Today started off with an early morning hike through the Ollantaytambo Ruins where we saw the Inca Fortress and Citadel of Ollantaytambo. These were built to guard against other tribal attacks. It was a rough hike because we were so high up and the altitude really set in as we started to climb the different terraces. It was all worth it once we got to the top because of the amazing view of the town of Ollantaytambo. We also saw a fantastic view of all four surrounding valleys and mountain peaks. In one of the peaks you could actually see the profile of an Incan emperor with his traditional head dress. Our guide Allol is fantastic and always points out these small finds that we would most likely overlook without him.
Once we hiked back down the ruins and into town, Allol took us to see a local family home. In Ollantaytambo the people live in a way that is very similar to their Incan ancestors. As we walked into this woman´s home the floor was covered in GUINEA PIGS. Yes guinea pigs, those animals that look like tail-less fat rats. Well, here in Peru they are actually a delicacy and people eat them during various festivals and important ceremonies or traditions. I have yet to try one and don´t plan on it; I tried alpaca in Arequipa and that was probably the most adventurous I will get when it comes to my food. Nonetheless, seeing their home and how they really live was amazing and gave us all a new perspective on Incan lives and traditions even in todays´modern world.
We then took a bus ride to the Pisac Ruins, but on our way we stopped in a local town to have some fun. We entered this small hut that had a stick with a red bag around it protruding from the doorway. This is a sign which advertises that the residents serve Chicha. Chicha is an alcoholic beverage served in the mountains and rural areas of Peru. It is made of fermented corn and other natural roots. After seeing how this beer was made of course I had to try a cup that was about half a liter. Let me just tell you that it was delicious!! Chantel and I split the strawberry flavored kind. We also played a fun game outside called Juego de Sapo “The Frog Game”. It was very fun. I had the highest score on my team of 7,000 but unfortunately my back was not strong enough to carry everyone and we lost to the other team. Once we finished playing we took about an hour bus ride to the Pisac Ruins.
We drove by the Vilcanota River and into the “Sacred Valley of the Incas” in Pisac. The Pisac Ruins are larger than one could even imagine. It took us almost 2 hours to hike the ancient Incan trail by foot to the top. We walked through a very narrow and dark cave then up many steep stone steps along the side of the mountain cliff. I truly felt like the female version of Indiana Jones today and was very proud of the fact that I did not pass out from altitude sickness or fear of heights. I was able to immediately recognize which buildings were made for living purposes and which were made for religious reasons. Allol taught us that the ancient Incan stones for temples were built in a lock and key fashion without any mortar or clay holding them together and were perfectly straight. While the residential or agricultural ruin stones were round and had mortar in between them. There were also many aquaducts and ancient fountains that still had spring water running through them today. As the sun was setting we hiked back down the mountain and headed back to our hotel in Ollantaytambo. Today has been my favorite so far but we still have 12 more days left!! Can´t wait to volunteer tomorrow and Wednesday then off to Machu Picchu