The Road to Machu Picchu: Ollantaytambo

Days: 296-297 (17 April 2015 – 18 April 2015)

Total distance travelled: 56,991.6 kilometres (35,398.51 miles)

One hot afternoon and three colectivo’s later, we could finally end our day (or perhaps it should be start our evening), in the Incan mountain town of Ollantaytambo.

With nothing booked, it was one of those lets wander and find a place kind of affairs, but with just our day packs (not our large rucksacks, we’d left them back in Cusco), it was a lovely place to do just that.

Wandering the streets of a town more charming than Cusco (left) & marveling at Incan engineering (right)

Wandering the streets of a town more charming than Cusco (left) & Marveling at Incan engineering (right)

After a couple of false starts, we found a bed for the night, then began to wonder about food, given we’d essentially missed lunch.

Now just a heads up, as far as dining options go, if you love average pizza, Ollantaytambo (or most other Peruvian towns) is just the place for you!

This place was yet another flushed with the joints.

We passed on the pizza for now, instead opting for a snack instead in the incredibly tasty (although it very quickly cooled) form of some meat on a stick… with the inspired addition of a tasty spud (potato) on the end as well!

Finding a little, tasty something to tide us over...

Finding a tasty little something to tide us over…

As something of a sad admission, we did end up having some of that average pizza later as well…

Now Ollantaytambo the town shares its name with the nearby ruins, and it was for these that we rose nice and early the following day.

After all, that afternoon we had a train to catch!

We were incredibly surprised to find ourselves not in fact the first people to get their tickets stamped for the morning, but thankfully we were ahead of the earliest tour groups and in short time (as the first bus group arrived down below), we were also ahead of the couple who’d entered minutes before us.

It was never a race, however our earnest endeavors to get to the top of the ruins quickly, meant we were able to enjoy the place in peace, with no need to contort our bodies or strategically place ourselves so that we could snap pictures, tourist free.

To be able to do that, certainly made the initial puffing and panting, very worth it!

Feeling like the Griswalds, 1st in the park at Wally World... okay, so it's Ollantaytambo

Feeling like the Griswalds, first in the park at Wally World… okay, so it’s actually Ollantaytambo

The wonderful terraced hillsides

The wonderful terraced hillsides… Free of fellow tourists!

The ruins themselves are conveniently separated into what felt like three sections, the main ruins, a secondary terraced section further around the mountain, and the lower portion, essentially at ground level (well, at the same elevation as the town of Ollantaytambo).

Our explorations lead us to a cliff hugging path (fear not, it wasn’t a gravel strewn death trap), which gave us not only great views of the main section of the ruins, but conveniently lead us around the mountainside and onto the terraced, former agriculture slopes nearby.

New perspectives from the narrow cliff side paths

New perspectives from the narrow cliff side paths

Although there wasn’t as much to see structurally (other than some time worn granaries), the valley views were lovely, and it seemed the perfect way to escape the approaching hordes from below.

We became doubly thankful when we discovered we could also descend from this side, meaning no back tracking was necessary!

Marveling at the incredibly cut stone is something we never seemed to tire of, so to see such straight cut blocks, or stone carved to fit the contours of a pre-existing, natural rock, was simply a delight.

Granaries (left) & fountains (right) Stunning stonework abounds!

Granaries (left) & fountains (right) Stunning stonework abounds!

Our plan was to complete our explorations before breakfast (after all, we had a train to catch later in the morning), so with our clock ticking, we made our way back across town, headed for the opposite slopes of the valley.

For those not so keen on splurging for the Boleto Turistico, this is the climb for you (as these admittedly smaller ruins, are FREE)!

From way down below, it looked one hell of a climb, so begin with gusto we did… only to discover it wasn’t as difficult as we’d first imagined.

It was another incredibly scenic location, with the option to climb up higher to our left to take in the granaries, or a lower path that lead to smaller ruins on a bend in the valley wall (we took the higher road first).

From one side of the valley, we decided to ascend the other...

From one side of the valley, we decided to ascend the other…

Making the climb more rapidly than we’d anticipated gave us more time to appreciate our surrounds, and just as importantly for me, ensured we’d have ample time to breakfast when we made our way back to town!

After thinking Pisac was wonderful a day earlier, Ollantaytambo had now well and truly trumped it.

Getting closer to the granaries

Getting closer to the granaries

Again we marveled at the ridiculous quality in the workmanship of these elevated constructs, soaked up the views of cute town below, and then explored the other ruins on that second, lower path.

It didn’t take long, and we were back on the fringes of Ollantaytambo’s Plaza de Armas where I tucked into a delicious feed of bacon and eggs (with some local touches), whilst Sarah struggled through a horrible coffee and cake.

In one of the greatest examples of modern chivalry, I took that coffee off her hands and instead let her enjoy my far superior hot chocolate.

Plazas are always great places to people watch, and sadly as we dined, it threw us an example of one the more difficult things (for us to come to terms with) we see in our travels.

Good intentions, very misplaced.

You can see all around the Ollantaytambo plaza, young children (okay, so not being high season there weren’t tons, but certainly enough) beautifully clad in traditional garb, children who hover around each of the packs formed by the various tour groups.

Children who should actually be in school.

Instead, here they lay in wait, ready to ambush and prey on the apparent charity of the people, begging for both sugary sweets and even better, money!

The glorious past (left) & the sad future, as children who should be in school, instead reap great reward from 'charitable' tourists (right)

The glorious past (left) & the sad future, as children who should be in school, instead reap great reward from ‘charitable’ tourists (right)

A little saddened and disappointed we made our way out of town, on towards the nearby railway station…

 

Notes:

* Our ‘Boleto Turistico’ cost $130.00 Soles (purchased in Cusco), which allows access to Ollantaytambo as well 16 other sites.

* A colectivo from Pisac to Calca (where unbeknownst to us there is in fact a bus terminal… we caught ours near the edge of town) cost us a reasonable $1.20 Soles each.

* $1.50 Soles more, got us from Calca to Urubamba.

* Our colectivo for the final leg (Urubamba to Ollantaytambo) cost us an additional $1.50 Soles.

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