Part One: Ollantaytambo
First of all, let me say, this was the best trip I had ever taken. The reason wasn’t only the gorgeous scenery of the Andes Mountains, or our lifelong dream of seeing Machu Picchu, but in large part it was due to the people of Peru. They were the nicest people I’ve ever met anywhere in the world. For me, that’s saying a lot when you know how much I’ve traveled.
During the two weeks in Peru, we stopped hundreds of people asking for directions, asking if they could take our picture (No selfie sticks for us!) asking where we could find x, y, or z, talking to waiters, shopkeepers, bus drivers, the police on the street, etc., and through it all, every last one of them went out of their way and over and beyond the help we were asking for. If they didn’t know the answer, they stopped someone else on the street, or they called a friend on the phone and asked them if they knew.
On the bus in Lima one day, I asked a woman about a certain church we wanted to see, she didn’t know, but before long we had a conversation going with 6 or 7 people all trying to help. A gentleman got on his phone and called a friend to find out where the church was located. The consensus was it wasn’t in a good neighborhood and everyone suggested we get off the bus and take a taxi there. When we got off, a woman got off with us and told us she would get a taxi for us so we wouldn’t be overcharged. Things like this happened over and over during our trip.
But, let me go back and start at the beginning. It took Patrick and I three plane rides and a 2 hour taxi ride to reach our destination of Ollantaytambo. We flew from Paris to Madrid where we had a long layover, which gave us the opportunity to visit with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Years ago, I lived in Madrid, so it was nice to be back.
From Madrid we flew to Lima and from Lima to Cusco. Most people stay in Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude, but that’s a no-no. Cusco is 11,152 ft. (3,399 m.) above sea level and many people get altitude sickness. The best thing when traveling to Peru and to the Mecca of South America, Machu Picchu, is to go straight to the Sacred Valley and there’s no better place to stay than Ollantaytambo.
The elevation in Ollantaytambo is 9,160 ft. (2,792 m.) so it’s a little better to adapt to the altitude than in Cusco. This beautiful little town hidden away in the Sacred Valley was our favorite place in all of Peru. Most people go to Machu Picchu from Cusco, but oh what you’re missing if you do!
Olly with its mountains and ruins, its people and town square, its children and dogs that play in the streets (more about the dogs later) is all that and more. We fell in love with this place from the moment we arrived, but let me backtrack a little once again.
Before arriving in Olly, our taxi driver who picked us up at the Cusco Airport asked us if we wanted to stop and visit the town of Chincheros. We were tired, but not tired enough to pass up the opportunity of this little detour. We were taken to a market that sells handwoven crafts (purses, scarves, shawls, gloves, etc.,) made from alpacas.
Notice the guinea pigs in their little pink house. They’re not pets, for Peruvians they’re one of their favorite things to eat!
Let me just say, everyone tells you everything is handmade. That may be true, but I honestly could not tell the difference from the machine made products sold all over Peru (which happen to be half price) than those that are handmade in Chincheros, so buyer beware. That said, we did leave with a bunch of gifts for family and friends in tow.
We arrived in Olly 32 hours after leaving Paris. Yes, we were exhausted, but the breathtaking scenery made us forget all about how tired we were. We got to our Airbnb located on a small side street not far from the marketplace. Our host, welcomed us with a hot cup of coca tea. He said it would help with altitude sickness, but we were lucky and never experienced any problems during our trip.
We didn’t want to waste any time, so we dropped off our bags and went out to discover our little town. We had a late lunch at one of the local restaurants on the main square. Patrick ordered a medium bottle of Peruvian beer, large by anyone else’s standards.
I got my first taste of a Pisco Sour, their national drink. Believe me, it wouldn’t be my last. To be honest, I drank at least two or three of them every day while in Peru. Step aside frozen margaritas and Kir royals, my new favorite drink is the Pisco Sour.
Lunch revived us and we wandered around the tiny cobbled stoned streets and ended up climbing up to Pinkuylluna to see the Inca storehouses which was on our list of things to do. Little did we know this would be the first of many climbs during our stay in Peru.
We had a wonderful view of the valley, the ruins, and Ollantaytambo.
Although it was still early, Patrick and I were still on Paris time, so by six in the evening we decided to shower and rest a bit before dinner. The only thing was, it was 1 a.m. in Paris and we were exhausted. We fell asleep almost immediately.
We didn’t wake up until early the next morning. The sun was shining, as I pulled back the curtains…
Maya Muses: We definitely weren’t in Paris any longer!
Photo Credits: All personal photos