The Sacred Valley is sacred because the river flows the same direction that the sun arcs across the sky everyday. And the valley ends at Machu Picchu. Quite the sun worshippers. They still build houses from mud bricks. These guys making the bricks will make twice as much money per month than government paid nurses or teachers.
Every Sunday, there are markets in most of the towns. People from the surrounding area walk down the mountains to sell their wares (touristy t-shirts to homegrown corn) hoping to make a buck.
Well a sole, really. They will walk over 4 hours from their mud houses to sell things at the market. They use trails that have been around for thousands of years. Their Incan ancestors made the trails. A few of us gringos intercepted a weaving contest. It was amazing. There were almost one hundred women from the surrounding valleys that came into town on Sunday to weave the pattern of their people. Each pattern represents a town.
Each town is very proud of their pattern. We talked to weavers that made blankets at the rate of about 12-15 centimeters a day. Two people working all day will weave a blanket in about a month. You can buy one for about $70. The wool comes from sheep or alpaca. They raise the animals, shear them, wash the wool, and use natural dyes made from leaves, flowers, cactus, and even beetles.
As the South America leg of my journey comes to an end, I have been reflecting on what has occurred. This trip was full of familiarity, friends in Chile, family in Ireland, and lot of adventure. But this was also my first encounter with…otherness. I felt like I have been able to discover a new world. Or rather, many new worlds. I have learned a lot of lessons. I would like to think that I have learned about courage, honesty, and trust, but above all, this has been a lesson in humility. I feel like I have acquired a lot of knowledge, but also feel embarrassed by my own ignorance. It seemed like cultures would just open up and show me their trueness by me just being there. Just having dollars does not give you any respect. You can get a lot of attention though!
Initially, I wanted to run home. Somewhere where I understood the language, the currency, the way that things work. Familiar signs and symbols were nowhere to be found. Jet lagged, starving, and cheap, in Australia, we went into a supermarket to buy ingredients for chicken sandwiches. I didn’t realize how many sandwiches a kilo of chicken made. It saved me money, but I hated chicken for a while. Southeast Asia was my first real culture shock. I longed to be home with food that I like. After a week, I realized that this is what I signed up for. When my mindset changed, so did my journey. Trying to talk to the locals became fun for everyone. They laughed at me, but so did I.
Robert Fulghum said, “The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.” I couldn’t agree more.