Today, in a kind of show of sympathy for Paul, who is now climbing up huge hills and then walking down the other side, camping occasionally in freezing temperatures gulping down his gruel before setting off for the next killing leg of his journey, I have booked the night in the nicest hotel I could find here, in Ollyantaytambo. It is a bit expensive but it is very nice, towels, hot water everything.
Yesterday I was wondering about the train tickets to Machu Pichu but today, coming to Ollayantaytambo has proved to be a smart move. It is the Easter festivities tomorrow, there are no trains from Cusco, only from here. The kind people at the hotel have even gone down just now to collect my ticket for me, now that is what I call a good service.
Today I have spent climbing around the Inca Ruins and Inca Terracing at the Inca Fortress in Ollayantaytambo. From here, the Incas could control all access further up the Sacred Valley, to Machu Pichu. The Spanish were so daunted by the fortress they would not attack it. Rather unfortunately for the Incas, they were unaware of Spanish sentiment and, feeling threatened, retreated further up the valley, to somewhere the Spanish could attack them. Which they did. I think that’s the case anyhow.
The ruins are very steep and very picturesque so I have taken many photos. Whilst at the top of a big cliff I observed 2 Peruvian looking guys following a path down from the top which ended up where I wanted to go at the bottom without backtracking on myself. Good I thought, I’ll follow them as I watched to make sure they really did appear at the bottom and didn’t have to come all the way back up because to be honest the path was a pretty poor excuse for a path.
After around 100m the path disappeared altogether and there was a bit of a scramble down some rocks instead. OK I thought, easy enough and down I scrambled. Turning the corner at the bottom was an almost vertical drop of around 20ft which looked as though it was fairly climbable down, so after some umming and aahing I climbed down that and then turned another corner expecting the path to reappear any second. Alas, in front of me now was a succession of more tricky looking climbs but it was too late to go back up so I spent a nerve wracking 10 mins negotiating these hurdles and finally arrived at the bottom in one piece.
The bottom of the climb had led me to the Inca irrigation canals which are pretty impressive, conduits from the stream lead off underground and disappear only to reappear flowing out of a hole in the wall 200m further on. Fair enough English sewers are far more impressive forms of the same function – all the Incas are doing is digging trenches and then covering them over with slabs of rock but it is still somehow quite impressive.
So tomorrow Machu Pichu, immediately after a long hot shower and leisurely breakfast.