The Finger Post Travel: Ollantaytambo, Peru (November 5, 2018)

The Finger Post Travel (February 2, 2019)

 

You sometimes can’t help but wonder if Ollantaytambo has a Laughlin, Nevada problem.  It is an amazing archaeological site.  In any other country in Latin America it would be the highlight of any tourist’s visit and probably featured prominently on their currency.   Just like if you threw Laughlin in any other State other than Nevada it probably would be a pretty cool town that would be a favorite weekend getaway for locals and maybe even a bit of a tourist draw.  At the very least it wouldn’t be the butt of jokes.  But when your just a (sort of) cool little casino town less than 100 miles from Las Vegas you just never get a fair shake.  You just can’t ever get out of your big brother’s shadow.

Yeah, Ollantaytambo is sort of like that.

Almost always ignored by the thousands of tourists making their way to Machu Picchu, the town of Ollantaytambo seldom gets more than a cursory glance as the tourists make their way to the train station where their Peru Rain train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (aka Aguas Calientes) departs.

I know on my first visit to Peru I spent just enough time in Ollantaytambo to get to the train station and didn’t spend any time touring the only remaining inhabited Incan town…or the Archeological Ruins of Ollantaytambo (a former military, agricultural, and religious center). The city of Ollantaytambo was the scene of fierce fighting between the Spanish and the Incans in 1537 and much of the complex (and town) was subsequently damaged. But even if not as well preserved as Machu Picchu it was of considerably more importance and considerably more important historically.  And considering my father and I both planned to visit some of the sites in Cusco, we knew that the 130 sols (or about $40 USD) for a “”Boleto Turistico del Cusco” (tourist ticket of Cusco) would be a good investment. The toursit ticket of Cusco is a ticket that allows you to enter sixteen different toursit sites in the greater Cusco area, with Ollantaytambo being the most notable. What was most promising was that the tourist tickets of Cusco were available for sale at the entrance of the ruins, something that didn’t seem to be always the case according to other bloggers (although they only took cash payment). We purchased our tickets at the front and soon made our way up the stairs to the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), which remains one of the most impressive sites in the Sacred Valley despite the fact that much of the Temple was destroyed in 1537.



From the top of the stairs the views of the town (and the terraces along the stairs) were amazing, and it was enough to prompt me to expand my visit to include Inka Watana.

 

Inka Watana was a, well, I’m not sure what it was but it was the highest point at Ollantaytmbo and included a 45-minute hike up the side of the mountain on a narrow dirt path.  Although time was a concern once I reached the top I was happy with our decision.  It was quiet, peaceful, and well worth it just for the view.



Our return down the path included a pass through the Military Zone and Qolqas before we took a tour of the Inka Misana near the entrance.

The whole tour look less than three hours and that was taking our time to admire the site.  Again, I can’t help but think this would have been the highlight in any other country…but it Peru it was just a side trip folks did on their way to Machu Picchu.  But if you do find yourself at the train station at Ollantaytambo waiting for your Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu Pueblo someday, take a few minutes to tour where the Incan Empire made it’s final stand against the Spanish…and admire what will be the second most breathtaking place you’ll visit in Peru.

 

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Travel: Before Machu Picchu, Spending a day in Cusco, Peru (October 17, 2012)

The Finger Post Travel (August 19, 2018)

 

Well, it’s official.  My dad and I will be travelling to Peru after the WBO convention in October.  It’ll be an exciting trip, and although I had already visited Peru I was keen on going back.  Peru was really something special and I couldn’t argue with my father’s logic when he said “I’ve never been to South America before and I don’t know if I’ll go again, and if this is my only trip I really would like to see Machu Picchu.”

I couldn’t disagree, and to be honest, I wanted to go back myself.  Machu Picchu was the kind of place that you have to see once in your life…unless you get the chance to go twice.

But like a lot of people who visited Machu Picchu, I ignored the gem that was Cusco.  Everyone stops in Cusco en route to Machu Picchu and few truly take in it’s wonders.

I know I didn’t.

Although my hostel was just a ten minute walk to the Plaza de Armas I knew after I returned from Peru that I should have spent more time exploring the plaza.  Much of what I saw was in passing, and it was clear there was much more to offer.

But one thing I did take advantage of was spending a few hours wandering through the San Pedro Market, which was advertised as “by Peruvians for Peruvians” on Wikitravel.  I found it to be a very appropriate description.  This felt like true Peru (even though some tourist shops sprinkled the marketplace).  And like many local marketplaces it had no shortage of examples of local cuisine.

 

Of course, as I mentioned, there was also no shortage of local vendors targeting tourists…only with prices that were much more attractive than those in Lima or at the Plaza de Armas.  I ended up buying a poncho, which proved the perfect addition to my wardrobe for Machu Picchu the following day.

Unfortunately I passed on the matching hat, which was a shame since it reminded me of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes.  But such is life…I’m sure I’ll get a second bite of the apple when I go back to Cusco in October.

In hindsight I should have got the matching hat.

 

Before we left I ended up stopping at a local vendor to purchase a snack that seemed appropriate: maize.  I had seen Peru’s colorful ears of corn back in Lima and I was determined to give it a try.  With fat kernels and darker colors it looked like something worth checking off on my bucket list, and although it was ultimately just corn, I still couldn’t complain (although the New Mexican in me wanted to try it as elode, but again, maybe next time).

 

In the end, Cusco deserves more than a day, and one would be wise to take advantage of their time there to explore one of Peru’s most historic cities en route to Machu Picchu.

 

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