We took a bus down the Urubamba River valley (Sacred Valley) from Pisac to the town of Ollantaytambo (Ollantay for short), getting closer to Machu Picchu. Ollantay is in the same narrow valley between looming mountains as Pisac, with even larger snow capped Andean peaks visible further in the distance. It’s also a last stop for those getting ready to hike the ‘Inca Trail’. The small town has the original street layout as in the times of the Incas, with little stone lined drainage ditches and stone footbridges on one side of the street. Many of the same Inca stone foundations are used for the current buildings in the town, and with the narrow cobblestone streets, it makes you feel as if you are back in the time of the Inca, with the locals from the small town chatting with each other in the small streets.
Our hostel is a nice place with a few courtyards and a deck with great views of the mountains and the hillside ruins which Ollantay is famous for. The neighbors have a donkey that seems hoarse when it periodically lets out a creaky ´hee-haw´once in a while.
The ruins on the hillsides flanking the town are the site of one of the few (short-lived) victories of the Inca against the Spanish. During the Spanish conquest, Manco Inca started a rebellion in Cuzco and was narrowly defeated in a violent battle at the hilltop site of Saqsayqaman (pronounced ‘sexy woman’) when the outnumbered Spanish led a last ditch cavalry charge up the hill against thousands of Inca. He then fled to this hilltop site where he successfully repelled an attack by Hernando Pizzaro (Francisco’s brother), due to the advantage of being up on the high terraces, greatly outnumbering the Spanish, and flooding the valley below so that the Spanish cavalry horses were useless. The victory was short-lived as the Spanish returned with greater numbers and Manco Inca eventually fled further to Vilcabamba.
The ruins include large stones brought way up onto the hillsides and the usual impressive Inca stonework in fitting them together. The ruins site also has some fancy water channels and fountains/sacred baths with complex drainage systems bringing water to them, often carved into rocks. The views of the surrounding mountains make them even more impressive. It’s raining in the mornings and afternoons as we get ready for Machu Picchu, our next stop. We’ll head there by train, which is fairly expensive. To get here by bus, it’s costs about $4.5 each, by train it would have cost about $34 (for the backpacker train, there is an even fancier vistadome train, but that’s beyond our budget).