Sometimes you just need to see more Inca ruins, right?? So that’s exactly what we did…
The Sacred Valley
Our base from which to visit Machu Picchu was going to be Ollantaytambo (Oi-yan-tay-tambo), and it just so happens that Ollantaytambo is part of the “Sacred valley” so has some Inca Ruins of it’s very own. We decided that the best way to get there, while being able to take in some more ruins, would be to pay a cabbie to take us to all the sites, and drop us off at our hostel.
We were picked up bright and early, too early for my liking, and got on our way. As soon as we left Cusco the scenery was amazing. The drive was an absolute highlight in itself, snow capped mountains, lush green fields, t’was beautiful the entire way!
The cabbie pulled over at a little shop, I think they get kickback for this type of thing, and we were treated to a demonstration of how the locals wash llama wool which was actually really interesting. Basically they grate a certain potato (mountain plant thing) into water and swirl it around a bit. She then did a little song which was obviously super awkward but had a good melody!
In return Em bought a llama jumper
And I had a photo with this guy.
From there we made our way to Chincheros which was very pretty, a nice site with some old ruins and, as is the way, a Spanish church popped on top of the important bits. We’re too tight to pay for a guide anywhere so I don’t know a great deal about any of these sites.
This one was nice though. If we had time there was a lovely looking walk off into the forest but there was no time to waste, our man (wish I remembered his name, it wasn’t difficult) was waiting outside.
Next stop was the Salt Mines of Moras. These are salt mines in a town called Moras!
Again, no guide, so limited knowledge but it was all very beautiful. And I can confirm after tasting that it was infact salt!
Ice cream, a souvenir bag of salt, and back to the car.
Last site was the Moray Circles.
A perfect place for lunch
Again… Beautiful… No idea what it was.
We did actually research this one a little later. Turns out people in the know don’t know what this is either, good job we didn’t pay for a guide! It’s probably some kind of crop growing experimentation system apparently.
We drive a bit more and arrive at…
There are ruins here too, a couple of free ones and the expensive one we paid for included with the main ticket we bought a few days ago. We tried to visit a free one but it was closed so we just went for dinner and made friends with this giant.
The following day we catch up on some admin (aka lazy), visit the free ruins and see this awesome parade. We were humming that dope tune for days afterwards!
The free ruins are pretty sweet actually and exceptional value for money.
Em didn’t fancy the walk to the higher bit.
More ruins please! Tomorrow we go to…
Neither of us were super bothered about seeing Machu Picchu, which I know sounds mental! Thousands of people visit Peru from all over the world just for this one site but we’d already seen a lot of cool shit and Machu Picchu is expensive, expensive and crammed full of people. You can hike the Inca Trail if you book 6 months in advance, or you can do an alternative route if you fancy, but we didn’t. One of us has had their fill of mountain treks for the time being so we gave that a miss. You can also take a tour from Cusco which includes a bit of hiking and an overnight stay, but we wanted to spend some time in Ollantaytambo. So we opted for the train! In hindsight maybe we should have tried harder to make the overnight stay work but the train was still a nice option.
The train is expensive so to conserve the budget as much as possible we took the earliest train in the morning and one of the last trains back in the evening, which gave us plenty of time to see everything.
We arrived at the station bright and early to catch our 5:05 train
It should be a pretty journey but it was pitch black out so Emma just did what Emma does these days
After a pleasant train journey we arrive at Aguas Calientes, the town before Machu Picchu. As far as we can tell the crowds all head for the bus but being intriped explorers we make our way to the stairs!
After a bit of confusion about the direction (it’s actually not signposted as far as we could tell) and where the last toilet would be, we buy a few bananas and head down the road past one of many giant Machu Picchu signs.
Before reaching the stairs we were stopped by the Machu Picchu stairs gatekeeper who was super excited that we were English. Apparently he sees plenty of German and Frenchies but he really likes the English (think he was just a big football fan). Being so excited to speak to us he gave us all the tips. Most people can only spend four hours but “Mi amigos de Inglaterra, todo dia! Todo día!”, apparently we need to go in and just keep left, “izquierda, izquierda, izquierda!”. Our Spanish is still super bad but he made sure we understood. There was a bit of a panic when we only had the confirmation email and not the tickets downloaded but luckily our mobile data was working and we could download the necessary ticket. Our names were confirmed “David Taylor?”, “Sí”, “Emma Smith… Emmita, Emmita bonita…”. No idea why Emma keeps being called “bonita”, I’ll look it up one day… We thank our new amigo and make our way to the steps.
There were a fair few steps but nothing we couldn’t handle and great, if a bit cloudy, views on the way up.
We made it to the top, sorted our stuff into one bag, left the other in storage, and in we went.
It was still cloudy!
Now the guy at the bottom of the stairs could not have been clearer “keep left” he said, “keep left” but we’re not smart and got a bit confused so firstly we missed THE photo spot (it would have been cloudy anyway) and also missed some bridge thing. Naively we kinda thought you could just wonder the site, we were very wrong and there was a very strict one way policy. Anyone who dared go against the system would get a stern whistle in their direction!
On the whole Em wasn’t super impressed… I mean what’s impressive about a city built out of massive rocks, up a super high mountain, over 500 years ago (still no guide)? I thought it was pretty great, would have been greater if we saw the mountain in all its glory but we could still appreciate the spectacle of it all. Its just great seeing the whole city preserved like that, I find it hard to visualise things sometimes (I blame TV) but Machu Picchu lays it all out for you, you can see the city in action!
Anyway, the weather did clear a bit and was pretty spectacular every time it did.
It was a long day
Just time for one last photo of the both of us
It’s a bit busy, a bit regimented, and was a bit cloudy but it was still well worth the visit! Back down the stairs we popped in the botanical gardens
There was also a museum but it cost money on top of our ticket price and we hadn’t learnt anything this far so why start now!?!
We arrived back in Aguas Calientes where they had these frog bins…
and visited the hot springs that the town’s name alludes to
We had a beer in the springs, went for dinner and wondered around the gift shops for a while until our 20:50 train
A hour or so later we arrive back at…
The next day we visited the paid ruins in Ollantaytambo.
We think theses ones where for crop experimentation too. Great views of the town!
Later I popped up the the other ruins while Em made a phonecall
And we head back to the main square where they have these puma bins…
No private taxi luxury on the way back to Cusco, we loaded up our things and caught the shared minibus (collectivo). Our bags were tided on the top while we relaxed and enjoyed the journey…
until it started raining! It was bright sunshine when we left… Balls! We spent the next hour or so telling ourselves it would all be alright and that next time we’d remember our rain covers.
It just so happens that we got lucky! Our bags had done a good job of protecting our belongings so crisis averted. We had to dry a few things out but it wasn’t the horror show we were expecting. We laid the wet things out and they dried during our last night in…
Back in Cusco (same hostel, room a few doors down. We still don’t love it) we went for a burrito and got some rest before our bus the next morning to…
Puno is a bit of a wasteland. We were just there to break up the journey to Bolivia and only spent a night, so could be wrong, but we didn’t see much of interest. You can use it as a base to get to The Uros Islands but that didn’t interest us a great deal so on arrival we bought a bus ticket to Copacobana, had a wonder, stayed the night, and got a cab to the bus station the next day. The bus took us all the way to Copacobana via…
The internet can be a bit of a curse sometimes. If you start looking into border crossings they are pretty much universally awful. Thieves, corruption, and general tardiness being a recurring theme, but in our experience all three have been a dream. I guess these busses leave multiple times every single day and a few negative reviews over the course of 8 years is just par for the course.
Anyway, all was nice and smooth. Our bus peeps were incredibly helpful and kept us updated through each stage of the journey.
Laters Peru! We didn’t feel like part of the furniture, just like another tourist, but we were treated to some absolutely amazing sites and met some lovely people!