Peru Part 2: Ollantaytambo & Pumamarka
Following the long bus ride from Nazca to Cusco, we found ourselves disoriented in a bustling city. Our objective was to find a colectivo that would transport us to the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley 73 kilometers away. Essentially a colectivo is a large van that seats about a dozen people on the inside and stores the masses of luggage on roof.
Due to our unfamiliarity with the city we were forced to trust a cab driver to take us from the bus station to the colectivo boarding area. This was nothing more than an alleyway with several vans lined up and Peruvian men bombarding us with offers to jump in their vehicle. Once we negotiated a price with them we sat and waited until the colectivo filled up with people, the driver would not leave until it is full.
It was a long drive considering the short distance, mainly due to several stops along the way. We arrived in Ollantaytambo and immediately decided that this was our favorite city thus far. The architecture is remarkable; the streets are cobbled and lined with culverts supplying the city with water rushing down from the arroyos. The interior is protected by beautiful ancient fortresses while both the Rio Urubamba and Patakancha carve through the landscape. We checked into a hostel on the Calle Principal which offered front and center views of Pinkuylluna and Alojamientos de Pinkuylluna.
After settling in we decided to explore the city and ruins with a run. We first did a few loops in the downtown area, which provided us with a glimpse into the day-to-day life of people in this thriving yet ancient Incan city. After we thoroughly explored the neighborhoods we made our way to the inconspicuous wooden gait on Lares Kikllu that would lead us to the Pinkuylluna ruins.
There is a well-trodden path that winds around the ruins from Pinkuylluna to Alojamientos de Pinkuylluna and all the way to Tunupa. There is only a total elevation of change of about 500ft from the city elevation of 9200ft to the high point of the ruins at 9700ft. The architecture has stood the test of time and the views of the city and Fortaleza are appreciable.
After a pleasant night sleeping in a structure that remained stationary, we were ready to tackle our second day in Ollantaytambo. We planned a hike to Munaypata, Choquebamba, and Pumamarka via Q’uara Ocllo. We ran out of the city on the dirt road, through small villages until we reached a spur trail leading to Munaypata, which consisted of several terraces encompassing a small clearing in the forest.
On the way back to the main road we narrowly escaped a pack of dogs that where jealously defending their home. We pressed onward and remarked at the expansive Choquebamba Terraces climbing the hillside to our left. Unfortunately, we were unsure of whether these were off-limits, so we erred on the side of caution and did not climb the giant staircase however tempting it was.
A short time later we encountered a local farmer on the road that asked if we were going to Pumamarka. Coincidentally that was exactly where we were headed and we accepted his offer for directions through what appeared to be a livestock trail through his property. I was mildly concerned that this might be some sort of trick being played on the tourists, but we pressed on. This short-cut was actually a very interesting trail that cut through pastures and fields and meandered between stone huts, livestock, and agricultural fields.
It gradually climbed a hillside until we came within view of the ruins. I remember first seeing them looming in the background with large wheat fields in the foreground, it was quite a scene. Several bulls were tied to ropes that were staked into the ground, but the ropes were long enough to reach our trail. They appeared disturbed by our presence so Apryle and I took caution while the Peruvians nearby laughed and told us it was safe to walk by them. They were right, and we passed right by in our final push to the ruins.
Pumamarka was nearly empty, which came as quite a surprise given that Machu Picchu sees thousands of tourists each day. The structures were numerous and in quite good condition. Apryle and I explored every room and in the process I encountered my first Llama. Scholars are unsure of the time at which Pumamarka was constructed and also the purpose for which it was constructed. The total trip from Ollantaytambo to Pumamarka and back was 11.4 miles and 2,300ft of vertical gain.
That evening we purchased our tickets for Machu Picchu and the train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The pinnacle of our trip to Peru would be the visit to Machu Picchu, thus I will describe that adventure in Peru Part 3: Machu Picchu. With that said, our return to Ollantaytambo was one of great joy after witnessing one of the wonders of the world. We decided to go for one more short hike before departing for Cusco-Lima-Huaraz-Llamac journey.
The last hike in the Sacred Valley was beautiful, yet somewhat anticlimactic. We intended on doing a short loop, but ended up climbing a mountainside gaining well over 2300ft in about 2 miles in sweltering heat. With no junction in sight and no water we cut our losses, enjoyed the views of the Rio Urubamba Valley below and made the quick descent back to town. Along the way we were able to stop at Choqana ruins and reflect on the first phase of our trip. For the duration of our time in Peru our focus would shift from exploring ruins to exploring the Andes Mountain range.
Ollantaytambo to Pinkuylluna and around Alojamientos de Pinkuylluna and Tunupa – about 1.5 to 2 miles total to ascend to and circle the ruins and return to the gait on Lares Kikllu.
Ollantaytambo to Munaypata – about 4 miles from town to the terrace and back to town.
Ollantaytambo to Choquebamba – about 5 miles from town to the terrace and back to town.
Ollantaytambo to Pumamarka – about 11 miles from town to the ruins and back to town.