THE OLLANTAYTAMBO RUINS CAN BE SEEN FROM ANYWHERE IN TOWN. Yes, it is that big! This fortress (or temple, historians love to disagree), is built during the Incan Empire. It is here that the Incans once successfully defeated the Spaniards. Looking at this enormous wall, I have no doubt that lots of gun power is required to penetrate its stonework.
The ruins is typically visited via a sacred valley tour for most people. The crowds normally arrive around 10am and leaves by 4pm. After gulping down my breakfast of milk and bread, I quickly entered the archeological site at 7.30am, and was one of the first humans there. The site itself is very big, but the thought of almost having it to yourself is a surreal experience.
I wandered the ruins for a good 2 hours, often stopping for gorgeous views of the valley, and occasionally for “on-the-edge” photos that would make our good friend, Uncle Tan, scream in fear (look here and below). There were no more than 10 visitors the whole time I was there. I am not being judgmental, but compared to the afternoon crowds of hundreds, this is definitely worth the extra night in Ollantaytambo.
MAMA GREGORIA DECIDED THAT WE GO MAIZE-HARVESTING AFTER LUNCH. Me, Mama Gregoria, her sister-in-law Sonia, along with two enthusiastic puppies, Pipo and Mimi, went to “la chacra” (farm) together. We stopped by to buy “chicha” fermented juice for the worker. It was located in someone’s backyard, unknown to tourists’ eyes, where a lady is busy brewing and tending with the customers. I took a sip. It tastes like a mix of vinegar and overnight tea. No, I don’t like it at all. If left for several days more, it will become “chicha de jora” fermented maize beer, which is a cheap local booze, I bet backpackers on a budget will gladly go down with it, whether they like it or not.
Gregoria explained that the stoned walkways were from the Incan times. She has been walking the same walkway as her ancestors. The small plot of land is divided into four parts because she has 3 other siblings. Her part was filled with “choclo”, a type of starchy maize with large kernels. They harvest these several times each week, just enough for feeding the family, but not for sale.
Farming is not an easy task. First, Gregoria chooses a tall plant and cut it near to its roots, passes it to me while I carry it to Sonia. Balancing myself among the tall stalks of maize feels like a scene from a video game. Cut and collect… Repeat… Soon, we filled the small production room with many stalks. The next part is to remove the maize from the stalk, and peel off its skin. This is the easy part. Finally, carrying a few kilograms of maize back to the house, that’s the challenging part. I was rewarded with a big glass of lemonade after farming duties so I guess it is worth it.
ALL THE WORK UNDER THE SUN MADE ME HOT AND DIRTY. I decided to give myself another shot with the cold shower. I was hopeful that the sun warmed up the water a little but unfortunately it was still icy cold. I tried washing my face first, being especially careful not to wet my hair or body. This shower was one that has two knobs, one blue and one red. I was using the water from the red knob but it was not very powerful. Since it was cold either way, I thought it would be better to get over with it fast. I turned the blue knob, increasing the water’s power, and then… the shower became warm. I soon learned that blue is hot and red is cold. I now had the deja vu feeling from Pinchollo (look here). Hmm, I felt so stupid. Blue is hot, red is cold. Never judge the temperature by its color. All the things I learn in Peru.
Sonia stopping for a breather