Thursday, December 04, 2014

South America Adventure - Part III - Ollantaytambo

June 3 - heading down into the Sacred Valley. We left our large suitcases in our Cusco hostel and packed a small backpack to head down into Machu Picchu. First stop was Ollantaytambo, a small village that is well preserved from Incan times.  We could've taken the train there, but we opted to walk over to a gathering area to catch a combi - a little minibus that just takes off when it's full. Super cheap and much more interesting than a tourist train. It was a couple bucks for a 2 hour trip. 

Great blue skies on the drive. Somewhere along the way I think we dropped off a couple nuns. And people carrying lots of good to sell. And maybe a small animal.

Snow-capped mountains in the back.

Pulled into town and while we were walking to our lodging, Meg's boot broke. And then she had a bloody toe. And then she realized she left her jacket in the bus. We walked back to the bus area and luckily found our driver. He'd realized we'd left something and knew we'd be back.

We got checked into our place off this cobblestone road and then grabbed some pizza at one of the many, many woodfired pizza establishments around town.

Then we headed over to see the ruins, just a few steps from the main square and across a little creek.

Lots for sale before you get into the paid area of the ruins.

The weather was gorgeous and sunny and a little bit windy.

I was so impressed by the setting, and we hadn't even gotten to Machu Picchu yet. This town is certainly worth a visit. I could've spent another night there and visited the ruins across the way on the other side of the village. There are some other trails outside the city, too, I think.

After our Inca exploration, we walked around town a bit to see the sites. Near our guesthouse was a place advertising massages. We made an appointment for later.

We showed up for our massages but had to wait about half an hour in a random courtyard. We watched some guys make dinner and made friends with this girls. Of course after I took their photo, they wanted a propina. 

Finally, cheap bliss. $20 for 90 minutes, and it was pretty good.

Back to the square for a late dinner. Of course I had more lomo. We were trying to save cash and wanted to pay with a card, as advertised in the window, but the waiter said it'd be a 12% surcharge and we didn't want that. Cash it is.

After dinner we had the best showers yet, though the room was freezing after and I had to try out my new hat to stay warm. Also, we were tucked away in the back corner and the wifi didn't reach. Early to bed, early to rise, I guess.

The next morning we were off to catch the train. Machu Picchu, here we come!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

South America Adventure - Part II - Cusco

Off to Peru! Early flight, but Rodrigo had some breakfast to go made for us, including peach juice. We first flew into Lima, and weirdly they  make you go outside the airport and walk back inside to check in for your next flight on international connections. Strange.

We found some delicious empanadas for lunch and then saw a mission president and his wife sending home a sister missionary. We chatted with them for a bit before heading to our gate. Latins have a hard time pronouncing Meghan's name, but they called her over the loudspeaker, and we ended up with an upgrade to exit row seats.

Flying up into those mountains is kinda crazy. The Cusco airport is pretty small. I had to search around for an ATM for some soles, then we grabbed a cab into the main part of town.

We got into Plaza de Armas and I was already loving it. Also, our cab driver was very quick to point out that the rainbow flags around are not for the gay moment, rather it represents Cusco and Incan heritage.

We dropped our bags at Pirwa Hostel in the plaza and set off to explore.

Such a beautiful day, and dogs everywhere.

Walking down Avenida El Sol.

I wanted to find the Traditional Textiles shop, since they sell authentic alpaca goods and support local crafters and teach traditional methods. I got a hat that I wore for most of the trip (it's cold in those little rooms at night) and a beautiful plum colored scarf that I've been wearing a lot lately. So soft!

There's Qorikancha, which we'd go back and explore another day.

We popped into this hotel for a minute, and decided that when we come back, we'll go luxury.

Over to Limo for dinner, which I'd heard good things about. It's right off the plaza upstairs, and we finally found it after wandering back into some spaces. They were pretty packed and we started off at the bar, but eventually got a table. Time to dig into that hot Peruvian cuisine!
Started off with some yucca.
I loved the fresh limeade that was everywhere. I got one with cucumber.

What I ended up eating nearly every meal in Peru - lomo saltado. My brother just came back from Peru where he took a cooking class and learned how to make it. I'm expecting some soon.

There in the middle - alpaca skewers. Alpacas are good for sweaters and hearty food.

After dinner we walked around the plaza a bit more and saw these children practicing for the upcoming festival. And maybe we stopped at Starbucks for a hot beverage and free wifi. Gotta keep up those Instagrams, ya know.

Showers in a cold room (at least we had hot water) then we packed ourselves under a ton of blankets for a good nights sleep. Off to the Sacred Valley the next day. 
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