So, if the ancient and well-preserved town of Ollantaytambo were not reason enough to visit, then you have two sets of ruins on either side. The most famous one, Temple Hill (Araqhama), requires a tourist ticket (you're better off buying one for the whole region of Cusco, as individually paying for each site becomes ridiculously expensive). Now, as you'll read ahead, we really liked this place. But it was also having to face the reality of Peru at peak time: unless you made it to the sites right at opening time, you faced thick throngs of tourists, everywhere. I mean, why not? The place is amazing! But we did kind of miss the solitude we had found, say, in Scotland.
But with that little caveat aside, the ruins, like I said – fantastic. Of course, right inside you had a few llama roaming around...
And once you started climbing you reached a number of structures featuring the characteristic Inca pattern of irregular shapes, a super tight fit, slanted lines... The first photo below is from the Temple of the Sun, from its Six Monolith Wall.
The ruins sit on the hill, so you basically follow paths around the hill to reach all the sites, a tour which offers more views of the town below, of the valley, of the other ruins... Beautiful (did I say beautiful too many times already?).
Another telltale architectural style were the terraces, used for growing food, and which give the valley a very curious appearance.
We walked as far as we could away from the entrance, and we came across this small area with a pyramid-like structure, many terraces below us, very few people, and very strong gusts of wind. Of course, I had to suggest the habib he do some Butoh here, right? It was perfect! And we spent some time taking photos and video. Yay!
Once we were done, we walked back to the Temple of the Sun to watch the sunset. That was sort of against the rules, going back. Given how many tourists visit the ruins, the flow is supposed to go just one way so, once you leave a point, you're supposed to go on or get off the ruins and go back up again if you want to revisit. But that seemed just way too annoying and restrictive. So we did go against the flow – though very respectfully and carefully, quite aware that wasn't the prescribed way of doing it.
And it was so worth it. We had more views of the valley below, and the way the sun's rays streaked through was beautiful (ha! another beautiful, gotta get hold of a lexicon...). The habib and me have seen plenty of sunsets at special places. This was another one.
And yet, that wasn't it! When we came down we realized there were also things to see at the base of the hills! So we walked around, with still enough sunlight (the way the valley was shaped meant that we could see the sunset from above and still have sunlight below) and simply marvelled at the obsessiveness with which the Inca carved stone. Steps, shapes, handles... They really loved working with it, in such a simple yet pleasing way... Oh, and fountains. Also, never completely symmetrical, letting just small streams of water to run through... I really liked the Inca aesthetics!
That, of course, was enough for a day. But then there were these very curious ruins on the opposite side... ruins that didn't require a ticket for some reason... So we promised we'd climb there (Pikuylluna) next day!
Climbing to Pinkuylluna can't be considered dangerous, I think, but it does require a bit of stamina, and good knees! Lots of steep steps, and views of what always look like a long and painful fall... But the views of the ruins and the valley are so rewarding! It seems these used to be storehouses. If so, that shows how valuable grain was, right? Hoarding it up there, so hard to reach?
Anyhow, I was simply mesmerized by the view. And once you got there, you could explore all levels and walk the hallways!
This being a much harder climb, and with way less advertising than the other ruins, it was also way less visited. The light, the setting... Naturally, my habibi took out some items, gave me some instructions, and started another Butoh improvisation.
We spent quite some time there, me taking photos and videos of the habib. It was just such a natural spot for doing Butoh! And after that, like at the other ruins, more sunset views of the valley...
And like at the other ruins, where we still had sunlight even after watching the sunset. Here we watched the sun setting, from atop the ruins. And then we walked down, and we could see the sun again! So we experienced a second sunset! Now that's something, eh? Two sunsets in a single day?
Fantastic ruins. Really. And were this not enough, there were still a couple of places not far from Ollanta, which we did visit, and which offered more unique images...