Ollantaytambo

29 Nov

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Our next stop was the capital of Peru, Lima, and honestly it felt like a little bit of returning to civility for us. We enjoyed supermarkets with everything we could want, walks through beautiful neighbourhoods and strange little cat parks, cooler weather and the famous eerie fog of Lima. We milled around the outdoor shopping mall, built into the side of one of Limas famous cliffs, ordered coffees at Starbucks where no one knew how to spell Joshs name, stuck to the nicer neighbourhoods like the tourists we were and I spent time getting over some serious back pain, which I later discovered was directly linked to the altitude sickness tablets I was taking.

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A few days later, we hoped on a very small plane, which was delayed by 2 hours, and slept the whole way to Cusco. The second we left the plane, we felt the effects of the 3399m change in altitude. The air felt crisp and our bones seemed to ache, and after a few hours in a little mini van with little ventilation, a slight headache appeared for us both – a rare occurrence for Josh. We had decided in advance, to head straight to Ollantaytambo, a small Incan village a few hours out of Aguas Caliente which is at the base of Machu Picchu. Our decision was based purely on my fear of altitude sickness and what it might do to us, and as the town sits at 2792m above sea level, it was enough of a difference to Cusco to make all the difference in our adaption.

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We stayed in a tiny traditional house with a lovely couple and spent the following days strolling around the cobble stoned alleyways, watching tiny rugged up humans in traditional Peruvian clothing playing in the streets with dogs, and disappearing into holes in the wall. The town is beautiful and quiet. It was never truly conquered by the Spanish, and as such, it has kept its original Incan buildings and generations of Incan people. The town sits in a hazey valley, surrounded by enormous mountains and two big Incan ruins which sit halfway up two opposing cliffs. It’s a lazy town, used only as a hub for the Incan Trail hike and the train station which takes tourists to Machu Picchu daily. Around noon, the bustle of people dies down as tourists board their trains, and we found this to be the best time to explore the town. The market is full of fruits we couldn’t pronounce, grains and potatoes, smiles full of gold teeth and promises of the best fly – covered foods in town. We visited the one woman in the whole town who sold bread on a daily basis, and spent our lunches downing peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

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We slowly climbed the cliff behind our accomodation and visited the Incan storehouses of Pinkuylluna. We watched the sun set on the ants that were tourists of the Ollantaytambo ruins on the opposite cliff, having the storehouses mostly to ourselves, watched the smoke from Incan households rise into the air, breathed deep the thin, Palo Santo scented air and decided this was the most beautiful and authentic place we’d ever visited.

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