Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ollantaytambo, an Inca Village in the Sacred Valley

We changed our train schedule returning from Agua Caliente to leave earlier and spend the day in Ollantaytambo. It was a great decision. This is a charming cobblestone streeted village with 2 pretty squares and a beautiful Inca temple/fortress hanging above it. The town has been occupied since the 13th century and has a lovely laid back atmosphere, expept for the tour buses occasionally running through. They really should insist that they park just out of town and allow their passengers to walk through the quiet streets.
Of course, thinking with our stomachs as usual, we found a charming restaurant right next to the entrance to the ruins with a sunlit courtyard. It was a lovely place to eat lunch and had a delicious menu del dia. We enjoyed the guinea pigs playing in a miniature castle-like home close by. They too were having lunch, and at least while we were there, were not lunch themselves. It's hard to imagine killing one of these cuties as several pictures here attest (top of the entry).
We walked all over the fortress like ruins, up steep terraces and steps. On one path carved into the cliff a group of women were clutching the wall and wailing, scared to death, while the poor guide tried to calm them (double click on the photo below left and see that trail in the shadows). We were old hands at this now. At the bottom were some lovely fountains, used in Inca times for cleansing rituals and still running. At the top were 6 huge monoliths of pink rhyolite perfecty slotted
together with thin slices of stone and oriented to glow with the rising sun. This was intended to be a much bigger structure as seen from the building blocks scattered around on the ground, but the invasion of the Spanish, halted it.
Afterwards we did some shopping and found a private small "museum" where they showcased textiles and a lovely old Inca kitchen. Scott and I bought a runner for our dining room featuring rose and green natural dyes.

Having your picture taken for money is now a job here in Peru. Individuals or families dress in their best native dress, sometimes with props like well groomed llamas or even better, llama babies. Still it isn't that bad a profession. This family shown here were having fun together waiting for a tourist to stop and take a picture. It isn't such hard work.

The larger main square was lively with residents strolling and talking. Most of the tourists had left on the big buses and we enjoyed the comparative quiet and light from the setting sun. At a small outside cafe we had a drink and admired the owner's pet, a 4 month old local rodent like animal that could drink from a baby's bottle and eat greens daintily with his hands.

We ate nearby at KB Tambo, a small hostal/restaurant, and had a great meal. The place was packed and candle lit, and reasonable. Scott and John took a taxi down to the train station and picked up the luggage we had left there (the porter wasn't sure what time it closed). Then we could enjoy our meal without worrying. Afterwards we met the SAS bus for our trip back to Cusco, arriving around 10PM.

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