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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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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