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26 feb201826

The heart of Quispicanchi - Urcos

Urcos, PeruUrcos, Peru
When somebody is talking about Peru, Cusco, and/or Sacred Valley, few obvious places come to mind: Machi Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, Puno, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, or Urubamba. My last Tuesday on Peruvian we (Bettina and I, as it was her last day on Peruvian soil) decided to spend a day in some less touristy part of the Sacred Valley. My vote initially went to Maras and visiting the salt evaporation ponds - and we all now that anything to do with salt is of interest to me, Betting opted for Urcos, and yes ultimately we agreed Urcos will be the best bet. Kudos to you Bettina, the choice was perfect!

Urcos is a small town situated around 50km south-east from Cusco with population of only a bit over 4000 people and a capital of the province Quispicanchis (one of the 13 provinces of Cusco district) {"type" : "www","title":"Wikipedia - Urcos", "url" : "", "date" : "24 February 2018"}. It's not a very busy town and we barely saw any gringos while we were there, maybe a few but I can't remember exactly :D It's most known for the small lake just on the edge of the city that also has a family park. A park that looked really awesome for such a small place - I was very impressed!

Once we realised that we actually arrived in Urcos, we got out and decided to walk towards something that looked like an observation point in a shape of UFO with a very nice view of the city. Indeed it was:
Fot: Bettina Victoria Langer
Even in that picture you can see the town was not very busy to my utmost joy of course even though it was probably around noon at that time. People are not in rush like in Cusco, though still going about their business, selling goods or attending their lands. After the first break we continued not towards the city centre, Plaza de Armas, but instead towards the lake.

Laguna de Urcos, or as it is also called in quechua Qoyllururmana - still trying to figure out what it means, so far I know quyllur means star and urmana trap, so startrap? Doesn't have the nicest ring to it, does it?

Anyway the lake, even for its small size looks amazing and walking around it I felt like walking in the centre of the Earth. That's a reference to a movie Journey to the Center of the Earth (or rather mini series) from 1999. When they reached to the core of the earth they found people living in an environment like hundreds of thousands of years ago, and the place was filled with green-blue plants. Around Cusco you can find a lot of plants like these: 
This is agave plant, which we found abundance of around the lake. I noticed them for the first time on my way back from Rainbow Mountain and my first thought was that the plant was aloe vera but I was swiftly corrected by Cristian that aloe vera is smaller and greener. Those plants always make me feel like walking through the centre of the earth, especially if you're surrounded by lots of eucalyptus trees (and young trees' leaves have a bit blue-ish colour too) - yes I found it as surprising as everybody else - eucalyptus in Peru! 

In the 1960s and 70s the government promoted large-scale eucalyptus forestry, partially as a means of strengthening its political prsence in the countryside.  The first trees were planted over a century ago but only in the midle of 20th centry it became a permanent feature of the landscape. Eucalyptus has a long history as a source of communal cash revenue in peasant communities - funding, for example, the construction of local schools {"type":"paper","title":"The Political Ecology of a Forest Transition: Eucalyptus forestry in the Southern Peruvian Andes", "year":"2007","author":"Jeffrey Luzar","publisher":"University of Hawaii at Manoa"}. While looking at the trees we could also notice that they're quite young but coming out of old trunk - the evidence of people having cut its predecessor down a long time ago.
No longer a teenager eucalyptus. Its leaves are long and strong, and both sides have a photosynthetic tissue
Obviously it has been a privlege to actually have an Australian accompany me and explain to me the history and even growing cycle of eucalyptus trees ;) And thanks to the information I have received from my eucalyptic expert I now know much more about those trees than before. First of all the tree is ever-changing during its growth cycle. Leaves of a young tree are broader to ensure the biggest area exposed to the sun possible. 

Another fact I didn't know about was that gum trees actually have flowers. 

Gum nuts (capsules) are responsible for dropping the seeds. Believe it or not they are fire resistant! {"type":"paper","title":"Eucalyptus Homework", "year":"2018","author":"Bettina Victoria Langer", "publisher":""}
Baby eucalyptus
But what was considered the most shocking fact found by my private researcher :D was that the leaves have small traces of gold on them - not enought to get rich but it's there nonetheless!
After having made a cricle around the lake we continued and before we entered the town we saw what was a very impressive recreational park. I still don't know how they managed to pull off the funds to build it but good for them! It contained an outdoor gym, a picnic area, basketball courts, and one of the best views you could possibly ask for.
Fot: Bettina Victoria Langer
Once we got inside the southern part of the town that has the Plaza de Armas we saw a very interestingly decorated trees: 
Fot: Bettina Victoria Langer
Next we decided to go a bit off the usual paths and climbed a bit on one of the surrounding peaks and this is the view we could enjoy...
The views like that are what I like the most. Just imagine being able to live there, having a simple house, farming the lands, going for walks on those peaks, and reading books under the trees (which most likely would be eucalyptus :D). From that side of the town we witnessed many wonderful landscapes like that, especially on our way down through this crack in between the peaks, not a usual way to come down but interesting nonetheless. 
Amazing short trip to not only see a different part of Sacred Valley but also feel like in the pre-historic times, and smell countless eucalyptus trees. I'm glad my journey in Cusco has ended on such a positive note and I can say that the whole experience made me miss those times even more. But I still consider myself a Lucky One, for many reasons...
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