Travel Day
The flight from ORD to Lima took up the entire day.  LATAM is pretty basic, no frills airline.  Narrow 3 by 3 seats, only soft beverages, and broken WI-FI. Upon arrival to Lima, it took another 40 min. to get our luggage.   Around midnight we finally checked into our hotel, Windham Costa Del Sol, located just across the terminal.  We requested interconnecting rooms, double checked at the reception, but as soon as we entered the rooms, we saw they were not connected. It took another half-hour to sort through this mishap and move to another floor.  Needless to say, everyone was asleep before their heads hit the pillow. 
Next morning, we were back at the airport at 8 am to check in for our 9:45 flight to Cusco on StarPeru.  After waiting in a short line, we were redirected to another line at Peruvian Air that was operating our flight.  However, we quickly learned that we were bumped off that flight and could be put on standby or rebooked on a later flight.  There wasn’t much we could do with our non existent Spanish, except make very angry, sad and desperate faces ( in that order), because we were expected in Cusco on a pre-booked tour.  We also quickly realized the importance of checking in early for your flight.   So, we chose the first option to go on standby.   Two minutes before the end of boarding, there were only 4 open seats and 5 of us.   The travel Gods must have had mercy – we got on that flight, all 5 of us. 

Sacred Valley
We arrived to Cusco (11,000 feet elevation) and were promptly met and greeted by our tour guide.  After 15 minutes, we all had a headache, so when we stopped for lunch, the first thing we ordered was a cup of coco leaf tea. With the extra help of a few Advils, we started feeling better and were on our way to the ceremony, celebrating Mother Earth (Pachamama) as it was the first of August, the beginning of the new agricultural year and the day the locals traditionally make the offerings to the earth and the mountains. We had a lovely ceremony with coco leaf reading, celebrating Pachamama, and calling on the spirit of the mountains.  We’ve made wishes, thanked the earth and learned about some of the Inca spiritual beliefs.  At the conclusion of the ceremony, the shaman, Senior Esedro wrapped our offerings to the earth, to burn in the evening hours.

The second day in Sacred Valley, we went on a half day hike with lamas from the Lama Pack Project.  It is a wonderful organization with a goal of restoring original lama’s DNA before they were destroyed for political reasons by Spanish Conquistadors, and to provide employment to families from the local communities.  It was relatively easy hike (we weren’t ready for anything strenuous, as we were still adjusting to an altitude.  Our three local guides, on the other hand, already walked 4 hrs. from their village to get ready for our hike).  We stopped for lunch, consisting of a traditional Quechua (Inca) meal of fava beans, corn, and different types of potatoes.  There are over 4,000 varieties of potatoes (yes, it’s not a typo), and potatoes are served with everything.  The walk back was a breeze, and the lamas even got a chance to pose for some selfies! 

We spent the rest of the day in Pisac.  A small quaint  town with a lovely market to buy souvenirs, and Pisac ruins. We took a drive to the ruins (30 soles from the center of town). The Ruins are on top of the mountain, and with the wind and a drop in temperature, we didn’t even make it a half way before turning around. 

Day 3

Another amazing day at Salineras Ranch which started to feel like home away from home. We went on half day horse riding tour.  It is a postcard scenery from every angle, going through the Andes mountains, stopping at the Maras Salt Mines, continuing through the town of Maras to Moray. When we returned to the ranch, we learned how to make organic chocolate from scratch.