Saturday, August 15, 2015

Peruvian Highlands - Ollantaytambo


Main Temple
Following a two day stop in Pisac (see Pisac), the next leg of the Peruvian adventure saw us set out for the small town of Ollantaytambo in the valley along the Urubamba River.

To reach Ollantaytambo from Pisac required finding a taxi and then negotiating a suitable fare for the three of us and our luggage.  Well, finding a taxi was easy.  As soon as we approached the town center with our luggage in tow, drivers descended upon us like yellow jackets drawn to a chunk of red meat.  Pricing began at 120 soles and after writing offers and counteroffers in pen onto the palms of our hands, we settled on a fare of 75 soles for the hour drive.  At current exchange rate, the fare equated to about $25.  Not only did we arrive into Ollantaytambo in one piece but the driver stopped to find directions to our hotel which was tucked away near the main Incan ruins deep within the village.  It seems traffic signals, speed limits, highway dividing lines are merely suggested courtesies; ignored by almost everyone.
Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo, for those hiking the Inca Trail, is not a destination but the beginning of their journey.  Ollantaytambo is the site of an old Incan bridge marking the start of the Inca Trail out of Ollantaytambo.  For us, Ollantaytambo was a two day stopover as we continued exploring the Sacred Valley.  The temple adjoining the town was to be our main focus.

The town is situated at the end of the Sacred Valley as the Urubamba River disappears from the valley and plunges into the gorge on its way towards Aguas Calientes; the tourist town at the foot of Machu Picchu.
End of the Sacred Valley as Urubamba River
drops into the gorge in the distance.
Disembarking from the taxi, we faced the sight shown below.  This massive engineering feat was, literally, only steps from the hotel.
Main Temple
The scale of this structure is overwhelming and continues up to the top of the ridge.  It reminds me of a stair-stepping waterfall carved from stone.  Note the size of the people scaling the structure about midway up.  To get a better sense of scale, I am standing in the passageway with the terraces towering overhead. 
Main temple with Jon for scale
Temple
I was surprised to see the temple actually adjoining the town on its west end.  Between the temple on the west side and a rugged and steep peak on the east side, Ollantaytambo is sandwiched between two formidable rock formations.
Temple to west

Monolith to the east
Note structures on side of peak
Besides the site of the Incan temple ruins, the town, itself, is built upon the old Incan town foundations.  In the ancient part of town, small rivulets run alongside each street
Typical Incan street layout
while current residents reside in homes whose foundations date back to Incan times.
"Modern" homes on Incan foundations
Ollantaytambo was the site of a battle between Manco Inca and Spanish Conquistador, Hernando Pizarro in 1537.  In this battle, Pizarro was defeated as Manco Inca thwarted the Spanish-led attack by flooding the valley floor.  Gathering reinforcements, Pizarro returned to do battle once again.  Upon his return, Pizarro found Manco Inca had fled into the jungle.  The exact location of the battle is unknown but evidence suggests that it took place east of Ollantaytambo near the town of Pachar.
From atop main temple looking north up valley
From the temple looking across the town, notice the structures clinging to the side of the steep rocky peak.  These buildings are granaries or storehouses.  One set of three row buildings is situated about one third up the face of the mountain.  The climb is steep, slippery, and not always well marked.  I passed one explorer who had lost her way on the path to the granaries.  I invited her to follow me up.  The view from these heights is stunning.
Granaries

Granaries
Granaries
View of temple from Granaries
During our stay, it was festival time.  While my wife and sister were negotiating textile prices at a stall near the hotel, a truck came down the main road and made a hard left.  Too hard in fact and barreled into construction scaffolding and tearing off the front fender.  Imagine my surprise when the back door flew open and a scene out of a circus presented itself.  Peruvians in traditional grab piled out of the back of the truck at a great rate of outflow.  Women and children first!

Interesting little town that deserves a visit on any trek to Machu Picchu.  I certainly would return.

Next up:  Train to Aquas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

24 comments:

  1. Splendid photos...hope I'll be there one day!

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  2. Wow those pictures are amazing. Carolyn and I would love to tour this amazing scenery at some time.
    I assume one has to take into account the altitude. How did you find things.

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    1. It should be placed on your Bucket List, Jonathan.
      We had no trouble with altitude until the last three days of the trip when we returned to Cusco to settle in for a few days.

      At around 10,000 feet none of us experienced any symptoms. My wife did have an episode in Cusco at 11,500.

      After 24 hours in Cusco, she began feeling light-headed and dizzy, followed by a severe headache. She took some altitude sickness med and was fine in about an hour of rest. That one hour was brutal for her, though. The other two of us felt no effects of altitude even with vigorous hiking at high altitude.

      I would go again and would not be worried about the altitude.

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  3. An epic vacation - thanks for sharing those pics!

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    1. You are welcome, Greg. I figured with your interest in Mesoamerica, these photos might be of interest. While this was my first trip to Peru, I have many photo of Mayan ruins if that interests you.

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  4. Awesome sights, Jon. Hopefully you didn't get into hot water on your way to Agua Calientes! :-)

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    1. Awesome sights, for sure!

      There is often a reason a town gets a particular name. As the name suggests, Aguas Calientes is a site of a number of hot springs.

      There are attempts to change the name from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu town. I guess too many tourists are getting confused!

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  5. Wow! What an incredible place. It boggles my mind when I start to think of the feat of engineering and manpower that went into building those terraces and buildings. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. The engineering technology and labor needed to make these artifacts does boggle the mind. You see these structures and you wonder how they did it. The Incans never revealed that but labor was plentiful and was a form of taxation. Still, incredible sights.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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  6. Actually your posting of this was absolutely perfect timing - I was just reading about the Incas with my kids yesterday and showed them these pictures today!

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    1. Fantastic that this piece can be used in conjunction with your Incan study. At some point I will follow up with travelogues on Machu Picchu and Cusco. Let me know if you would like more Incan info, photos, book suggestions, etc..

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  7. Truly impressive, not only the incredible engineering of the Inca's but also the fact that you survived your encounter with the local traffic regulations or lack of same :0)

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  8. Great photos Jonathan, an amazing looking site!

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    1. It is an amazing site. If you plan a visit to Machu Picchu, make sure to allow time for a stop at Ollantaytambo.

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  9. Spectacular Jonathan! Thanks so much for sharing with all of us. I'm looking forward to more.

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    1. Welcome back, Monty!

      I have two more cities and Machu Picchu to recount.
      If you have not read about the first leg of the journey to Pisac, please take a read through that one too.

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  10. Wonderful images of a truly amazing place. The structures are just astounding.

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    1. It is a place that does not get enough attention, I think.
      Astounding structures, for sure.

      We came away from Ollantaytambo with many memories and a few good stories such as the renegade "circus" truck.

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  11. Replies
    1. Indeed! Ollanta is a beautiful little town on the Inca Trail.
      You would enjoy it!

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