The Inca Ruins at Ollantaytambo - Day 486
After three days relaxing in Urubamba, we travelled by coach to see the Inca Ruins at Ollantaytambo before catching a train to the gateway of Machu Picchu.
Not long into our journey, a friend pointed out to us The Skylodge Adventure Suite. These are small transparent capsules suspended 400m from the top of a mountain where one of our group, Michelle had stayed before our retreat. Wow! What an experience. Would you fancy staying there?
We arrived in Ollantaytambo, with its tiny cobbled streets that the coach could just about squeeze through. The town is marvellously well-preserved dating back to pre-Incan and Inca times and has some of the oldest continuously occupied buildings in South America built from a combination of stone and adobe. The road opened up to a delightful central Plaza de Armas surrounded by shops selling beautiful Andean textiles. It’s a good job we don’t have room in our rucksacks, I could easily get carried away.
We walked up a hill and around the corner we saw a magnificent sight. This area and town were built by Inca Emperor Pachacuti in the 1400s with lovely flat terraces that, from above, form the shape of a puma, a sacred Inca animal. We climbed the steep stone stairways leading us to the ruins of Temple Hill and the Temple of the Sun.
The Temple of the Sun is a wall of six huge monoliths, situated so that the worshippers could watch the sun rise over the pinnacle of the mountain across from the temple on the Summer Solstice. Their ancient symbols etched in the stone is still visible today. It’s incredible to imagine that these stones were moved from a quarry 6km away on the other side of the River Urubamba. The number seven is sacred to the Incas so what happened to the seventh block? There is space for it. Was it destroyed or was this temple never completed?
As well as a spiritual place for the Incas, this area was also famous for the Battle of Ollantaytambo. In 1537 Manco Inca Yupanqui, the leader of the Inca resistance defeated the Spanish by using the temple as a fortress and flooding the area. The Spanish then returned with reinforcements, but Manco Inca and his tribe managed to escape into the thick jungle.
It was magical walking around the top of the valley with such amazing views. On the Mountain opposite on the left, we could see ruins of some buildings halfway up the steep side. Our guide, Miguel informed us that these were Pinkuylluna Storehouses which the Inca built to keep their harvested crops fresh for longer taking advantage of the high altitude and wind giving an effective ventilation system. The Incas really seemed to have had a deep connection with their spiritual and natural life. So awe inspiring.
Time was of the essence, we needed to have lunch before getting the train to Machu Picchu. It was a shame as it would have been nice to explore the area a bit more. I had the biggest salad ever and could only eat half of it!
We got to the station in plenty of time, some great organisation by Andy, it was a bit like herding cats. Our seats had been assigned, and we needed to show our passports. The Vistadome train was luxurious with comfy chairs and large windows, not just at the side of the train but also in the ceiling. It was wonderful travelling parallel to the roaring river and even better when we were given a Carrot cake and a hot drink. We certainly weren’t expecting that!
As we arrived at Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu, the heavens opened, and we all got drenched. Sadly some of our travelling friends ended up with sopping wet bags and clothes for the next day. However, us GrownUpTravellers occasionally get some things right. Top tip: Always put spare clothes in a dry bag and have a rain cover over your rucksack. There is nothing worse than putting damp clothes on the next day.
Luckily we had a lovely meal in a local restaurant with a massive open fire. That warmed our cockles us nicely.