Cusco Wednesday 2nd July We were not sorry to leave Lima. The perpetual grey sky, the barren landscape, lack of any real green space and the dirty air start to get to you after a couple of days. I am convinced that aggressive driving of the locals is due, in part, to their depressive environment. For us Lima falls into the same category as Quito; a gateway to somewhere else. For us today, this gateway was to Cusco. The flight from Lima to Cusco is only 1 hour yet they are worlds apart. We were flanked by the spectacular peaks of the Andes on our approach into Cusco. A fairly sharp bank and turn to the left afforded another magnificent view across the whole of the main valley as we proceeded to land. All of this was under a dazzling blue sky. This is an amazingly beautiful part of the world. Our rather humble hotel, The Cusco Plaza 2, is located just one block away from the historic centre of Cusco, the Plaza de Armas. This part of Cusco is beautiful and charming with narrow, cobbled streets that are lined with a mixture of old colonial buildings and pre-colonial structures. Shops, cafes and restaurants occupy these Calles within the labyrinth and give the place a festive charm, far removed from that of Lima. There is also an abundance of Internet cafes and massage houses! Our afternoon was spent on a 3-hour private tour around Cusco. We visited the ancient Inca site of Sacayhuaman, 6km to the north of Cusco, where the Incas had built their imposing Sun temple. The Spanish, though, destroyed much of this site and used the supply of stone and gold to build their colonial buildings. Not far from this site was another Inca site, Kenko, where human sacrifices were carried out. We visited the Dominican convent of Santo Domingo most famous as it was built over the desecrated remains of the Incas most famous Sun temple, the Koricancha. Our tour finished at the Cusco Cathedral located in Plaza de Armas. Started in 1560, it took almost 100 years to build. We could not help but be impressed by this building even though we were aware that this, as with most other colonial buildings, were built on top of demolished Inca structures, using Inca slave labour and the materials sacked from their sacred sites. The gold and silver leaf throughout the Cathedral is truly dazzling and something to behold. We dined in a small Peruvian restaurant just down from out hotel and were in bed by 7.30…. must be the mountain air! Thursday 3rd July We set out early for a full day visit to the Urubamba Valley, also known in more recent times as the Sacred Valley. This valley starts in Pisac, where we had lunch and did some shopping, and finishes ultimately at Machu Picchu. We visited many impressive Inca sites throughout the day. One of these was Ollantayambo where we got to climb up a section of amazing Inca terrace; so typical of many Inca photos. We also visited a llama and alpaca farm where we fed these cousins of the camels and learned how their wool is processed from the initial fleece through to the finished garment or article. This stop set us back by quite a lot of Peruvian Sol! One of the most interesting features observed throughout the day trip though was that of the traditional homes around Cusco. Whilst the usual besser brick was evident in the newer developments around central Cusco, traditional homes are built of hand made adobe bricks. Landowners take the red clay from their property and mix this with water, grass and llama hair. They then press these into a brick form and leave them to dry for about 10 days. Once dry, they are ready for building. We passed kilometers of road where we saw these adobe dwellings, the bricks being made and bricks left out to dry. Once home we rested, read and wrote before heading out to e-mail this piece and to have dinner in the Plaza de Armas.