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Peru and Chile in 11 Days – Part 5 – Full Day Tour of the Sacred Valley (Cont’d)

Posted on Jun 11, 2012 by in International, Travel | 18 comments

Our Itinerary:


Roadblock at Ollantaytambo

From Pisac, we circled back towards the direction of the hotel and arrived at the Ollantaytambo ruins about an hour later. As we were halfway up the winding street, we hit a roadblock . Three hundred yards ahead of us we could see that a large truck had stalled, blocking traffic on the narrow street up the mountain. Rather than risk being stuck farther up, Sabino suggested that the three of us take an alternate route to the site – a cobblestone walking path that began with a steep ascent over a short flight of stairs.  He would stay by the car and meet us at the ruins when traffic started moving again.

The three of us quickly scaled the steep steps, practicing a maneuver for proper climbing technique we had gleaned from a Japanese Youtube video my mom had forwarded me a few weeks before our trip.  The video instructs hikers to place their palm on one of their buttocks and apply a gentle forward pressure as if someone is pushing you from behind.  As ridiculous as this sounds (and looks), it works! Besides, we were already walking around in frog shoes, so what did we have to lose?

Mr. Travelbypoints abstained from the maneuver but reached the summit of the steps around the same time due to his unforgivably long legs.  From there, it took us another 10 minutes to traverse the remaining distance through town to the actual ruins.

Stairs to the Ollantaytambo Ruins (Mom declines to demonstrate maneuver for photo)

Friendly Hens Along the Way

Walking Through the Town of Ollantaytambo – See the grooves in the sidewalk?

“Do you smell pee?” my mom asked, puckering her nose at the open channel of flowing water in the middle of the sidewalk.  The inset sidewalk canal resembled some of the intricate irrigation systems we had observed in the other ruins.

I automatically held my breath and walked faster.  There were more pressing concerns on my mind at the moment, namely how to locate the nearest public restroom.  We passed a dingy looking shack across the street with a crudely scribbled sign that stated “TOILET”, but a cursory glance was enough to stiffen my resolve to wait until we reached the archaeological site.

“I told you not to drink too much water.” my mom told me, offering advice that was, sadly, not terribly helpful at the moment. “Small, periodic sips.  That’s all you need.”

Fortunately, when we reached the entrance and presented our tickets, I spotted a public restroom just a few yards from the ticket booth.  I said a small prayer of thanks to the god of clean public restrooms – the perpetual savor of small-bladdered tourists everywhere.

“Remember,” my mom admonished as I left the restroom, “Small sips.”

Outdoor Market Outside of Ruins

Exploring the Ollantaytambo Ruins

Upon entering the gates, we made a hard left towards the mountain cliff and sucked in our breath at the marvel before our eyes.   The ruins erupted upward in a pyramid from the lower terraces to the cliffside fortifications high above us.  Unlike Pisac, where the energy was expansive, almost rustic, Ollantaytambo was both dramatic and imposing.

First View of the Ruins Once We Entered the Ollantaytambo Archaeological Site

Another Breathtaking View of the Ruins

“Ready to walk?” Mr. Travelbypoints queried and started his ascent before my mom and I, still eyeing the succession of steep stone steps before us, even had a chance to answer.

For the next two hours, we donned our explorer hats and scaled several more miles of granite steps and unpaved dirt paths that wound their way up and around the site.  Similar to Pisac, the higher we hiked, the fewer the fellow tourists we encountered and we soon had the run of the ruins to ourselves.

Narrow Hiking Trails

My Intrepid Mom Taking a Peek at the Steps

Different Sights at Every Turn

Admiring the Gorgeous Mountain Views

Mr. Travelbypoints Trying to Feel the Ruins

Stopping at a Small Stream

We had wandered the ruins as if in a walking day dream, and when finally made our way back to the exit having explored virtually all the allowable footpaths, we were suddenly cognizant of the time.   Quickly, we hurried past the gates leading out of the complex and set out to retrace our earlier path back to the car.

Just as we were passing the outdoor market a few hundred yards from the entrance to the ruins, we came upon a familiar friendly face.  Traffic had cleared and with his usual impeccable timing, Sabino had arrived with the car, saving us another 15 minute walk back to the main access road.  Que bien!

A Donde Quieren Ir? Where to Next?

Once the group was safely aboard and we started our drive out of Ollantaytambo, Sabino turned to us and asked what we wanted to do next.  He glanced at his watched and said we likely would not have time to tour another major attraction after factoring in driving time (at least another hour away by car).  The only other site on our wishlist for the day was Moray, a place famous for its extensive agricultural terraces.  Reason prevailed and we agreed that it was probably best to head back to the hotel and catch an early dinner.  We had experienced a more than delightful full day and didn’t want to get too greedy with our travel checklist.

But greed ended up prevailing when, 20 minutes into the drive, Sabino interjected after apparently doing some last minute mental calculations, “I think we can make it to Moray before sunset.  Do you want to go?”

That was like asking a kid in a candy store if he wanted another piece of taffy.  A quick show of hands to cement the deal and we were on our way to Moray.

Sunset at Moray

The drive to Moray was the perfect cap to an already perfect day.  As the sun was beginning its descent, the colors of the rolling valley took on a different palate of hues that resembled an impressionist marriage of ambient light and color.

Driving to Moray

Narrow Streets of Small Town

View from the Car

By the time we reached Moray, the parking lot was nearly empty and the guards appeared to be packing up.  Quickly, we disembarked and made our way to the short trailing leading to the entrances to the terraces.  There would be no time for hiking, as the sun was ominously close to setting, however, the three of us were content to just sit and stare at the concentric circles of green before us.

Moray Entrance & Parking Lot

Footpath to Terraces

Moray Agricultural Terraces

Dramatic Clouds to Accompany Sunset

As if in consort with the setting sun, the wind suddenly started to pick up and we were gently reminded that it was time to head back.

We came, we saw and we left with a heart full of beautiful memories of this amazing Sacred Valley.

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  • americantaitai

    I love this post, Prana!  I laughed out loud in several places (“Japanese hiking maneuver”, “god of clean public restrooms”, and “small sips”, in particular!)  But I really LOVED your beautiful photographs, particularly of the sunset at Moray!!!  Beautiful and informative!  

    • Thanks, Americantaitai!  You’d probably laugh harder if you could see the Japanese hiking maneuver in action…but I’ll have to save that for another day.  Have I sufficiently enticed you to visit South America yet? 🙂

  • Bluecat

    What a great post.  Thank you for sharing your trip and thoughts with all of us!

    • Thanks for reading, Bluecat!

  • dpsalyer

    I was traveling when you started posting about this trip (Italy – and I used a lot of the information you provided from your trip).  The way you describe your trips is 2nd to none – I feel like I’m right there with you.  Peru is very high on my travel list – and I am amazed by your travels so far.  I am eagerly awaiting more posts.  Thanks for taking the time to share your adventures.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words, Dpsalyer – your comment made my day!  I’m so glad to hear that the Italy posts were helpful in your Italy trip planning.  How was your trip?!

  • EvieD

    I can’t wait to read more of your trip, with beautiful pictures and vivid desciption. Thanks, Prana!

    • Thanks, EvieD!  I can always count on your comments to put a smile on my face.  

  • americantaitai

    Dear Prana, I have nominated you for a Sunshine award!  You can see the posting about it here: Congratulations!

    • Thank you, Americantaitai!  I am honored to be included in your Sunshine Award list.  Blog post coming soon!

  • Sheila

    I keep checking your blog everyday waiting for more stories!  Heading to Peru in August with family and as the organizer for this trip, I’m trying to get all the information I can get my hands on.  Doing the Inca Trail hike – would love to learn more about this Japanese hiking maneuver.  Also do you recommend hiring a driver vs. taxi? 

    • Sheila, I’ll ask TravelWhimsy to hurry up :D. Hiring a driver for your trip might be a good idea. We will talk about our experiences with tour agencies in more detail in future posts. Can’t wait to hear about your Inca Trail adventure. Please don’t forget to share your experiences with us!

    • Hi, Sheila!  Wow, you’re signed up for the Inca Trail – I’m sure it’s going to be a fabulous and unforgettable experience!  Regarding the so called Japanese hiking maneuver (self-titled, fyi), I tried to search for the youtube video my mom emailed me but the link is no longer working.  That being said, the principle is simple.  When you are walking up an incline and feel like you are dragging, place one of your hands on your butt and push forward gently.  This redistributes your body’s center of gravity and moves it forward so that you have more momentum going up – as if someone is behind you and helping to push you forward.  It sounds and LOOKS silly, but if you ever find yourself facing an intimidating flight of stairs with little energy – it can help.  You can try practicing on the stairs at home and see if it works. 🙂  

      In terms of driver vs taxi, we were incredibly lucky to have fabulous guides wherever we went.  The cost for a guided private tour in Peru is actually very reasonable and if you are going with a group it can make economic sense.  Since we were pressed on time during our hectic itinerary, we appreciated the convenience and peace of mind of having a scheduled pick up at the airport/hotel and having our own personal guide to show us the sites.  It was especially helpful to be able to tailor our tour to avoid peak tourist times (large bus crowds), making us feel like we had the sites virtually to ourselves.  In Easter Island (post to come), we hired a taxi for the day and again lucked out by meeting a wonderful, kind-hearted driver who went above and beyond the call of duty to tour the sites with us.  

      Hope this  is helpful.  New post on Machu Picchu segment coming soon!  Thanks for reading!

      • Sheila

        I’m excited as well as a little nervous about the hike. I’ve been training for it since last November. My husband just started 2 weeks ago (he’s in denial about how hard it is).. My girls have been active in school sports but we need to do more stair activities. I hope we don’t get altitude sickness but should be ok since we have 3 days before hiking. I appreciate you sharing the Japanese hiking maneuver. I don’t care how silly it looks, if it works, the better! I am going to take your advise on hiring a driver. I looked up the website and it is very reasonable. I will be blogging my experience so I’ll share you the link when I get it set up! Thanks for sharing your experiences, it is very helpful!

        • I totally understand how you feel.  I was also more than a little nervous before our trip – with such a packed itinerary, so many things could go wrong!  It’s always better to be overprepared than under.  Are you guys avid hikers?  See if there’s a place nearby where you can “practice”.  We intentionally dragged my mom to Mt. Charleston (altitude 9,500 ft) and hiked for 3 hours to see how she would respond to the altitude.  It just gave us peace of mind.  Look forward to reading about your travels, Sheila!

          • Sheila

            Highest altitude in Mn is like 2000.  We have no way of practicing in altitude. 🙁 
            We love hiking.  Been doing lots of stairmasters and stairs.
            Wanted to share this with you and Travelbypoints  – thought you would find this interesting! 

            • Thanks for the link, Sheila!  I’m still having visions of Easter Island from our trip so it’s always a pleasure to read articles about that magical place.  Post to come soon!

            • Thanks, Sheila, for the link. A dear friend of ours also forwarded us the link :). Have a nice weekend!

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