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Ollantaytambo is a town built during the Incan time and stayed pretty much intact till now. We chose to stay here for a couple of reasons; firstly, at an elevation of 2800m, it was a good place to acclimatise to the altitude (since we would spend the next 10 days or so at above 3000m). Secondly it was close enough to be a base for our day trip to Machu Picchu and the reviews of Aguas Calientes, the nearest town to Machu Picchu, weren’t as stellar as Ollantaytambo’s.
The town’s commercial activities are centered around its Plaza de Armas. Most tourist-centric businesses were there and we changed more money there (100 USD for 270 PEN) for the next few days.
We chose a random place at the Plaza for breakfast and ordered eggs and quinoa soup. Ying also ordered the coca tea, hoping that it would help us acclimatise with the altitude.
The coca tea was really bitter; it was definitely an acquired taste.
After breakfast, we explored more of the town before attempting to climb Pinkuylluna.
The start of the trail to Pinkuylluna was literally steps away from our accommodation and it didn’t take us long to run out of breath. The combination of altitude, lack of rest and the mid-day heat did us in.
Took us around an hour before reaching the archaeological ruin and the view up there was even better.
Unlike Pinkuylluna, the archaeological site on Temple Hill require an admission ticket (bolero) of 70 PEN.
So we skipped it and retreated back to our room for shower and nap after the strenuous hike.
We didn’t emerge out of our room until close to sunset.
We walked around the town till after sunset and we settled down for a pre-meal drink first. It had to be pisco sour, Peru’s national drink.
After the drinks, we looked for a restaurant which seemed popular and settled down on one serving Italian food.
The food turned out to be quite palatable and the bill came up to be 50 PEN. Not very cheap but understandable since Ollantaytambo is a touristy place.
We spent most of the following day in Machu Picchu and didn’t reach Ollantaytambo until after dark. We were left with the morning of the day when we were heading to Cusco to explore more of the town.
Following the tourist map borrowed from our hotel, we found our way to the Incan bridge across Urubamba river.
The PeruRail tracks followed the course of the river and there was a crew doing maintenance on the track.
It was a cloudless day and it became quite hot. Both of us were sweating from the walk.
There were two posters on the other side of the bridge; I believed that they were about construction of some tourist infrastructure in the Sacred Valley region.
While we were the tourists at the bridge, we managed to spot other tourists in the vicinity.
A PeruRail train also passed through when we were there. The train was the top-class Hiram Bingham service and an one-way journey between Cusco and Machu Picchu cost a cool 397.50 USD.
Instead going back via the main road, we decided to take a short cut by going up the terraces. We were treated to a good view of the valley and river.
We managed to make our way back to Plaza de Armas and detoured through the market which was just off the main square.
Collectivos to Urubamba and Cusco would leave from the parking area beside the market. However, we didn’t need to go there for our return trip to Cusco; one which was heading there was going around Plaza de Armas looking for customers when we were leaving. Saved us the hot walk with our huge bags to the market.
Although Ollantaytambo’s places of interest (read Incan ruins) weren’t that interesting to us, we liked that the place is relatively car-free and has a relaxed vibe. I can understand why many tourists like us would spend a few days there en-route to Machu Picchu.