Day 8: Ollantaytambo
By now we have our morning routine set. We packed our bags for the day, had breakfast, and met our guide to learn about the route. The exploration for the day was called Pumatambo because we were going to Ollantaytambo and Pumamarca. We got lucky again and were the only ones on the hike. Gabriel was our guide for the day and recommended bringing a rain jacket (to ensure that it wouldn’t rain). We went to the van and set off towards Ollantaytambo, the town where we got off the train yesterday.
Instead of going all the way to the train station, we started at the Inca trail where we saw some more terraces and Incan structures on our route. The trail led us to the city center and market where we entered a traditional style shop that had a bunch of guinea pigs running around. We were allowed to feed them some veggies and shop around. They sold stone carved pieces and textile. We bought small shale statues of bulls, called toritos. We have been seeing toritos on the roofs of houses and stores all around Peru. They are traditional statues, representing the duality (there are always two), and are meant to protect the house below. We also had time to walk around the market stalls before entering the main archeological site of Ollantaytambo.
We entered the Ollantaytambo Sanctuary — built by the 9th Incan king, Pachacutek. He was the designer of many of the fortress ruins that are still standing today. Like many of the structures, this one features terraces as retaining walls for the houses and buildings above. Similar to Machu Picchu, this site features a sun temple, where the movement of the sun and the solstice can be tracked.
We climbed the stairs and made it to the top of the sanctuary. We had views of the site as well as the surrounding mountains and valley. Another similarity between the different Incan sites are the storage rooms. The Incans built storage units in an area that would keep them cool. In this case, that meant they were across the valley on another mountain. Because they were so far away, when the Spanish came and burned down the city and crops, their reserves were left in tact.
We took the steps back down where we explored the courtyard where there is a cantuta plant, the pink national flower of Peru. We walked back into the market, and the van picked us up to drive us to the second half of the day.
The next part of the exploration was the hike to Pumamarka, another archeological area. Apparently, we are pretty fast walkers, and we made it to the start of the hike about an hour ahead of schedule. Normally, guests would eat lunch about halfway through the hike, but since it was still fairly early, we opted to wait until we were done. The first kilometer of the hike was a steep incline. We started at 2,882 meters and our highest point was 3,427 meters.
Turns out that most explorations stop at the bottom of the hill that Pumamarca is on. Because we were speedy, we had time to walk up and explore the ruins. Pumamarca is not as popular as the others (quite possibly due to it’s location), but it is just as important, if not more. It was built by the Kilke about 1000 years prior to the Incas, but since there was no remains of pottery or tools, the origins and function of the site are not known.
As an added bonus, we saw some friendly alpacas and even were able to touch them. We had just purchased a small alpaca keychain (to be used as a Christmas tree ornament) from a vendor and got to show it off with it’s kin.
We finished the hike and met the van just below Pumamarca for lunch. By waiting until the end of the hike, we successfully avoided el mal de puerco (AKA food coma). Once we were done, we took the van back to Explora. One thing we had noticed while in the van the past few days are all of the political ads. There is an election coming up, and rather than billboards, ads are painted onto sides of buildings. There is usually the politician’s name as well as a logo that represents their values. We’ve seen a pencil, broom, shovel, something that looks like the Avengers A, and a Vicuña — which looks like an alpaca but is not an alpaca. Regardless, we are including the following photo of this political ad to showcase another example of the duality that is so important to Peruvian culture — male/female in this case.
We arrived back at Explora at 4:00. Plenty of time to enjoy the hot tub, swim a few laps, and shower. Otherwise known as our spa routine. We also tried 2 more drinks from the bar: a mojito made, of course, with muÃ±a and Matacuy, and a pitusity. For dinner, we had pre-ordered the cuy (roasted guinea pig) a traditional meal typically served on special occasions.
Tomorrow we meet at 7:45 for a hike around the 5 Lakes.