I wish you could see what Les and I got to see and experience today while off the beaten path in Ollantaytambo.
When we drove through the dusty, congested entrance last night, I thought, “Seriously, people live here?” I could barely contain my urge to snicker and say, “Haven’t you got anything newer than this?” I don’t think anyone else would have seen the humor behind my concern for our accommodations. But, they were good despite the odd radiated bug-like symbols painted on all four walls of our room. I think they may be Quechua for “roaches beware”.
This was to be our first day of being without Yure; we set out with our off-the-guided-grid attitude, and little tiny map without street names, to discover the once capital city and oldest continuously inhabited dwellings in South America. And we made it as far as the nearest coffee cafe at the corner of the plaza.
Restored by a familiar cup of Cafe Americano, and watching puppies lazily laying in the sun, we continued on through the small veins of streets leading out to the town’s entrance where rock gateways still stand as they did 500 years ago.
A few pictures and we continue on to a pathway that follows the easy foothills of the valley where farmers were reaping, rams and cattle were grazing, where women with white stovetop hats walk their children to town, and where we rest for a spell beside the life-sustaining Urumbamba river.
When we came back into town, we wound our way deeper into the community of Ollantaytambo – where small streets not big enough for a car remain as they were originally built – each with a channel cut in the stones to carry water throughout. They were big on aqueducts then, and still are now as they work!
The further we walked into the maze of stone walls and paths, the quieter and slower it became; a child leading a goat, a woman walking with her bundles, one tourist with a camera, and us.
In our private and what felt like stolen secret anonymous moments, we saw more of the typical single stone lintel Inca doorways once worthy of dignitaries, as well as the now becoming familiar red plastic bags hung on poles (to designate where the local fermented corn beer, or Chicha, is served).
All this under the watchful eye of Viracocha.
It felt magical, these stolen moments of walking in a 500 year old neighborhood so different than ours yet so ordinary to these people.
We circled back around to corner cafe for a refreshing Limonade and Chicha Morada*, and more time watching the puppies – they do not seem to know anything about the difference in language, cultures or elevation. And that’s a good thing.
*A delicious, sweet Peruvian beverage made from purple corn, a variant of Zea mays native to the Peruvian Andes, and spices.