We had a lazy wake up, well lazy for us, on the morning we left Machu Picchu. Out our window we watched the Inca trail groups already heading down to Agua Calientes having raced to see the, yet again, non existent sunrise. After an amazing breakfast we hopped on the bus down to the town to catch the train back to Ollantaytambo.
There really isn’t much of interest in Agua Calientes, it is a town of hotels for Machu Picchu and where you get the train to and from Cusco. Around the train station is the artisinal market and there are many restaurants along the two main streets, but nothing outstanding. The train had the large panoramic windows to enable a good view but, after having done the Inca trail, it really wasn’t that amazing. They attempted to provide a good service with some food and beverages, but the repetitive Peruvian music, that consisted of about three remixed songs, got rather irritating over the two hour journey.
At Ollantaytambo we were transferred to our hotel, an old monastery, in Urubamba. It still had it’s chapel and bell tower and given that there were only about five guests in total, it felt as quiet and eerie as I would imagine a working monastery to be. The hotel was outside the main town area so had space for their lovely grounds and vegetable patch. Their restaurant was okay, but we were glad we were only staying for one night. We were woken the following morning by ringing bells, which fits with the monastic history of the place.
Humberto and Julio, our driver from Cusco, came to pick us up for our final tour of Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley. We started back at Ollantaytambo with the town itself considered to be Inca with it’s stone walls and streets. The ruins were built as a fortress with views over three valleys providing warning of approaching armies. This worked well against the Spanish once, but not on the second attack. There were more of the amazing Inca terracing and a partially completed temple with carved stones left out of place. You could even see the large stones that had been abandoned on the ramp up to the site.
Instead of stopping in Urubamba for lunch, we wanted to head straight through to Pisac. We had read about the traditional clay ovens they use for making empanadas and we’ve had a bit of a thing about empanadas in South America so we had to try these out. There are actually a few places like this in Pisac and we ended up in one beside a jewellery factory. It was interesting to see the intricate designs using silver, stone and shell, but the Peruvian turquoise was the most dangerous for our wallets. At Horno Pumachayoc, the wood fired oven was burning away to heat whichever empanadas you chose. There were a variety of grains, including kiwicha, used for the pastry with different filling options, the traditional being ham, cheese and oregano. These empanadas were another delicious variation on a theme and were fantastic washed down with Chicha Morada, a purple maize drink.
Pisac is famous for it’s artesan market with it’s official days as Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday when tour buses descend, but luckily for us we were there on a Wednesday. Even though this is not an official market day there were more than enough stalls open to find an array of crafts, clothing, jewellery and souvenirs, but without the hoards to of tourists. It could keep you occupied for hours, but we limited ourselves to half an hour.
The Pisac ruins were up the valley behind the town and were another example of insane Inca terracing. An interesting aspect of these ruins was that there were three distinct suburbs. Here you could also see cliffs scattered with holes where people were placed in the foetal position inside clay pots along with their funerary tokens, many gold and silver. These were looted and ransacked a long time ago by treasure hunters.
This was our final Inca ruin to visit, which we were quite happy about because we were becoming a little tired of ruins. They were all different and interesting, but it was so much information we were getting overload. It was time to move on to the next part of our travels and let it all sink in.