as I write I’m in the pretty little pueblo of Ollantaytambo nestled among steep mountainsides at the northern end of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.. Most of the time it is a tranquil little place but later in the day it gets busy as the tour buses make their stop off. It’s an interesting little place, aside from the almost obligatory Inca fortress on the mountainside above this pueblo retains much of the original Inca street plans and stonework… it has been continuously inhabited for more than 700 years… The ride down here was fabulous, 2 short days on good roads in stunning suroundings and with just a light load on my bike very much a holiday after the rigors of the past few months :-)
I left Cuzco on Wednesday with Pete (he’s headed to Machu Piccu ultimately) looking forward to a mostly downhill day to Pisac… and it was mostly downhill, once the small matter of a stiff 13km climb was out of the way :-) That took us back up to around 3700m before a delicious descent of around 20km all the way down to Pisac at around 2600m.
The area around Pisac was badly affected by landslides during the rains in January and from the mountainside above town I could clearly see a number of Shelterbox tents in the sportsfield on the edge of town. Really nice to see, I didn’t go and intrude with my camera.. it was enough to see Shelterbox at work first hand. Indeed the next day cycling along the banks of the Rio Vilcanota much evidence of the landslides could be seen, including buried/destroyed pueblos. You can read more about Shelterbox involvement in Peru earlier this year here: http://www.shelterbox.org/deployment_details.php?id=124
Still accepting donations/sponsorship of course… big blue button top right :-)
Pisac itself is just a pleasant little hill town, there is a tourist market in the plaza but away from that you’d never know.
After a quick lunch we swapped cycling shoes for hiking shoes and legged it off up into the mountains.. after so many weeks high up the air down here felt/feels magically thick and legs were full of energy. It would have been a fantastic afternoon of hiking/scrambling without all the Inca ruins and terraces high on the mountainside, but with the added context it was magnificent. The trails were deserted (most folk get carted up the back way by road, and we did manage to stray off trail with some nicely exposed vertical for a taste of adrenalin) and the views fabulous… I’ll let the pics do the talking:
That night we stayed in a colourful little hospedaje close to the centre of town. 20 soles for the night but with oodles of hot water from an enormous wood-fired boiler at the back. Dinner was a gringo-flavoured affair of spaghetti with meatballs accompanied by a black cross-eyed cat.. hence the title.. a creepy creature, black, lean & green-eyed with an intense squint.. Of course when I say ‘accompanied’ I don’t mean in the sense of a side-dish along with the garlic bread, but rather as being subject to an intense gaze from floor-level.
On from Pisac then, an easy 60km or so downriver and up the map north to Ollantaytambo. More fab scenery with glacier-capped peaks occasionally visible behind the steep valley walls. The day was very much reminiscent of a perfect summer day back in Cornwall… warm sun, 24 degs ish, with the smell of fresh grass and trees but with a cool breeze as if coming off the sea.. though here of course it’s coming down off the glaciers. Perfect cycling weather. I’m running my rear tyre soft to reduce the shock loading on the cracked rim… bike feels like an armchair as a result, all I’m missing is a beer cooler on my handlebars.. and with no front panniers the handling is nice and lively.
Stopped for a picnic lunch of bread and cheese by the railway line and river just outside Urabamba… having had a huge debate with Pete on the rather wide ranging topic of global politics, economics, Concorde and other selected items of wierdness for the first 40km we probably needed to stop anyway to appreciate the scenery :-)
So, to Ollantaytambo… I already gave some background blurb so not much else to say. The Inca fortress doesn’t have quite the extent of magical masonry that other sites do.. indicating it was built rather late in the Inca rein when time was running out against the Spanish, but it’s still a magnificent place. I have a room here for just 15 soles (about £3.75) with a lovely garden and mountain views… hence the reason I decided to stick around a while. It’s a long climb back up towards Cuzco :-)
Now as my time in Peru, and indeed S America, for this visit draws to a close, and despite keeping my eyes peeled, I have yet see any descendants, or their legacy, of Paddington Bear.. not even the remains of a marmalade sarnie by the road :-(