After our lovely Sunday in Lima, we were refreshed and excited to get going on the rest of our trip in Peru. Our early morning flight on Monday to Cusco went smoothly over the Andes Mountains, and we were able to book a cab at the airport to take us on our almost two hour road trip to our next landing spot. Cusco is at  about 11,000 feet above sea level, so we were not feeling particularly comfortable, despite the cocao tea. We were happy for the slow descent into the town of Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley at a mere 9,000 feet.

Just to put that in perspective, there are 25 mountain peaks in Peru that are over 20,000 feet, and many hundreds over 10,000. Cusco is actually on the jungle side of the Andes and in Peruvian terms, is no more than a foothill. Incredibly, though we were only just over 200 miles from the Pacific, all the rivers flow into the Amazon from here and out into the Atlantic, a journey of more than 4,000 miles. Even this far away, the snow melt from the Andes produced rivers of considerable volume and speed

The road trip down through these foothills was most pleasant and scenic. We stopped for the occasional picture of llamas and alpacas, and the locals in their colourful dress, but we were eager to arrive at our destination in order to confirm our tickets and contact our tour guide for Machu Picchu for the following and didn’t dawdle much.

Ollantaytambo was a delight. An original Inca village, there were still the remains of buildings perched high on the surrounding hills, and the village itself was a marvel of cobblestone streets and stone walls. Water coursed through the streets in stone channels less than a foot wide and deep, and the city plaza was alive with colour and noise.

The Parwa Guest House was down the side of one of the narrow walled streets that intersect this village, and our host, Jorge, was most welcoming and kind. Our room was small, with barely room for the queen sized bed, but there was internet and quite a nice ensuite bathroom, so really everything we needed. Jorge was most persistent and helpful in making contact with our tour guide for the next day, and with that down, we went out for astroll to the train station to secure our tickets for the following morning.

On the way back to town we stopped for a meal beside one the many streams that irrigate this little village. For the second time I was intrigued but refrained from the alpaca on the menu and opted for something more familiar. We stuck with the bottled water as well, not wanting to jeopardize our trip to Machu Picchu with someting too exotic.

After a quick stop at the guest house to freshen up, we headed out the the main plaza to take in the evening sights. There were lots of tourists and plenty of locals in town. Ollantaymbo is one of only two or three jumping off points for Macchu Picchu, and by all accounts the nicest of the three. Urubamba, furthest away is the starting point for the train, but is mostly an industrial and commercial centre without much local flavour. Agua Calientes, the end point of the train and the beginning of the bus trip on to the site itself, is tourist central, with all the tackiness that such a designation implies.

 

After our trip to Machu Picchu, we took another day at Ollantaytambo to take in the sights. We also needed a day of rest to recover from our climb up Machu Picchu and a nasty little stomach bug that Pam had picked up along the way. More on Machu Picchu tomorrow.

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