OYOP: Ollantaytambo, Peru
We spent two days in Ollantaytambo, another small town similar to Pisac along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley Peru. We saw a lot of other backpackers here passing through to hike the Inkan ruins. We also saw bus upon bus pass through the narrow streets on the way to Machu Picchu. The town was so small, but the foot and car traffic was surprising. Still, you could escape to an alleyway to enjoy the charm.
Ollantaytambo is the best preserved Inkan town in Peru, and it’s evident. The streets and buildings are all made of stone. Almost all of the names of restaurants and inns are in Quechuen. We’ve learned “wasi” means “house” in Quechuen and “wawawewa” is something you say in excitement.
Here, there is an original canal system with waterways cut through sidewalks and underneath and around the houses all throughout town. You can see and hear rushing water everywhere.
We stayed at a hostel near the main square that has a little Guinea pig farm. Guinea pigs, or cuy here, are a local delicacy and served roasted on special occasions. I’m trying to convince James to have cuy as our Christmas meal!
We tried pisco sours for the first time here. These are popular cocktails in Peru and other parts of South America made with pisco- a local grape, lime, simple syrup, and egg white. Other local drinks we have tried are chicha, a purple corn drink that dates back to Inkan times and can be fermented as a beer and may be serve with other fermented fruits. We’ve also tried Inka Kola, a popular cream soda drink, and we have had lots and lots of teas: mint tea, coca tea, celery tea, and many more.
In general, we have enjoyed Peruvian food. There is a lot of corn, potatoes and quinoa grown here. Giant boiled corn served with salt and cheese is a popular and delicious street food. Cream soups (corn, pumpkin, spinach) are served before main entrees. Aji de gallina, a chicken dish with yellow curry sauce, black olives, rice & potatoes, is on nearly every menu. As is lomo de saltado, a beef dish with gravy. Chaufa, a fried rice dish with veggies and meat, is also popular. Fried chilis stuffed with veggies are delicious. And of course, there is alpaca.
Our trip to Ollantaytambo would not have been complete without visiting the Inkan ruins here. These ruins were incomplete, but you can still see the beginnings of the Templo del Sol, the temple of the sun, ceremonial fountains and of course, terraces for farming. The terraces are prevalent at all of the Inkan sites. They look like long steps, and at each different level, the climate is slightly different, enabling the Inkans to grow a different crop at each level.
On another note that I forgot to mention before- while James was off on the arduous climb on HuaynaPicchu, I was stopped by two Peruvian families who asked if they could take a photo with me. One family even took multiples with their children and different members of the family. I was told later this was because I am tall, pale, and blonde. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it just a little. I wonder if this count will go up as we continue through South America. I’ll be sure to report back.
We have just a few more days in this area of Peru before we head off to the Amazon rainforest for our next adventure.