Because we knew the hike to Machu Picchu was going to be up where the air is thin, we traveled to high altitude and stayed for several days before began the Inca trail hike. One of the places we stayed, was the small town of Ollantaytambo, which is near where we would begin our big hike. It was a beautiful place to explore. A portion of the small town is still laid out in the grid pattern preferred by the organized Incas, and the Inca stone work on the buildings was beautiful. A stream of water was flowing quickly along the side of the walkways, and made a nice sound in the long canyon-like passageways between the buildings. When we arrived in town, we had some trouble locating our hotel, since no one seemed to recognize the name - Inca Paradise. While we roamed up and down the streets asking for directions, I tried to keep track of my companions in the maze while I admired the mountains peeking above and the pretty planters on the windowsills.
With plenty of help from friendly people, and plenty of confusion caused by our phone gps, we found our hotel, and were very pleased with the nice garden and the pretty views from our front window. I even enjoyed the view from the bathroom window in the back, which looked over someone's poultry yard and laundry washing station near the creek. Pigeons roosted in the window at night, and it was funny to see their sleepy faces when I turned on the light.
In the town center is a small green space surrounded by shops advertising pizza's and free wifi connections. We couldn't resist the promises of coffee and took a table outside so we could watch the comings and goings.
From our table, we could see Inca ruins on the mountainside, and a few brave souls exploring the ruins. You mean we can go up there?! We decided to investigate.
We found a trail with a small sign behind someone's house. I guess this is it! From the trail, we could look into a back yard with a chicken coop. I've never seen such huge chickens!
The trail led us up the mountain toward the Inca ruins. The vegetation was very interesting, and filled with beautiful aloe plants with red tipped leaves.
The views from this trail were fantastic, of course. We could see the famous temple and terraces on the opposite end of town. We could even see the long lines of tourists trudging up the stone steps.
Yes, I agree it's best to go slowly on this trail. This was not a major tourist destination, so the trail was a rocky narrow path that was not as well maintained as more popular trails.
Now that we're home, and I've had a chance to go through my photos and see other folks pictures, I realize that Brandon and I mostly have our mouths open in photos. Because we are gasping for oxygen! Like fish out of water. We were supposed to be taking it easy and building up red blood cells as this high altitude so we can prepare for our big hike. But who can resist exploring Inca ruins?!
Not only were there large aloe plants, but many varieties of tiny succulents.
We climbed through the Inca buildings, and rested on the terraces while we looked down on the town and the neatly patterned farm fields.
As the sun began to sink behind the mountains, we made our way back down the trail, and I congratulated myself for hiking so far and so high in the low oxygen. It gave me more confidence that I would survive the long hike we were getting ready for.
Once off the trail, we walked through a different part of town and saw beautiful Inca stone work on doorways. I got glimpses of people at work inside their homes. Ancient homes, built by ancient peoples.
I admired someones potato garden, and noticed a young teenager listening to his headphones while he tended a cow grazing near the garden. We found a small restaurant, and disturbed an old man's dinner when he stopped eating to take our order. Brandon tried an Inka cola, which was a bright yellow green soda that tasted like sugar and a faint flavor of cream soda. Our meal was served with asparagus soup, which was delayed slightly as the old man had to run to the store for a packet of soup mix to deliver to his wife, who was working in the kitchen. Ha!