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Exploring the archaeological zone of Ollantaytambo

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When the alarm rang, I noticed that a tickle of excitement was around my belly. No, that day we were not going to see the Macchu Picchu, but we were going to take the road to that wonder of the world. We left our bags at the hotel in Cuzco and went to look for the shared taxi that was going to Ollantaytambo, "Ollanta" for friends.

It was easy to find the taxi rank, on Pavitos street. In addition, fortunately the van was filled immediately and an hour and a half later we arrived at the main square of Ollanta. When I got out of the van and contemplated the landscape that surrounded the town, I was stunned by the size of those huge mountains. They seemed endless and made you feel very small.

Ollantaytambo is one of the points where the train leaves to go to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu, since in the rainy season the train does not leave Cuzco, only from Ollanta. As Machu Picchu is the main attraction of the Sacred Valley, many people pass by Ollantaytambo, but this ancient Inca population was one of the most important in the empire and had a key role in the resistance against the Spanish conquest. For this reason and its privileged geographical location, its ruins are a visit more than interesting.

This fortress has a tragic hero attached to its history: Inca Manco. This brave heir to the lineage of Inca rulers, was the leader of the rebellion against the Spanish and captained the reconquest of the lands of the empire of their ancestors. For a while, he came to control Cuzco again and his allies were about to retake Lima. However, Spanish reinforcements from Guatemala and some betrayals among his forced him to retire to Ollantaytambo, after his defeat in Sacsayhuaman. Hernando Pizarro tried to conquer the fortress with his cavalry to end the rebellion, which already lasted several years. The Spanish conqueror suffered several humiliating defeats against Manco Inca and his own, who used very intelligent tactics to reject the invader.

The Inca leader was aware that everything was played there, because Ollantaytambo was a strategic point in the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River. There several roads converged that supplied the wealth to the Inca kingdom and, in addition, the fortress of Ollantaytambo controlled the passage that led to Machu Picchu. Finally, Pizarro returned with even more cavalry and Manco Inca was forced to flee, but it is said that before his retirement, he did eliminate several roads and bridges that led to other Inca populations, such as Machu Picchu and perhaps it was thanks to him that the world-famous Inca city remained lost and, therefore, safe from the greedy hand of the Spanish soldiers.

This is the exciting historical framework surrounding the Ollantaytambo ruins current, but not the only one of its attractions. The architecture and landscape that surround it are also overwhelming. The area of ​​the ruins can be visited with the tourist ticket. We arrived there at twelve in the morning and it turned out to be the ideal time, because the organized groups usually visit them first thing in the morning or first thing in the afternoon. Upon entering the premises, several guides offered us their services. At first we were reluctant, but in the end we thought it would be worth knowing the place more thoroughly. The two-hour guided tour cost us 60 soles And it was really interesting. Dani, our guide, explained curiosities about the fortress, some of them very surprising, and explained the story of his conquest.

Sun Temple

In the time of Manco Inca, as today, Ollantaytambo was divided into two parts: the town where the people lived, which still retains the same street layout of the time, and the fortress, which is the archeological area of ​​today, where religious, political and military life was spent. Upon arrival, the view goes unintentionally to the steep cultivation terraces, which are perched up the hill and are more worked the closer they get to the top, where the noble residences and the Sun Temple.

The Incas believed that the mountains had spirit, the Apus, and that is why they adapted their constructions to the mountain while respecting the natural balance. A good part of the foundations of the buildings have been preserved and you can see the typical windows and door frames in a trapezoidal way to better withstand earthquakes, as we saw in Pisac or in Qorikancha. At the highest point of the ruins are the impressive remains of the temple of the sun, which leave you breathless with its cyclopean blocks of solid rock carved and fitted with pinpoint accuracy by the Inca artisans of six hundred years ago. From this point it is possible to contemplate the three valleys that converge at the foot of the hill. On the other side of the Vilcanota River, the mountains where the stone blocks were carved and transported on rollers to Ollantaytambo are raised. On the other side, on the side of the mountain that is in front of the terraces, you can see the great face of the god Viracocha, supporting the Inca world behind them. It is not clear if the Incas carved it or if the face was already there before, but in any case it is a surprising element of the environment, which gives the ruins a magical air. On this image of Viracocha, several Inca warehouses are erected, strategically located in the heights so that the fresh air of the mountains kept the food that was stored in good condition.

Do you see Viracocha's face?

Another fascinating element of the archaeological zone of Ollantaytambo and that left me perplexed was the ñusta bath. In these baths, the Inca's wife bathed to purify herself and, surprisingly, if you run your finger along the edge of the stone channel where the water falls, the water flow is cut off. Hallucinatory! I don't know if the way the stone is carved has something to do, but the guide gave us a live and live demonstration before our astonished gaze.

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