I returned to Cuzco after fourteen years. The first time when I came here, I was looking forward to visit Machupicchu all the time, reading and asking about it, like majority of tourists…I think. In this trip, with more knowledge and more interest in other aspects of the culture Inca, I decided to concentrate first in visiting The Sacred Valley. I don’t know why this place didn´t catch my attention 14 years ago. Maybe due to I lived in Andes in that time, and valleys were familiar to me. Now I live in a big city in the coast.
My plan was the following: first, travel to Urubamba by bus; after that, take other bus to Ollantaytambo. There are two roads to go to Urubamba: by Chinchero and by Pisac. If you want to go by Chinchero, you should take a bus in Grau Street; and if you want to go by Pisac, you should take a bus in Tulumayo Street. Both roads have archeological ruins: Chinchero and Moray (by Chinchero’s road), and Saqsaywaman, Q’enqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Pisac (by Pisac’s road). I only mention places that can be visited using “tourist ticket” (visitor ticket that includes 17 attractions and archaeological sites, price is S/70-$23). To whom is concentrated in visiting Sacred Valley, it is recommended to take first the route by Pisac and to return by Chinchero’s route.
The busses leave to Urubamba since very early in the morning. Initially I thought to depart at 6. 00 a.m. but it is very difficult to wake up too early in Cuzco. With a lot of effort I achieved to leave at 7.30 from my hotel. Fortunately there is a bus each 10 or 15 minutes ready to depart to Pisac-Calca-Urubamba. The cost of the ticket is S/ 2 ($0.6) till Pisac y S/3($1) till Urubamba. The bus began going out in north direction, climbing mountains until reach top of the city. Then we passed Saqsaywaman (2 Km. to Cusco), Q’enqo (3 Km. to Cusco), Pukapukara and Tambomachay (7 and 7,5 Km. respectively; this last is not seen from the bus). The road is curved and with a lot of vegetation along 25 minutes of ascent and 20 minutes of descent. The climate improved notably as you are descending. When you see that the sky and landscape expanding, it is easy to identify you are arriving to the famous Sacred Valley. The first complete view of all valley is the best one because of high level. As I was going down I could identify the town, the farmland, the river…all was very beautiful view.
After crossing the bridge on the river Vilcanota, I finally arrived to Pisac (32 Km. from Cusco), the most convenient starting point for a visit to the Sacred Valley. This place is situated 600 m. lower than Cusco. Many people left the bus. It stopped until get other passengers to next places Calca and Urubamba. Tourists stay here and visit Pisac ruins, 8 km from the main square. I visited Pisac fourteen years ago, then I decided to concentrate in Ollantaytambo ruins.
The trip continued at the side of Vilcanota river. This river going down takes the name of Urubamba. The countryside is beautiful and totally green. It is possible to see many Andean families working the earth, parents with children, somebody with machines somebody with animals.
Through the valley you can see the towns of Coya, Lamy and Calca until that finally arrives to Urubamba, the biggest town in the valley: 18 000 inhabitants. Urubamba has many hotels, many restaurants and unfortunately people have built their houses without care of tradition, the city is a mix of stone and cement that reduce its attractive. This is the end of the road from Cusco. Immediately, I arrived in the bus station, crossed the station, and found other terminal of little busses, called “combis”, ready to leave to Ollantaytambo. Drivers only name the town as “Ollanta”. Cost of ticket S/1 ($0.3). The road Urubamba-Ollantaytambo is the continuation of the valley. The new one in this part is that you travel next to rail line. Car road only reach Ollantaytambo. If you want to continue the trip you uniquely have to take the train.
When you see the train station you know that you are arriving to the little city of “Ollanta”. From terminal it is possible to see the Ollantaytambo ruins. In front of terminal there is a popular market. I walked one block and found the plaza, place where many tourists rest. I continued walking, crossed the bridge on a little river that after join with Urubamba river. There are many people selling crafts out of entrance of ruins. Inside complex there are few people, and a guide offered me to orient my visit for S/ 20 ($7), I didn’t take it because I had my own book of history and I had already read enough about this place.
I started to climb this ruins following arrows draw over some stones. Little by little I realized that this one was not a simple ruin, it was a fortress, with many platforms and temples. Near top of the fortress I got a door of stone, similar to one in Saqsaywaman and other in Macchucpichu. The temples were never finished. This temples were going to be a place to adoration to sun and moon gods. I suppose that when Inca imperial power started to be destroyed, this construction lost its ceremonial importance. In a room close to the top of the complex I found a strange hidden walk. Without knowing where it would take me, I decided to follow it. Initially I didn’t have intention to walk a lot, however I realized that the panoramic view was better in each step I went. Therefore I continued walking until I saw I beautiful view of the sacred valley, some minutes I stayed astonished seeing the marvelous image of the valley. As if that were not enough, I saw the train to Machupicchu crossing the valley from afar. I continued in a zigzag trekking , and 25 minutes later I got a ruins that were not mentioned in my book, they seems ceremonial due to the form of the doors and also a strategic spot to have a panoramic view of the valley. From this place you can see all Ollantaytambo town, Urubamba river and the valley. Definitively it is an excellent place to rest, to read, to stay in peace. I loved the loneliness of this place. After 20 minutes lain back on the mountain watching the blue sky, I decided to read something about this strange fortress. I was one of few places where conquistadors lost a mayor battle. Hernando Pizarro (Francisco Pizarro’s brother) tried to capture Manco Inca. Pizarro’s men were showered with arrows and spears from fortress’ top and were unable to climb to it. They were further hampered when Manco Inca flooded the plain below the fortress through previously prepared channels. The Spaniards’ horses were bogged down in the water. They had to retreat. But, this victory was short; soon after, strengthened Spanish forces returned with a quadrupled cavalry force and Manco Inca fled to his jungle strong-hold in Vilcabamba. When I read this I could imagine all this episode. It is the best form to understand the history: in the place where the facts happened. It was not only a war of two bands, but also a war of two cultures; both were brave and courageous. I like to think that I have something from each one.
After one hour I this place I met with a person from Italy. He helped me with the pictures and in the coming back to the base of the fortress showed me a silhouette of an inka in the big mountain in front of me. Very interesting….a good end to finish my visit. Definitely I will return to this place someday, I don’t know when, maybe, in fourteen years.