Into the Heart of the Valley

Ollantaytambo l The Kind of Beauty that Makes My Existence Worthwhile

It seems like the further we are away from Cusco, the more majestic the valley becomes. My driver – Diomidas, which I came to learn of his name toward the end of the day – though he did not really speak English, he was a sweet man and seemed kind-hearted. He took all the sweet time to drive me around – not in a hurry and let me stop here and there for the pictures.

By this time, I probably had at least 300 pictures in my DSLR within 4-5 hours of my time in the valley. My GoPro was one third of its capacity and there were too many to count pictures on my iPhone. This says a lot about how beautiful this place really is. It is very different from anything I have seen. It does not have the grand architecture and culture of Europe – it is really pure, simple, and majestic in its own right. I did not even want to blink because each minute unveils the true beauty of this place.

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Crossing the bridge over Rio Urubamba

After 45 minutes of the cruising along the winding mountain road from Maras, the mountains revealed its beauty bit by bit then opened itself up to the Urubamba Valley, where the hustle and bustle of another big town unfolded. It is a major city in the valley that, though busy, still retains some of its traditional Peruvian characteristics. However, like any struggling third world countries, that is changing with the wave of the new generations.

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Urubamba Valley and the town of Urubamba, a transportation hub between Cusco and Machu Picchu

I had a glimpse of what was to be my pitstop in the following two days before Diomidas slowly came down the hills and continued to the left even deeper into the valley to the town of Ollantaytambo, where I would rest my head that night.

Ollantaytambo is a quaint little town whose beauty is second to none. I was somewhat impressed by Urubamba but Ollantaytambo blew my mind away. It is a very charming town with its narrow cobbled streets, traditional houses and two massive ruins on each side of the mountains that hug the town. Emperor Pachacuti, one of the most important Inca kings made this place as his personal estate with various multi-purpose rooms, agricultural terraces and ceremonial centers.

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The Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo, the stronghold of Manco Inca – the resistance leader against the Spanish Conquistador

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The top of the ruins, the military guard zone, overlooking the Urubamba valley

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The ruins overlooking Ollantaytambo, with the Pinkuyluna ruin on the other side of the moutain

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The town of Ollantaytambo with its Plaza de Armas

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Corn is the main food that is grown in the valley along side with its world famous Andean potatoes

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Pinkuylluna mountain granaries up close

Having not eaten anything all day, I descended from the ruins and headed to the Plaza de Armas (main square) and looked for something to eat. The town mains square reminds me of Khaosarn road in Thailand, where everything is catered to tourists and everything was written in English. Though I wanted to try something very local, the hotel manager recommended that I should not go too local as I might catch food poisoning. Good point, I do not want any bugs for my strenuous days ahead at the Machu Picchu. He recommended a restaurant called Puka Rumi – decent food with western prices. The service was not that good though, I guess she was tired of serving all these tourists.

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Aji de Gallina Pollo and Inka Cola at Puka Rumi – Definitely cannot get anymore touristy than this. I normally do not drink soda, but when you are in Peru, you gotta try this infamous Inka Cola right? And fun fact, coke never outsold Inka Cola in Peru.

The Aji de Gallina is a traditional Peruvian dish that is made of Aji peppers, cream sauce and chicken. It tastes like Thai stir fried yellow curry. I welcomed it as I was starving after seeing so much and walking around all day. The restaurant also offers free wifi so that was nice.

A walk around town after heavy food was not such a bad idea. One thing I like about traveling alone is the fact that you can stop and do whatever you want. I love venturing into the narrow street, away from where the tourist commotions are.

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Who needs a purse when you have a Keperina? 🙂 It’s so much more practical! But I wonder, what do Peruvian women carry around? It seems like they lug around a ton of stuff.

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El Gato!

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A local woman selling nuts and fruits. The berries in the basket tasted pretty good! Kinda like a mix between cherries and grapes.

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A Quechua woman dressed in all traditional Peruvian clothes with the signature Kaperina and Montera.  

I was determined to take a picture of the local people in their traditional clothing, if you want a shot like the one above, it is going to cost you. Everywhere there would be someone sitting in the corner dressing like this waiting for tourists to take their photos with some changes in return. I have her 2 soles in exchange for this beautiful picture and I am happy to do it as it helps her at least a little bit.

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Some interesting murals depicting a Quechua woman with her baby on the back in the traditional Andean textile

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EdWIN for regional president, the poster seems to represent the region’s character quite well.

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Maybe EdWIN got his chullo from here

The sun was setting and it was time to head back to the hotel. I opted for a cute and picturesque El Auberge Ollantaytambo which is located right in front of the railway track where I would board the train to Machu Picchu in the following day.

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Flowers on the way back to the hotel. I see this grown in many places in the valley

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El Aubergue Ollantaytambo, a cute hotel next to the train station. The garden is really charming. They also grow their own food – organic of course

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Another angle of this lovely hotel and its garden

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The hotel’s residential cat

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The hotel’s petite lobby

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The Room. I had two big beds to myself.

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View from my room, super picturesque!

I like the room here, very cozy and very detail oriented. They put a couple of chocolate in a tiny basket on your nightstand. The bathroom was nice and all the toiletries are made of natural ingredients. I could not ask for a better place to stay! Thank you Tripadvisor for all those good reviews so I made all the right decision on this trip!

Hotel overall rating 4. Everything was great except the price that I think was a little too steep. I went during the high season and they were fully booked. I paid $200 when the off season price is something like $79 😦 Not cool, but it is what it is! 

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El Auberge, the restaurant of the hotel serves up Peruvian fusion cuisine in a farm-to-table style. I could not pass this up!

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A cup of squash soup after a long and tiring day was not too bad. It did fill me up though. Notice the lovely Quechua gentleman in the background playing the traditional music. What a lovely evening!

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The chicken and zucchini cream sauce over the sautéed broccolinis with Huacatay (Peruvian black mint) rice, you can pretty much guess what it tastes like. I am in love with Huacatay! I wish I could grow this herb, it is really aromatic.

What a great start of the trip. Saw a lot of things and was actually looking forward to bed. Had to get up early for the train to go to Machu Picchu. My next post will be on the two days I was in Machu Picchu. Thanks for reading. I hope my trip inspires you to visit this great country of Peru!

XXOO,

Fon

El Albergue Ollantaytambo: www.elalbergue.com

For my Peru itinerary click here
Did you miss my post about the salt mine, Moray agricultural station and the Sacred Valley? If yes, go here

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