I started this day well rested (our average going to sleep time was between 9:30 – 10P, surely due to high altitude, extreme climbing and many Piscos) with my ankle much better, helped by an unasked for hot water bottle in sheep’s clothing. Unfortunately for my friend, her little sheep had an accident and she awoke to a damp bed. Oops! We had both decided to check out today’s ruins climb before making a final decision, but we were both still feeling bruised. To this end, I packed my iPad in my backpack, so I might have something to occupy my mind while the rest of the group was having a go at another set of stone steps.
First on the agenda, however was a van trip UP the narrow mountain trails to an Andes Highlands Quechua village some 13,00 or so feet above sea level to spend some time with some schoolchildren. Classic Journeys’ brochure had suggested that we pack some much-needed supplies for these children so we had pencils, pens, notebooks etc also secured in our backpacks. The short sojourn wasn’t without its drama, for in addition to the vertigo inspiring drop offs we also had to wait for a grounds crew to clear up some fallen tree branches that blocked our progress:
Upon arriving at the school grounds, the kids came pouring out to greet us with shouts of “Gringos! Gringos!” Grabbing our hands they brought us inside.
I love to travel for many reasons, including interacting with the indigenous peoples so I had looked forward to this moment. However I was not prepared for the strong emotional reaction, that I, as well as my fellow travelers, experienced here – suffice it to say our hearts were instantly smitten and there was nary a dry eye by the end of our stay. Take a look at these faces and you’ll see why:
Remember that I brought my iPad? It was Kismet (or my favorite word, Bashert) as I brought it out and with the help of our guide Edgard (as the little ones spoke only Quechua and were just beginning to learn Spanish) told the children that if they gathered together I would take their pictures and then show them the results. What I didn’t know at the time is that Edgard also added in Quechua that I had been a teacher in the USA (which is true) and I was very mean, so they better be good). Understanding finally all the giggling that followed I was able to have this unforgettable moment with these beautiful children – thank you my fellow travelers for taking these pics:
The children had to get back to their studies so we reluctantly left – but with indelible memories. Next up: Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo was a successful fortress and also served as a temple. Its huge steep terraces mark one of the few places where Spanish conquistadores, this one being Hernando Pizarro, lost a major battle in the early 1500’s. It is also the most common starting point for the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu (we weren’t starting from here, thank goodness). Upon our first gaze at these steps, with terraces taller than the average person, leading up seemingly to heaven, I instantly made the decision to just explore the main area:
From the reports from my fellow travelers, it was a very smart decision, for in addition to the steepness, there was no cover on a cloudless hot day.
I was able to see the ruins from a ground-up perspective, only getting this far to actually climbing up:
There were plenty of ruins to wander around at the bottom, including some still-working waterways:
I was also able to capture some shots of the secure storage areas the Inca had built into the mountainface:
Notice anything else in the above picture? Answer is coming, read on!
Edgard graciously took my camera up the terraces so I could also see the higher perspective:
The temple portion at the top afforded great vistas:
Temple of the Sun
The temple was uncompleted as unfortunately the Spanish came back to finally defeat the Inca. At the center of the temple is this Wall of the Six Monoliths, with each stone weighing about 50 tons:
Edgard also managed to capture a photo of a beautiful kestrel that had been flying tantalizingly close to us at the bottom of the ruins. Alas I couldn’t get a good photo with my iPad – so thank you Edgard for this shot:
I don’t think I am as thankful, though for these shots Edgard took of me looking like a desperadoes taking a siesta:
All in fun. And I gave major props to those who did make this climb by taking victory pics as they made their final descent. Well done!
Even the King of the Mountain seemed to smile in approval:
After our troupe was reunited we took a brief walk into the actual town of Urubamba which was just lovely – narrow stone (of course) streets still with working aqueducts that provided a feel that we were still somehow in the 15th Century:
After a brief lunch we had the privileged honor to meet a local but world-renowned ceramic artist, Pablo Seminario whose works have a permanent exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum. Mr. Seminario runs his workshop with his wife and provides not only invaluable teaching on how to create beautiful pottery works, but also critical employment for the local people. He shared with us his love of the Peruvian environment and culture and the fact that he worked on a vision for many many years, creating many variations on a specific theme (see below – those pieces looked uncannily similar to the mountains of the Sacred Valley) until he discovered all its secrets. He was frankly adorable and I majorly crushed on this talented, delightful, charming (and handsome) man:
Back one last time to the Hotel Rio Sagrado. This night we must pack only those few essential items needed for our next two days in a small satchel for we are on our way to Machu Picchu and our final but most transcendent climbing experience. The rest of our luggage will be waiting for us at the Hotel Monasterio where we began this adventure and where I will be spending a few post hiking days of relaxation.
You better believe this was in my satchel: