I was up with a lark again this morning. I actually hope this continues because the looming trek has early starts every day. I’m a little apprehensive this morning because I have 3 bags to pack: 1) my trek day pack 2) my trek pack 3) my remaining luggage. Naturally #3 takes care of itself based upon whatever is left after I finish #1 & #2. I had already written a list for my day pack and my trek pack, so it’s just a matter of following that and double checking that everything I had on the list is relevant. I have weight limit of 8Kg to give the porters to carry on my behalf. I can carry as much as I want in my day pack, but I need to be mindful of the extra weight I will have to trek with and the 20litre limit of the bag. I opt to pack light in both bags, only giving the porters 5Kg to carry and carrying around 4Kg myself. I will be leaving my remaining luggage here in the hotel. This is a common occurrence for them and they have a store room specifically for this purpose. I won’t be returning to Cusco tonight either, so I must take my 2 trek bags with me. I will be staying in Ollantaytambo which is the end of today’s tour and also closer to the start of the Inca trail.
I had originally planned to use a very sturdy refuse sack to hold my gear for the porters. Travel tip: check the size of bags before you need to use them. Turns out the refuse bags whilst sturdy and waterproof are not big enough to fit my trek stuff in and seal it. A quick nip to the shops and I have bought a shopping/laundry bag – it looks like something Heather would be carrying into the laundrette in Eastenders (I hope the comparison ends there) – well, at least it will be distinctive in amongst other’s bags.
To say that today’s tour was like a coach trip probably makes it sound pretty bad. It was actually very good. I think the reason we were on the coach a lot was because we had a large area to cover in one day. I think it was a good tour because the guide provided us with lots of information on the sights we drove past and also knew when to be quiet and let us take it all in. We also stopped quite frequently for photo opportunities and the like.
Our first stop came quite quickly and we were given the chance to use some toilets and look around a tourist market. I took the opportunity to try my Spanish and bought myself a mate de coca (coca tea). It was stronger than the last one I had, so it was a good livener to start the day. It certainly does pep you up, but I can’t see Kerry Katona thinking much of it or Angus Deayton drinking it off prostitutes t1ts.
The scenery along the way to Pisac was absolutely breathtaking and the Sacred Valley looked awesome. I think we were lucky as it was a clear, sunny and dry day, so visibility was excellent. I hope my photos go some way to doing it justice, but probably won’t. It’s when you see vast vistas that you realise how much your peripheral vision helps you to take it all in…then you try and squeeze it all into a photo.
Pisac was an original Inca village, but it was destroyed by the Spanish, so what stands there now is, in essence, a colonial village. It’s quite picturesque and has a raging torrent of a river running alongside it that we have to cross. It also has a huge example of terraced agriculture springing from it and ascending a mountainside. Pisac is mostly a tourist market town and they have 3 dedicated market days a week. The market was great. Lively and vibrant with fabrics, gemstones, silver, sculptures and pottery all within a labyrinthine network of stalls. I bought some souvenirs for myself and presents and I’d like to think that I bartered well and sensibly.
Bartering is expected and is clearly part of the culture of buying here. Without wanting to sound patronising I understand that the Nuevo Soles I may be saving myself can mean more to them than me – it’s not that I am rich and don’t need the money, what I mean is that the cost of living means that those few Soles that would not even equate to a pound for me can buy more for them than it would for me back home. Besides, this is how these people make their living and although I want to feel I have got a bargain, I don’t want to reduce their profit margin down to nothing. For little trinkets I would buy more than one and then negotiate a multi-buy price which seemed to go down well. I also only entered into bartering when I pretty much knew I was going to buy it. I think I only walked away from one deal and that was down to me getting caught out by the lady running the stall bartering with me! Great fun, though.
The Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo is immense! It looks quite daunting with its steep steps and high walls, especially when you see the specks at the top which are other tourists. It certainly dominates the small town at its base. The day had become hot and sunny and it was hard work getting up to the top even though we stopped plenty of times for a bit of rest and for information from the guide.
Ollantaytambo was built in the 15th century and it resembles the terracing used so often for agriculture, but here it is used to affect a fortress. It proved to be such a good fortress that it helped the Incas defeat the Spanish in this place. The site also holds religious significance: the main structure has a sun temple and also has the wall of the six monoliths: 6 carved stones representing aspects of the Inca solar system. There are also Inca storehouses visible from the main site: they are perched halfway up adjacent mountains.
My hotel is a short walk from the site, even though the coach driver does insist on winding his way through the narrow streets to drop me nearer. Because my hotel is so close, the view from my room is of the mountains that flank the village. My excitement is building towards my trek.
For the evening I chose to walk into the main square of Ollantaytambo and I had a nice wander around, followed by a couple of beers and a good meal. I accidentally chose probably the most touristy restaurant to have my meal (an Andean version of a hotdog – think saveloy in a finger bun with a spicy chilli sauce – it also came with garlic fries that were so strong, but so nice – I realised I would reek of garlic on the trek tomorrow). It was a very nice restaurant though and, to be fair, I quite enjoyed watching the American sports on the TV and people watching. At the last minute I decided to heed some advice and buy myself a small bottle of rum. I had been told that nights on the Inca trail can get quite chilly and that a little rum can help combat that.
Once I left the main square the streets were pitch black (and I hadn’t thought to bring my torch out with me). Luckily the route back to the hotel was quite straightforward, but with stray dogs, bats and moths, etc it wasn’t the most comfortable walk I’d had. Back in the room safely, my thoughts turned to the trek that starts tomorrow – bring it on!