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Field Notes Close to home or in a far away jungle, there is always something marvelous to see.

Pardon me, boy, is that the Machu Picchu choo-choo?

PERU | Wednesday, 14 April 2010 | Views [345]



(I was cracking wise with Connie and now I can’t get the stupid song out of my mind!)

The heavy rains in January and February pretty much washed out the famed “Inca Trail” and did considerable damage to the railway between Cusco and Aguas Calientes, stranding hikers and normal tourists alike.  In fact Machu Picchu re-opened only two weeks ago with limited rail service.  The line from Cusco to Ollantaytambo won’t be ready until June so travelers must get to Ollantaytambo then take the railway supplied bus to an alternate “station” for the final 1½ hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. 

Each Inca site we visit has been more spectacular than the one preceding – and Ollantaytambo is no exception.  We checked out of Hostal Marani for a couple of days but left most of our luggage in preparation for the bus ride to Ollantaytambo, the first stop on our 3-day journey to Machu Picchu.  When the taxi driver offered to take us all the way for 60 soles (v. 36 for the bus) it seemed like a great deal.  Hotel Munay Tika, like most of the town, sits directly below and has good views of the ruins.

Ollantaytambo is the place that Manco Inca escaped to after the Spanish victory at Saqsaywaman.  In addition to being a fortress, Ollantaytambo was a temple complex.  The terraces seem to go upward forever with overweight and overage tourists gasping in the thin air.  The meticulously crafted stone walls fit tightly against the natural rock and the exposed corners are a perfect ninety degrees with sharp edges.  Some of the fountains rival those of Tipon although the water flow is much less.  The ruins extend for hundreds of yards and similar terraces and fortifications are visible across the valley.  In fact much of the town probably existed when Manco Inca was in residence.

Our train left at 6:55 AM but we were told to meet the bus (which didn’t leave until 5:45) at 5:10.  We were among the few English speakers on the train.  Many were French who disembarked before Aguas Calientes for a two-day trek to the ruins.  (The full trek takes 4 or 5 days, costs $300-$400 and is only for the young, the fit and the foolish.)  Nearly everyone else rushed to the buses that would take them to the ruins for five hours.  Then they would return to Cusco this evening, making for a long day considering they got up at 3:30 to catch the early train.  We, on the other hand, are hanging out, resting and bird watching.  We will spend the day at the ruins tomorrow and return to Ollantaytambo for the night.  Even with the cost of two nights lodging and the $100 rail fare, we will save $100 over the cost of a tour.  Best of all we can do things alone at our own pace.


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