We have spent the last 8 days in Ollantaytambo, in the sacred valley in Peru. Ollantaytambo is a small hamlet that is one of the last stops on the way to visit Macchu Pichu. You may know that in January, Peru suffered some torrential rains and flooding in the sacred valley and these floods and the resulting landslides took out large sections of road and rail. 2000 people were trapped at the small town just below Macchu Pichu and had to be helicoptered out of town. Macchu Pichu was closed and only re-opened on 1 April 2010. In the past, it was possible to catch a train from Cusco to Macchu Pichu, but now, with the landslides, much of the railway line disappeared into the mighty Urubamba river or was damaged beyond repair. This forced the Peruvian government to move quickly to restore a way into Macchu Pichu as it is one of the top tourist sites in Peru, certainly in South America and possibly the world. In normal times, apparently 2500 people visit Macchu Pichu a day. Its not easy to get to, so it is clearly a very popular destination. The rail and road transport was down for 2 months and we were worried that we wouldn’t get to see Macchu Pichu. The railway lines have still not been completely restored, but there is a patchwork method of getting there, it is roughly as follows:
- Catch a collectivo (a mini bus taxi) from Cusco to Ollantaytambo
- From Ollantaytambo you need to get to the next train station called Pisco Cucho.
- Once you are there, you need to catch a train from Pisco Cucho to Aquas Calientes
- From Aquas Calientes, catch a bus up the last 8km to Macchu Pichu.
This assumes that you have bought your train ticket to Macchu Pichu and your entrance ticket to the actual Macchu Pichu site. Well, we did all this and decided that we would go out and stay in Ollantaytambo for the few days leading up to our trip to Macchu Pichu and we have loved being in Ollyantaytambo. We are staying in a really nice hostel, good bed, and a really good shower (things that we have come to appreciate after nearly 5 months on the road)
Also, Ollyantaytambo is a living Inca town. It is an original Inca settlement but has not become a ruin, the people actually live and work in the town and it has the Inca architecture and the high walled and cobble stoned streets that Inca towns have. It is in a great setting with tall jagged mountains surrounding the town. There are also some Inca ruins on the outskirts of the town which are easily accessible by a 5 minute walk. We really took it easy here and spent our days wandering aimlessly around this lovely little village or exploring some ruins. We ate some fantastic Burrito’s and traditional Peruvian Cuisine which was not only cheap but very tasty. Often we ended our days off with banana pancakes at the local café. We idled here lazily until the 19th and then we visited Macchu Pichu… and that will be the topic of my next post.