Blake here. For a change of scenery and to get the most out of our tourist tickets we decided to hit the road and explore the sacred valley around Cusco. While you can take a tour to visit the various Inca ruins scattered through the valley, we (as always) decided to go solo. So we found out where the collectivos to Ollantaytambo picked up, grabbed some fresh bread from the panaderia and shouldered our packs. We easily found a collectivo to Ollanta (what the locals call Ollantaytambo) and were on our way. A mere two hours later found us in the delightful town of Ollanta. Situated in a deep valley with the ancient Inca site of Ollantaytambo fortress\citadel overlooking the town on one side and random Inca ruins scattered up the other side of valley.
We quickly found a delightful hostel called Chaska Wasi run by the fabulous Kati (and her three kittens) and dropped off our gear so that we could go explore. We entered the ruins of Ollantaytambo and quickly climbed the stairs and terraces to the top of the site. The ruins there are very impressive: excellent examples of Inca stone-masonry with huge blocks fitting together without any perceptable gaps and over the past few hundred years bright orange lichen has come to cover many of the stones making of an impressive site. Interestingly, Ollantaytambo was witness to one of Manco Inca´s few victories over the Spanish as he and his supporters flooded the valley to prevent the Spanish from using their horses, but his victory was shortlived and he eventually fled to the more remote Villcabamba. We explored for a few hours going up and down the terraces admiring stone work and the still working Inca fountains and water channels. Absolutely amazing.
After the ruins, we walked the town´s cobblestone streets looking for a place to eat a late lunch. The town is built on top of the previous Inca settlement and Inca blocks make up the foundations of many houses. This walk also offered us our first glimpse of rural Peruvian life, by which I mean a house full of Cuy or guinea pigs (seriously, like 20 or 30 running around on the floor). Finally, we settled on a delightful family run restaurant and sat in their garden as mother cooked and 10 year old son played waiter. The food was FANTASTIC. I had lomo saltado, a Peruvian beef stirfry served with both rice and french fries while Anne had delicious fried trout. Thoroughly sated, we begin to climb the opposite side of the valley to explore the anonymous ruins. A steep climb up rewarded us with lovely views of the town and the setting sun over the fortress of Ollantaytambo. We descended in the dying light and made our way to our hostel to relax and play with the aforementioned kittens.
The next day we woke early and caught a series of collectivos to our next destination: Pisac. The ruins of Pisac sit high above a town of the same name and after dropping our packs with the entry guard, we started climbing up Inca stairs and through terraces until we reached the main site - a temple and housing complex high on a ridge about 4 kilometers away (elevation gain about 800-1000 meters). Amazingly, here too were working Inca fountains and Annie and I were confounded to understand where the water was coming from. We descended by 2:30 or 3, retreived our bags and were off to our next site: Tambomachay enroute to Cusco and bed. Tambomachay was just a roadside stop - another example of fine Inca stone work - huge blocks, amazing precision, and a pretty fountain. Another collectivo quickly picked us up and we were back in Cusco by 5. We stayed in the delightful La Boheme Hostel attached to the even more delightful La Boheme Crepery and began shopping and planning for our early morning departure for Salkantay.