We are falling in love with the Andes. It reminds me of the Grand Teutons—every five minutes something new is around the corner, bigger and better than the one before with nonstop photo opportunities. And we haven’t even gotten to Machu Picchu yet!!

Today’s journey started with a native "Offering to the Earth" ceremony at our hotel. A local Shaman first led us through a meditation using coca leaves, followed by an offering with layers of many seeds, plants, even sprinkles- each represented a part of Mother Earth. Then he chants over it, and takes it somewhere to bury. I hope it brings us good luck!

The bus ride on the way to very happening town of Ollantaytambo (elevation 9160 ft.), we travelled through beautiful vistas, a couple of local towns and glimpses of daily life in rural Peru. This town is not only known for the temple and fortress which we will climb soon, but also as the staging point for hikers taking the famous Inca Trail (4 days, 3 nights hike to Machu Picchu with a guide), and the PERU Rail statio. which we will take to Machu Picchu tomorrow (only an hour and a half!).
Arriving at Ollantaytambo, we explored this bustling town, first the tourist market stalls, the streets, peek into a courtyard, then made our way to the Inca temple.

The Incan emperor, Pachacuti built his personal estate here after conquering it in the mid 1400s. It was abandoned in 1536 after initially repelling the advances of the Spanish conquistadors.It was a serious climb but we made it to the top, where the actual temple is. Incredible vistas, looking across to glaciers, former "dorms of workers, and the surrounding countryside.

Time for lunch. Not a typical restaurant, we arrived at at the Wayra Ranch, home of the Sol y Luna restaurant. This is a incredibly landscaped, expansive horse farm. We enjoyed the best meal so far, a smorgasbord of family style Peruvian food including local corn salad, empanadas, fresh grilled trout, beef heart, roast pork and chicken, and three kinds of mini desserts to die for including gooseberries dipped in chocolate.

But wait—there’s more. We were treated to a horse show with four costumed horseman, and a couple of dancers who danced in a Spanish-influenced style, but not Flamenco.

Before we went back to the hotel, we stopped in Chinchero, a small town where most homes have llamas, alpacas and/or sheep hanging around their yards. We were treated to a very complete demonstration of weaving the bright and intricate textiles we see everywhere. The college-educated owner showed us how to wash the various wools, turn them into yarn, and then amazingly, through totally natural plants, minerals and insects, dye them. The results in this high end place are exquisite, although we didn’t buy anything. Others in our group made up for us though. We really don’t need warm alpaca clothes in Florida.

A very long, intense, wonderful day. Tomorrow, onto Machu Picchu!!!