Ollantaytambo by collectivo

With the Cusco strike over, and our health improved, it was time today, 27 February, to go check out some Inca history in the Sacred Valley.

So we set off to Ollantaytambo, about 75km from Cusco. We travelled by ‘Collectivo’, which is a form of privately run transport that complements the public bus network, and is common in south American cities, and also for shorter intercity travel. A Collectivo is essentially a minibus, or small coach, and pretty cheap – our journey today cost 10sols (£2.20) each way, a journey lasting about 85minutes.

Collectivos go pretty fast once they set off, quicker than a coach or bus. But they don’t leave until they are pretty much full, so today the collectivo we chanced on took 30minutes to fill up after we got on! They are fast though, the driver lives by his wits, and on adrenalin, and a major accidents is often just a second away. The driver would be banned/jailed in about 5minutes back in the UK. So it was just as well the passing scenery was so divertingly stunning!

Ollantaytambo was dominated by the Incas from about the year 1420, and been occupied by other tribes for at least 2000 years before that. It is located at the junction of the major Urubamba river, and its tributary the river Patacancha, at about 2800m. For the Incas it served as both a military stronghold and an admin centre – it dominated two very fertile valleys and was a gateway to the Amazon.

The Ollantaytambo ruins are some of the best preserved and show a clear outline of both the fortress and the terraces and settlement below. One can clearly appreciate the Incas engineering & building skills in constructing the fortress, and in managing the flow of water to fertilise the valleys and provide baths.

Of course like all great empires, a key Inca skill lay in expropriating and then improving upon the developments of those they conquered – the Incas didn’t invent agricultural terracing or irrigation systems after all. Another of their expansionist skills lay of course in making those they conquered do all the hard work of building these fortresses etc, a skill they clearly shared with their own conquerors, the Spanish.

These ruins are in a stunning location, surrounded by the high sides of the two valleys, which seem to have their own microclimate – today we had blue skies & hot sun above us, dark clouds further down one valley, and mist in the other. The photo gallery here shows both pics of tbe Inca fortress & terracing, and of views from the fortress towards the 2 valleys.

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