There’s nothing quite like an expanse of towering mountain ranges and sprawling plains to remind you of the infinitesimal nature of human life. Human solipsism would have us believe that we’re the true masters of the universe and of life on Earth. But when faced with the sheer magnitude of nature and its wonders, it becomes apparently clear how foolish that thought is.
Ollantaytambo was definitely a place that inspired such wonder. And we came across these gorgeous views on our drive to the ancient ruins.
As we approached, it took some squinting for us to spot the ancient site. Like almost everything else, it seemed so at one with the mountains. Almost breathing with it, living as one. You could almost say the colourful history of the Inca will be etched forever on its magnificent ranges.
Armed with a hat (boy, it was sweltering in the afternoons), walking sticks for climbing and some hiking shoes, we were all set to do some exploring.
In the 15th century, Inca Pachacutec conquered and began to rebuild the town of Ollantaytambo. He built these terraces you see here for farming and also, an irrigation system. They make up what’s known locally as Fortress or Temple Hill, and the town became home to ancient nobility.
It might not seem like much, especially from the base of the mountain. But it’s upon climbing that you realise the sheer scale of the terraces. Each one taller than the average man. And as you take the slow climb up to the top, you’ll almost be surprised at how high up you get quite quickly! The view from above was quite something. Many battles were fought here. Even one of the only successful battles against the Spanish conquistadors.
From a height, you get a great vantage point of the whole settlement. Etched into the top left side of the mountain face, you’ll find the ruins of the old store houses built by the Incas known as qollqa. In the compound below, you’ll find alpaca grazing, old storehouses and ceremonial baths once used by Inca nobility.
In case you were wondering, Panama hats or toquila straw hats (like the one I’m wearing here) are very popular in many parts of South America. Although they’re called Panama hats, they actually originated in Ecuador. And you’ll find them many of good quality in Latin America, often woven with the leaves of the toquila palm.
I think I have a huge affinity for alpaca. There’s just something so adorable about them. Especially the baby ones. They were absolutely indispensable in ancient civilisations. They were a great source of warmth (wool!) and food (sadly, yes). And being easily domesticated, was almost the Peruvian equivalent of your trusty house dog.
You could easily hike the few ruins in less than a day. So don’t miss it if you’re on the Inca trail. It may not be the most breathtaking view (I’ll take you to Macchu Pichu soon), but it will definitely set you thinking and marvelling at the brilliance of our ancestors.