Looking for Ollantaytambo: Knowing Peru’s most significant Incan ruins site

In the interiors of Peru, the past is casually intertwined with the present, and the magnificent with the mundane.

Written by Charukesi Ramadurai

In Peru, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a protected archaeological park. The stone may turn out to be a priceless pre-Incan relic too, so you need to be really careful of what you pick up.

But I couldn’t really complain because this was mainly what I had gone to Peru for. Indeed, walking through the ruins of Machu Picchu, the Incan citadel that had stayed hidden for several centuries, had been the highlight of my trip. But I was all ruin’d out by the end of that long day and ready for the other faces that Peru was willing to reveal to me.

My hotel was in the picturesque little town of Urubamba, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, right by the river of the same name. Located between the two UNESCO heritage sites of Machu Picchu and Cusco, Urubamba had served as the perfect gateway to Machu Picchu, allowing me to acclimatise to the altitude. And my trusty, old guidebook had assured me that apart from the host of ancient Inca monuments, the Sacred Valley had several other attractions. So, one morning, I set off to explore the region, starting with Chinchero.

Among other things, Chinchero has a weekly market where villagers still barter goods; a dozen eggs in exchange for two litres of milk, anyone? In fact, I was hoping to see someone coming to the market with a llama and going back home with an alpaca instead. Sadly, that was not to be, since it was not a market day. But I did come face-to-face with an alpaca — a dozen actually — soon after I entered the traditional weaving centre. There they were, having a breakfast of shoots and leaves, posing patiently for selfies with visitors.

Chinchero was known to the Incas as the birthplace of the rainbow, and I managed to catch some of those colours at the weaving centre. Right in the middle of the open courtyard, four women sat around a pole, chatting amongst themselves in Quechua, as they continued weaving table runners with incredible speed.

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