Backpacking Day 7: Ollanataymbo

After several non-eventful days on a bus and in Cusco, I finally began my pilgrimage out to Machu Picchu. In order to get to Machu Picchu, one must get to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is accessable only by train. But to get to the train station, one must take an hour and a half van ride out to Ollanataymbo. So day 7 is my visit to Ollanataymbo.

Because I was too cheap to pay for an actual tour of the site (I think I sneaked in without paying) and I don’t know too much about the history of the site, here is a quote from Wikipedia:

Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru some 60 kilometers northwest of the city of Cusco. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 meters (9,160 feet) above sea level in the district of Ollantaytamboprovince of UrubambaCusco region. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of theSpanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays it is an important tourist attraction on account of its Inca buildings and as one of the most common starting points for the three-day, four-night hike known as the Inca Trail.”

And such is the historical description of the site. It was beyond impressive seeing how the Incas never destroyed nature to build their sites. They built them right into the mountains, never having to destroy or move huge mounds of earth. In the surrounding mountains there could be seen old grain storehouses and defensive fortifications. Also, the isolation of the area is something to behold. Until the Spanish made it to the area, it must have been really nice, just living with nature and the Incas.

Ollanataybo is a perfect example of how tourism can ruin a historical site. The entire town is built on the fact that people have to come here to catch the train to Machu Picchu. Aside from a few blocks of houses, the town is gift shops, hostels, and restaurants. Craft vendors sell their culture to the point where it seems like prostitution. I twice saw altercations between locals and white tourists where the police had to intervene.

But the area is nothing short of stunning. And since I’m not going to quote Wikipedia anymore, here are the pictures to tell the story of the ruins. Mickey had fun climbing on them!

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