Sacred Valley of the Incas

I just got back from a one-day bus tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, taking in various Inca ruins such as Pisaq, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. It was fun — the bus was very friendly, and Dimitri (who I’d met on previous tours) was on the same bus too, but I think I’m pretty much Inca’d out now.

I’m also pretty sick of tourist markets too — the first two stops on the bus were at big tourist markets, and there were more tourist markets at every one of the Inca sites we visited. We also made a special stop at “the best” (allegedly) ceramics factory — basically a shop that gave a brief demonstration on how pottery is made. It wasn’t especially informative (who doesn’t know how pottery is made?), although I admit I was mildly impressed when the guy used the ceramic cup he’d made to hammer a nail into the table!

The “artesan” (i.e. tourist) markets are too much after a while, though — they all sell pretty much the same stuff, and the stall holders desparately implore you to buy their wares, calling you “amigo” while holding up their blankets/ponchos/plates/whatever, saying “only 5 soles, amigo.” In addition to stall holders, there are women with cute little kids in papooses and llamas dressed in traditional clothing, charging money for photographs, street kids selling water and candy etc., and out-and-out beggars. It’s a little depressing after a while.

I bought a few portable knick-knacks (partly out of guilty compulsion to redistribute some wealth), but the other problem on top of the relentless hard selling is that NOBODY has any change, so whenever you try to pay for anything small with a large note, there’s the whole rigmarole of the vendor running around other stalls for 10 minutes trying to get change.

Anyway, tonight’s my last night of vacation! I’m meeting up with Dimitri and some other folks from the bus in a little while for drinks and dinner, and then I’ll be heading for an early night, since I have a taxi coming around 5am tomorrow to take me to the airport for the long journey back to New York.

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