Ollantaytambo – a little gem. 

What a little gem of a village. This village is nestled in down below the old Incan ruins. From the moment I arrived I fell in love with this place. You leave the main road and wind up a cobbled road of a couple of switch backs through and after a short time you are in the Plaza de Armas. No chance in missing this is a tourist based town as all the buildings except one around the Plaza are either selling tourist souvenirs or food for tourists. The only shopfront not engaged in tourist based commercial activities is the Church. Despite this it just had a charm to it that was palpable. And our hotel room. Leave aside the fact that it was the warmest and sunniest room we had been in for some time, the view was to die for – straight up to the Incan ruins. Of course I planned it that way. I reckon we had the best room in town. 

The reason why people visit Ollantaytambo is really for the ruins. The ruins were built by the last Incan king and didn’t get finished as the Spanish finished his rule first. He didn’t go down without a fight though as he actually was the one king to win the first round. No luck the second time. The ruins were never finished. The standout of these ruins were the terraces which you can see in the above photo. To the left of the terraces is a set of stairs and let me say it is no little jaunt climbing these. They certainly set your heart a flutter. The thing I find with these ruins is that so much of what you hear about them is probably conjecture. Not much in the way of records was left by the Incans (they used knotted strings) so I am pretty sure that a lot of the reported subtle details of everyday life is likely be lost/myth/guess work/whatever.  I don’t believe what tour guides say as you may have gathered from my previous blog. In truth, I don’t really care about what this wall part of or why this stone was put here and who supposedly bathed under this water spout. I was exactly the same with the temples of Angkor. Rather I like to see it as it appears to be, what is left and how it looks. Or perhaps how the light is playing with what is there. So if you are looking for photos of the ruins, better look somewhere else.  I can show you that the stairs down from the second set of terraces to the living areas were steep and that you can get a nice view of the village from up there.

The llamas enjoy grazing on the terraces. 

One of the standouts of this town for me was the mountains. Ollantaytambo sits in a valley flanked by mountains. No snow on them but they were just beautiful. Many are jagged and appear to rise straight out of the valley floor. The way they attract and play with light is just fabulous. They never look the same. What was interesting was how blue the light was. There are a lot of ecualyptus trees around so whether it is the oil released by them or just mountain haze, I don’t know.  

For me the other major charm was the actual village and its people. The village is reputably dated back to Incan times. All the houses are set on stone foundations on cobbled lanes – four running north/south and 6 running east/west. The four are wider than the six but none have cars on them. Perhaps the odd motorbike or three wheeled mototaxi (the Peruvian version of a tuk tuk). A pleasant change. The four also have irrigation channels running their length. I couldn’t find out if this was the houses water supply which would be interesting considering many of the dogs play in the channels. The houses have remain in the family and are passed down from generation to generation.  
When walking in the lanes, if you are lucky you will see an older woman (or less likely man) still wearing traditional clothing walking along the lanes. In the later part of the day, young girls or teenagers dress in their traditional colourful clothing for, you guessed it, tikkipiccha. They don’t have a cute animal in tow though like their counterparts in Cusco. 

THe morning before we left, I had to go out just one more time. We found the local produce market the day before but it was winding up. Local markets really are the place to see locals just doing what they do. Some are weary of tourists as we all come with a camera (well most of us anyway). Some will look away and some just ignore the camera. The problem is the colour of the Peruvians is just too hard to go by, it is just so intense. And photogenic. 

Morning mission accomplished and time to head back for a quick breakfast before leaving this pretty little town. Ollantytambo is one little place that will etched in my memory.  Next stop Agues Callientes and Machu Picchu. What was it that I said at the beginning of this blog about ruins?


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