02.03.2014 - 07.03.2014 19 °C
Pisac and Ollyantambo.
We thought about taking a direct bus or taxi to Ollyantambo, but in the end decided to do a bus tour so that we could explore Pisac on the way.
We left our luggage at the hotel in Cusco and only took two small backpacks with enough for three days.
We were picked up in a comfortable tourist bus just off the square. Our guide spoke in English and Spanish. The scenery on the way was beautiful and after two hours we arrived in Pisac. The guide said we had a half hour in the market but the first ten minutes were in a silver factory to tell us how the silver jewelry was made.
I really resent this part of a tour, where they take you to a factory or somewhere where I am sure the guide gets a cut of what you buy. I know everyone has to make a living, but that only gave us 20 minutes left to shop and look around the Pisac market.
We did manage to find a couple of little things in the market and then back on the bus to head up the hill to the ruins.
You need to purchase a tourist ticket to visit all the sites in the Sacred Valley and Cuzco, so we purchased it here at the gate. Our guide had the blue flag for us to follow her. Ugg, I hate bus tours but this seemed the best option.
She took us to a few different viewpoints and explained about the site and the history which was really interesting. Then we had a half hour on our own. A half hour? I could have easily spent another hour or so here. It is a lovely setting in the mountains and very peaceful and interesting.
Our time was up all too soon and then it was to Urubamba for lunch. Lunch was included in the tour price and really had low expectations of what we would get, but was very pleasantly surprised.
The drive from Urubamba to Ollyantambo is gorgeous. Hills of emerald green with the Urubamba river flowing by. I think that this is the most beautiful scenery of our entire trip. I was in Ollyantambo six years ago and loved it then, but really loved it this time. Here is the best surviving example of an ancient Inca town with many of the original homes. The cobblestone streets are narrow with high walls on each side. Ollyantambo is sandwiched between two mountains with ruins on each side. It is spectacular.
There are many men and women walking around town wearing their local dress which is very colorful. The town feels very relaxed and tranquil.
Our tour included a visit to the main ruins, but it was only for an hour. The stairs are very steep and it looked like I would want more than an hour here so we just took our small packs from the bus and went to find our hotel. It turned out to be a great decision because at 4:30 the skies opened and it just poured with thunder and lightening accompanying it.
Day 64 Ollyantamo.
Check out time was at 10AM that that was a good thing because it got us up and about early. We were at the bottom of the ruins by 9:30AM under beautiful blue skies. The sun was warm but not oppressive. There were a couple of young men at the bottom of the ruins offering their services as a guide. We were happy to hire one of them for the short tour, one hour.
Climbing the many stairs up was a slow go, but there were many others climbing at a similar pace. Having a guide really enhanced our experience as he gave us so much information about this site as well as Inca and pre Inca life. It was just fascinating and so beautiful up there. We were so happy that we decided not to go yesterday.
Most of the tour busses arrive around 3PM, so going early in the morning there was very few people up there.
After our hour was up we had the option to continue on for another 40 minutes to explore more of the site, which we did. As I said, I think that this is one of the favourite places we have been so far, we just loved it.
Heading back to the square we came upon a tiny restaurant which is owned and run by a lovely young man and has only been open for six months. The coffee was amazing and the food delicious.
Full and satisfied we explored the narrow cobblestone streets and town square.
If you see this red flag in front of a house, they sell the local moonshine made from corn, Chicha
The little girl wanted to wear my sunglasses for the picture
At 2:30P we headed back to our hotel to pick up our small backpacks and walked the road by the river down to the train station.
We chose the Vista Dome train, on Peru Rail. The 3:30P train only had two cars, (most people go up earlier) and we sat with two German men and had four women from the US beside us which made for interesting conversation.
It was a wonderful 1 1/2 hour ride through the mountains and there were large windows and windows in the ceiling too for a great view. Very professional staff and we were even served coffee and sandwiches on the way.
Half an hour from Agua Calliente the rain started. By the time we reached our destination it was pouring.
A young woman was at the station holding a placard with our name on it, as well as another couple's, We were grateful for that as she led us through some mazes to get to our hotel for the next two nights.
We all agreed to stop at the bus station for the transfer tickets to Machu Picchu first to avoid the inevitable line up in the morning.
As we rest in our room for a couple of hours we hear the rain pelting down on the roof. It is torrential.
At 7 PM there is a break in the weather so we venture out to find dinner. I remember Agua Calliente as not being a great place to be, just a place you had to stay to get to Macchu Picchu. But now it is just lovely, a wonderful surprise.
Lonely Planet recommended a place called Indio Feliz which was not far from our hotel. It is owned and run by a man originally from France and the decor is very French Pub looking with two lovely big fireplaces which was wonderful as it was getting cold.
The decor was fun and all the painting and decorating was done by him. The food was amazing. We could hear everyone at the tables around us raving about the food.
Two great meals in one day, what a treat.
Returning to the hotel we met the owner (Bill's) son Lawrence in the lobby. He wanted to make sure that everything was okay and asked if we had arranged a guide for tomorrow. We said we hadn't and half an hour later he called our room and said he had a guide for us and he will be here at 6:30AM to pick us up. Wonderful service.
Day 65 Matchu Picchu
Alain our guide met us in the lobby at 6:30AM and we walked a block to the waiting busses. We were able to get right on and start the 25 minute ride to the top . This is the only way to get to the site, other than walking, and has us going on many switchbacks up the mountain.
We started at the bottom of the site as the clouds had the mountains completely socked in. Alain was a wonderful guide and told us so many new things about the Inca's and Matchu Picchu life. At this time of the morning there were not too many people around and it was quite pleasant.
The clouds rolled in and out quickly. One minute you could see the other mountains and a moment later it was completely covered again. It made it all that much more mystical.
We slowly made our way to the top of the site stopping every once in a while to learn more from Alain. Two hours later we paid for his services and he went back down and we climbed higher to visit the Inca Bridge.
This was part of the old Inca Trail and took around 20 minutes each way on a narrow path with a steep drop off to the valley below. It brought back memories of my time here six years ago when I did the short Inca Trail and how I was terrified I would go off the edge with my vertigo and fear of heights.
When we returned the crowds had arrived, it was 11AM. I thought it was much more crowded than the last time I was here. Many large groups of Japanese tourists were everywhere as well as a number of other groups. We were glad we came early to have some time with fewer people.
At noon the rain started and we decided to go, we both needed the bathroom. There are no services on the site, it is the way it was all those years ago. By the time we climbed the stairs to the bottom the rain was coming down quite heavily so we just caught the bus and went back into town. It was a great morning. This is still one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.
I thought I knew rain, living on the west coast, but last night the sound of the pouring rain work us up. It sounded like we were in the middle of Niagara Falls.
We woke to a gorgeous blue cloudless sky. Our train left at 11 AM and we were joined by a lovely young man named Edwin who was a tour guide. He had just finished taking a group on the short Inca Trail and was now heading home to Cusco. He was a great source of information for us about the Inca life and the area.
The train stopped for fifteen minutes to wait for the other train to pass by. During that time we were entertained by a dancer in a costume and then a fashion show of beautiful Alpaca clothing.
We disembarked at Ollyantambo and saw a young man with my name written on a placard. He directed us to a mini bus to take us to Cusco. Edwin joined us and I ended up on a spare middle seat, made of plywood I think, in a 12 passenger van. It was a very long one and a half hour drive, no air and a lot of close bodies.
By the time we got to Cusco I was feeling rather ill. We walked a few blocks to our hotel and I flaked out for a few hours while Doug went out for lunch.
This evening we went to a show of dancers and singers wearing the traditional costumes of the area. It was very entertaining and we enjoyed it a lot.
Edwin (whom we met on the train yesterday) had a friend who was a local tour guide and had a nice car, so he arranged for him to pick us up at our hotel at 10AM. Marco took us to three sites in Cusco and explained a lot more about the Inca Life.
A common theme in all the ruins is the three levels, the underlife is represented by the snake, the present is represented by the Puma, and the after life the Condor. There are still a few tribes who live the way the Incas did hundreds of years ago, wearing the traditional clothing and way of life. There are no roads there and it takes a few days to get to them, but they do not accept any outsiders.
After we said goodbye to Marco and had our lunch we went to the Pre Columbian Museum. The artifacts and display were outstanding, a very well presented museum.
Down the hill was the Inca Museum which we visited as well, but I just did a whirlwind tour in half and hour and then went back to the hotel. It was a very long day with a number of things packed into it.
Today is our last day in Peru.
Day 68. Flying around South America.
6AM came all too early to catch a cab to the airport. When we checked in for our 8AM flight we were informed that nothing was leaving Cusco because of the weather. It looked fine outside to us, but for what ever reason nothing was flying.
Our connection in Lima to Quito was not going to happen. I paid more money for this flight in order to arrive into Quito at 1PM, but now we were going to be routed through Bogota Columbia and arrive at our destination at 1AM.
The gate area was standing room only, as all flights were grounded, but we arrived early enough to secure two seats. Our four hour wait was pleasant however as we met a lovely couple from New York and spent the time chatting to them.
We finally left for Lima and had another five hour layover which allowed us plenty of time to grab some lunch. At the gate two hours early we met a couple from Saskatchewan (Glenys and Randy )and a solo woman traveller from Australia, (Kath) and we had some wonderful conversations. We all hung out together for the rest of the journey.
The flight was late by about 45 minutes and we were all concerned that our luggage would not make it. Next stop Bogota Columbia. What a gorgeous airport and the shops had such beautiful things in it. Thankfully we did not have a lot of time to spend shopping as our flight to Quito was leaving in less than an hour.
We finally arrived in Quito at 1AM, (12 hours after our scheduled arrival time and 19 hours later). We were all so happy to see that our luggage arrived with us too.
Kath shared her arranged cab with us and we took the one hour commute to the centre of town. The airport is new, very modern, but very far out of the city.
We finally arrived at our hotel at 2:30AM and the young fellow helped us with our bags to our room and we collapsed.
Now our adventure in Ecuador begins. This is the last country we will visit in South America.
On Monday we are heading deep into the Amazon for five days. I hope the natives are friendly!!!!! We will not have any internet or communication while there.