Ollantaytambo from 2 Quechua words ollantay (warrior) and tambo (resting place)
Mid point of sacred valley so important market town
90% of Ollantaytambo's buildings have Incan original features
Ollantaytambo has 3 zones- urban, religious and agricultural
Granaries built in the mountain side due to cooler temperatures
Terraces built for 3 purposes- agriculture, ornamentation and to prevent erosions. Terraces also helped to provide different micro climates so could grow different crops
4000 people and 60 years to build Ollantaytambo
Watch towers used metal plates, flags, trumpets etc for signalling
9 June 2017
Day 65- amazing day!! Machu Picchu is everything it's hyped up to be and more. We started at stupid o clock (aka 4am) to get in line for the bus there but it meant we got there before the crowds and in time for the sunrise (which wasn't very impressive I have to say..) however, the views from the guardhouse were absolutely incredible and we got some great photos with the llamas chilling there. José then led us on a tour of the city, finally giving us some of the history about the Incas etc but he finished in barely an hour. The sun had properly risen by the point and it was a beautiful if hot day! Jenny and I explored the city
35 years to build Machu Picchu
Sacred as place where kings lived and studied, where priests and priestesses were trained
Machu Picchu means old mountain
Day 64-super chilled start lazing around the plantation before we set off at 9am. Freddy's parting words to Jenny- stay in Peru to find a man but they have pequiño peepee con el mono! We got a bus to Hidroelectrica, where we dropped off Leo, our cook who is the sweetest, tiniest Peruvian man (plus he makes AMAZING food in crazy conditions) with our stuff which we would pick up in Aguas Calientes. The walk itself was easy, following the railway but it was so hot and José was annoying both of us. He has not been great this whole trek-barely talks to us is not encouraging or enthusiastic and has not given us any information about the sights or history. When we got to the town,he didn't even know where our hotel was. But the hotel was nice and we felt better after a shower. We caught up with everyone at home and then went to get some Mexican food and Pisco sours (4 for 1 in happy hour!). There's not much else to do in the town and we had an early night to prepare for Machu Picchu tomorrow!
7 June 2017
He took us to see some coffee plants, showing us the difference between Arabica (1-2kg yield/yr/plant) and Robusta (3-5kg yield/yr/plant) plants, explaining that Arabica beans have superior flavour and aroma and Robusta beans are for exporting to Chile lol! He then showed us the other trees they grow concomitantly to shade the coffee-avocados and limes! This place is my food heaven. He even got us harvesting avocados with a very similar stick to what the grenadilla harvesters were using-really fun. He then showed us the different processes coffee goes through before it is roasted (shelled, fermented,dried) which is the stage they export most of it at. Finally, he showed us how to roast coffee on a clay stove with a pinch of sugar (his abuela's secret technique apparently!) and we ground it to make the best coffee I've had in south America so far. It was a really fun evening and this has been my favourite campsite by far! Aguas Calientes tomorrow, with a real bed and shower- woo hoo!
Day 63- had a warmer night and a slightly later start today, with only a 5hr trek. We walked through the rainforest, following the river, passing many rapids and mini waterfalls-it was lovely. As we walked deeper into the jungle, we saw bugs, butterflies and wild strawberries growing the whole way. Jenny and I walked slowly and took our time, enjoying the views (the boys were racing ahead)We met some local people harvesting a fruit I'd never seen before in the jungle called grenadilla- they gave us some to try. It tastes like a sweet passion fruit- muy rico! The guys harvesting it were amazing too, climbing the trees like monkeys and using long sticks with nets (similar to a lacrosse stick) to catch the fruit. By the time we reached our campsite though, my feet were covered in blisters 😞 however the campsite is on a coffee plantation and the owner, Freddy, was going to show us around after lunch so that cheered me up! Freddy is a born salesman and very good at his job.
6 June 2017
Day 62- a beautiful but long day! We were up at 5 after a FREEZING night for breakfast and we left at 6am. We were joined by Marcus (German guy) to make a final group of 4. Today was the hardest day, starting with a 3hr climb up to 4620m. Jenny wasn't feeling well and initially was going to turn back to Cusco but José managed to get her a mule to take her to the top. The rest of us hiked our way slowly but it was fun and the scenery is out of this world! We got closer to the glaciers as we went higher and reached the Salkantay pass which takes you in between Mt Humantay and Mt Salkantay (means "Wild One" in Quechua) This was our highest point and the coldest too, with strong winds, frost on the ground and snow on the mountains. But it was so ridiculously beautiful, totally worth the effort of getting there. The rest of the trek was downhill, going from mountain terrain into rainforest which is where we camped-warmer than yesterday! We had dinner and another early night after cards.
5 June 2017
Day 61- yet another early start😑 (honestly, how does this keep happening?)we were picked up at 5am and met Mike(American doing the trek with us)We drove for a couple of hours to the start point and had a short but steep climb initially and then it plateaued as we followed the Inca canal- built by the Incas to irrigate the land using water from the glaciers and still functional! The views are stunning, with mountains on both sides and glaciers. We got to camp for lunch which was impressive-soup, guacamole,garlic bread- that was just the starters! Jenny and Mike were tired by this point so they rested while José and I went for a 2hr hike to see the glaciers on Mt Humantay and Humantay lake. It was a steep climb but so worth it- the glaciers are magnificent, and the lake was the most beautiful turquoise. We played cards before dinner (also yum) before bed, we popped outside- the moonlight illuminating the glaciers is one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.
Day 60- had such a chilled day today. Caught up with everyone at home in the morning, had lunch with Jenny and we then went to the Mercado San Pedro to get supplies for our trek. The market is all hustle and bustle, completely removed from the tourist scene- it's obviously where the locals shop. We got some snacks, baby wipes, etc and also bought a warm gilet each for £3! Bargain. I then went to the police station to report my phone for insurance but was told I had to go to the tourist police all the way across town- urgh. Didn't have time to do that, it will have to wait till we're back! It was dinner time by this point and we went to Jack's (again! But the food is SO good and they have mint lemonade) with Dan from the hostel. There was an incredibly obnoxious group of American teenagers in the queue who tried to push ahead but Jenny was having none of it lol. After dinner, we had to go and face the bombsite around our beds of all our stuff. I hate packing :/ but got it done and slept
4 June 2017
We then got on a bus to go to Saqsayhuaman (sounds like sexy woman lol!), the most important temple in upper Cusco. It has a zigzag shaped enclosure to represent lightening, the god it's dedicated to. The ruins were cool and the temple had a stunning view of Cusco.Next was Qenqo, the temple of Pacha Mama with rock formations and a cave representing her womb. Next was Tambomachay- temple of water. It means resting place as it was the last stop for people coming from jungle before Cusco. It has a fountain rumoured to be the fountain of youth-reason why Spanish ransacked it! Finally, we stopped at Puca Pucara, the site of a now completely destroyed temple with amazing views.The temples all had towers used as a messaging system with different coloured flames for different scenarios using different metals-so clever! We got back to Cusco just in time for our trek briefing with our guide, Jose(seems nice) We had dinner with some people from the hostel and I crashed by 9.30- such a cool kid!
3 June 2017
Day 59- had another crap night's sleep due to a couple having VERY loud sex in the dorm. I have no words. After a slow morning, we decided to go on a half day tour of the sacred valley to see the remaining ruins, this time with a guide! It was a big-ish group but the guide was really good and we also met a fun gay couple so I didn't mind the group size too much. We started in Qorikancha, the golden sun temple within Cusco city. It was the most important temple in lower Cusco during the Inca empire. It had a foot high wall of gold on top of it's enclosure and the original altar was 2m high and also solid gold. After the Spanish conquest, the gold was stolen and the temple turned into a Catholic church (still operating today)The Inca religion had 3 worlds- humans, gods and dead so trinity is a common concept in the architecture. It was a beautiful place to look around but there were way too many people. We're on solid gringo territory now...
Day 58- today has been a difficult day. Jenny and I both had barely 4 hrs of sleep for some reason despite being exhausted. We headed out anyway, going to Pisac in the sacred valley via collectivo. We asked 5 different people and got 5 answers about where to get it from lol. It was fun until I lost my phone/had it stolen. I looked for it and we spoke to the other drivers who were so kind and helpful but obviously it's gone. I'm determined not to be too upset though. Jenny has a spare phone luckily and I needed a new phone anyway! Pisac was stunning- an Inca ruin with the most jaw dropping panoramic views of the mountains. There are farming terraces and some temple ruins. It was a beautiful day as well with some sunshine finally! We got back to Cusco for a late lunch(we went to a vegan cafe for Pad Thai- yum!) and then went to the trek to pay the balance. I went back to the collectivo office in case my phone had been handed in but no luck. Just chilled and had an early night afterwards.
But Rider (the guy in the office) was so unhelpful and aggressive towards us. Jenny and I both got quite upset and the whole situation was becoming very heated. He refused to give us any of our deposit back and refused to negotiate on the price-it was so frustrating! Eventually we decided to change to the Salkantay trek instead- it's cheaper and the trek price includes Machu Picchu so overall works out a lot cheaper. I'm fine with the situation now but I was really pissed off initially. We came back to the hostel and had a couple of drinks and socialised. The hostel had put on speed dating that evening and I was Jenny's wingman until bedtime.
1 June 2017
Day 57- arrived in Cusco at 8am, having slept a bit on the bus. Peruvians, while amazingly friendly on the whole(much more so than Bolivians), need to understand the use of headphones! I was woken up at 4am by a guy in front listening to music. And I couldn't make him understand that I needed him to be quieter. I just moved to the back and the rest of the journey passed uneventfully. I couldn't check in early(standard)but they did let me use the shower which helped and I then explored Cusco-I love the city! It's so quaint with cobbled, winding streets, beautiful old buildings, good food and coffee!Jenny arrived and we grabbed lunch(Indian buffet-we ate WAY too much)and went on an afternoon walking tour. The guide loved archaeology and gave us lots of cool facts about the Incas. We then went to our tour office to sort out our trek and had one of the most stressful experiences I've had so far. We discovered that we were paying way too much for our trek and tried to discuss it with them.
Facts about Cuzco/the Incas
1. Inca is a contracture of word meaning "Children of the Sun". It only applied to the leaders, all else were simply Quechua
2. Legend says the Incas are originated from Lake Titicaca but genetic testing suggests originated from South East Asia (specifically Mongolia)
3. Quecha is the 3rd most spoken language in SA-after Spanish and Portuguese
4. After Spanish, the most common languages in Peru are Aymara and Quechua.
5. Incas only ruled for 97yrs but expanded to include 6 countries from Colombia to Chile
6. Peru grows 3600 types of potatoes
Initial Inca construction- didn't use cement, mortar etc- rocks carved to fit perfectly. In temple, stone with 14 angles, 32 angles in Machu Picchu and 42 angles on Inca trail. Walls built at a pyramidal angle- anti seismic
8. Cusco was the centre of the Inca empire- rest of the empire was divided according to relation to Cusco
9. Fried guinea pig (cuy) is a Peruvian delicacy!!
10. Condor, puma and snake to represent
31 May 2017
Day 56- we started at a more reasonable hour today and rowed across the lake to do a jungle trek on the other side. It felt much wilder and less visited than our side-there are no lodges here and few people visit. We walked through dense jungle, seeing butterflies, more spiders and monkeys. We also saw some huge trees over 300 years old and Selma taught us about the medicinal uses of different plants. She was brought up in the jungle and her dad never took her to a hospital when she was ill-he always found remedies from the rainforest. I can't imagine a childhood like hers, so different from mine! After our trek, we went back for lunch and then it was time to head back. We squelched our way through the mud again, to the boat and we were back in Puerto Maldonado by evening. Jenny had booked a flight for tomorrow as the bus made her feel unwell while I was taking the night bus. We had dinner with Selma(who offered to let Jenny stay with her- how lovely is she?)before I headed for the bus
30 May 2017
After our walk, we came back for a late lunch (lentils and rice- SO YUM!) and then we had to say goodbye to the Chilean couple as they had to head back. We just chilled for a couple of hours and then headed for our night jungle trek. The sun sets at 5.30pm so by 6.30pm, it's pitch black and all the nocturnal insects were out. We saw spiders, beetles and lots of ither creepy crawlies but no snakes or frogs. We were supposed to only walk for 45min but ended doing an hr and a half! The jungle is so atmospheric at night, with the noise of the insects, the occasional monkey hoot and the stars shining overhead. We came back for dinner and then waited until the generator was switched off so that we could fully appreciate the stars- so beautiful. By this point, I was flagging and very happy to crawl into my bed, ready for the next day.
Day 55- had to wake up at 4.30am (how does this keep happening?!) to go see the macaws at their clay licks which are by the pampas where we entered the lake. So we got back on the boat and started making our way in the slowly lightening day, accompanied by the call of the howler monkeys (sounds like a combination of the wind and a lion roaring- quite unnerving!) and piranhas jumping up out of the water to hunt insects. As we entered the pampas, we saw a baby black caiman- so tiny! We then waded through more mud to reach the clay licks where hundreds of macaws were gathered. Beautiful blue and yellow birds, mostly in pairs grooming each other (they mate for life). It was such a sight to see. And actually worth the mud and early wake up. On the way back to the lodge, we saw otters again- twice in 2 days, so lucky! And they were particularly playful today, showing off for us. We then had breakfast and went for a jungle walk-saw monkeys, insects and funky plant formations-swings, ropes etc
29 May 2017
After lunch, Jenny who'd been feeling really rough all day, decided to rest for a bit while we went on another boat trip. We saw wild chickens, more birds, red howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys and otters! Selma said we were really lucky to see them as the whole lake only has one family due to their territorial nature. They were so fun to watch, chasing each other and catching fish to eat. We then stopped to watch the sunset- it was a bit cloudy but the lake turned into a huge mirror reflecting the jungle as the sun set- beautiful. As twilight approached, the quiet of the jungle was shattered by the croaking of frogs, chirping of thousands of insects and chattering of monkeys- a cacophony that sums up the jungle. In the increasing dark, Selma used a torch to find caimens and we saw a giant black one up close as well as several further away- their eyes reflect the torch light making them easy to find. Dinner and a lovely Spanglish conversation was the perfect end to such a great day.
Day 54- unfortunately Jenny was sick overnight (not sure why as we ate the same things) so it wasn't the best start to our jungle tour but she felt well enough to come so off we set! I still can't believe how cheaply we managed to get this tour! We met our guide, Selma, (a girl guide-🙌!) and the others joining us (a Chilean and an American couple) and went on a boat for about 40min down Rio Tambopata which is stunning- so wide and surrounded by lush jungle. When we reached the entrance of the park, Selma gave us wellies to put on- not a good sign! And we were proven right as we had to wade through sticky mud for the next 3km until we reached the lake. The jungle is beautifuland EVERYTHING is on steroids- absolutely huge! We saw monkeys, birds and a giant tarantula on the way. Selma rowed us down the lake and we saw herons and commidores (I got a photo of one pooing!) and dropped the American couple at their lodge. We then travelled on to our lodge which is lovely-clean with real beds
Day 53-we arrived in Cuzco at 5am(not 6am as promised due to time difference!)but had slept. After some faffing, we decided to get a 10am bus to the jungle and stay there for 3 days, still leaving us time to explore Cuzco before our trek. While at the station, we bumped into Maria! She's not changed a bit but has made a ?friend ?bed buddy that she's travelling with. Jenny and I escaped into town as quickly as possible- Cuzco looks gorgeous and I can't wait to explore it properly. We got some breakfast and booked our Galapagos flights while waiting. Then headed back to the station(walked halfway, unofficial taxi the other half- dad would be horrified!)The bus had the cleanest bus toilets I've seen yet but they showed such terrible films (obviously dubbed in Spanish)including a gore-fest called Lady Bloodfight and a Christian romance called Fireproof. The views were beyond spectacular though and even made up for the car-sickness inducing road. We managed to book a tour on arrival-all set