuzco city. On the way we passed through the sacred valley and visited the large markets in Pisac - again buying a few souvenirs. We then continued on to another small rural town where we had some local interaction. We were met at the local petrol station by a local (guide) on a push bike. We followed him through a number of back streets in our bus and eventually arrived at a local pottery factory.
One of the local families worked at the pottery factory and made various types of pottery - from cups, tea pots, plates, etc. All vary nice but probably little fragile to transport!
After the pottery factory, we had lunch with a local family - this consisted of an Andean grain soup with potatoes, which was very nice, and was followed by salad and a dish made of a different type of potato and mince (they love their potato's over here, and have over 1000 varieties!).
After the meal we went to what was probably the highlight of the day - the local chocolate factory. Here we watched a demonstration of how the locals make chocolate, starting with the dried coco beans, then roasting them, then simply combining the roasted coco beans with equal measure of raw sugar and passing it through a grinder! Fantastic! Needless to say we purchased a sample - it was great, and you couldn't get fresher :).
On the way out of town - heading for Ollantaytambo - we stopped at a local pub/bar where we saw how the locals make Chicha (corn beer). The process was interesting, the result not so great. We sampled two varieties, essentially both the same base, but one was mixed with strawberries which changed it from a yellow colour to a mild pink. I think I will stick to the local lagers, which are surprisingly good!
Arriving in Ollantaytambo you can't help but notice the massive mountains on either side. These are so high the clouds often cover their peaks. Embedded in the side of some of the mountains were some Inca ruins.
This morning we spent a couple of hours exploring these ruins - a preparation for Machu Picchu tommorrow.
So this afternoon we caught the train from Ollantaytambo to Aquas Calientes (literaly translated it means hot waters). Aquas Calientes is not that exciting... Its essentially a town that has been built as a staging point for tourists on their way to and from Machu Picchu. It is cute in its own way, but as the only way to get here is by train (or walk the Inca Trail), everything is expensive!
So tomorrow we will be getting up early (5am) to have breakfast and leave by 5.30am. We will be up at Machu Picchu by about 7am, apparently in time to see the last of the sun rise (if the clouds keep away... not too promising at the moment!). We are then pretty much free to spend about 4 or 5 hours exploring Machu Picchu before getting back on the bus to Aquas Calientes, then getting the train and bus back to Cuzco, where we will spend the night, and have another free day before heading for the Jungle!
Once in Cuzco, I really hope to be able to get some more of our pictures posted up, as we have heaps.