Bloody Incas And Their Bloody Hills

There were six more ruins left on my boleto turístico. I managed three which isn’t bad going really considering the travel time involved, the fact that some of them require extra effort to get to once you get to the nearest town and that all this getting out of bed to an alarm clock was starting to distress me and you wouldn’t want me to get all distressed now would you? Hmm? I sweat in an unpleasant manner when I’m distressed and anyway, I was off on the Inca Trail on Monday. This was all just practice for the main event, Machu Picchu, the holy grail of Peruvian ruins. I didn’t need to tick these off my list because after Machu Picchu the list would be irrelevant and… Oh whatever. I’m lazy and we all know it. I digress.

So yesterday I bussed up to Pisaq, or Pisac, take your pick, and stood at the market gazing up at the big hill I’d have to walk up to get to the ruins themselves. Always up a fucking hill. After some asking around I ascertained that no, there wasn’t a bus, no, no one knew if there was a colectivo but there were lots of taxis willing to take anyone up the winding road. I finally caved and caught a cab up, my poor wee heart wouldn’t have been able to take that climb so my poor wee wallet took the brunt of it.

One of the ways I glean information without forking out for a guide is by latching onto other small groups and pretending to take photos whilst I eavesdrop. It was with this technique that I learnt that they weren’t the Incas at all. Only one man at a time ever bore that title and that was the leader. Inca is the Quechua word for ruler or lord. The rest of the people were the Quechua people. He also said that it was never called the Inca Empire until the Spanish rocked up, the empire was known as the Tawantinsuyo which means something like “four corners” or “four districts.” Four of something anyways. Damn this is an informative blog, I await my inclusion in the national curriculum.

Pisaq is a pretty cool ruin though, much better than that Tambourine effort or what ever it’s known as and that pile of rubble next to Saqsaywamán. With it’s striking agricultural terraces, it stretches out through a tunnel carved into the rock and you can walk from the main entrance where the taxi drops you right through to a footpath that leads you back to the town. I bumped into a guy on the way who claimed to be a shaman and wanted to play music for me and sacrifice a coca leaf at the claw of the condor. And what condor would that be? you may ask. The shape the town of Pisaq is in of course. Whilst Cusco forms the shape of a puma if you tilt the map just right and ignore most of it and don’t attempt to superimpose it over the image of an actual puma, Pisaq is in the shape of a condor. Apologies for the cynicism. I can’t get a condor out of that whatever way I turn it. I love the ruins though, they’re spectacular and the backdrop is awesome too, very much worth the visit.

Aaaand off I went to Ollantaytambo which took me forever to learn how to say and fuck me backwards it’s a stunning ride through El Valle Sagrado, the mountains are amazing. It’s like New Zealand on steroids. Once in the town of Ollantaytambo the ruins are only a short walk away, even I can handle that. You’re confronted by the terraces which you make your way up for a view of the town. Up. It’s not even that far but it knocked the wind out of me.

Stood at the bottom of Ollantaytambo looking up.

What is it with Incas and building everything up a fucking hill? Were they showing off? Were they sniggering to themselves as they packed the cranes and bulldozers away going, “They’re gonna melt their brains wondering how we got up here.” They’re going to kill me at this rate, death by Inca ruin. I wonder how many people have stood on the top of a hill overlooking a breathtaking vista made all the more awe inspiring by the crumbling remains of a once great citadel panting, “Fucking Incas.”

All those steps mean you’re certainly aware of your legs once you’re up here.

It’s another one that’s worth a visit though, it’s fabulous but that was it for me that day. I’d already gotten caught in the rain once and it’d be getting dark soon so I headed back to Cusco before one of the street vendors found a crack in my resolve in my tired, weakened state and managed to get me to buy a handmade bracelet I didn’t want or need.

The following day I intended to visit two ruins; Moray and Chinchero. First stop would be Moray, you have to get a bus to Urubamba, get off at the turn off to Maras, jump in a colectivo to Maras itself then decide if your legs or your pocket would be paying for the trip to la ruinas. There’s not too much uphill involved so I walked it and it’s another nice walk. There aren’t many things around here that aren’t nice, scenery wise. In fact the word “nice” becomes a bit redundant where the Sacred Valley is concerned but I’m running out of descriptive words.

Mountain views. Not an awful thing to put in your eyeholes whilst strolling between ruins.

Moray is also cool, there isn’t a ruined city or anything like that, it’s just concentric circles of agricultural terraces. You get up and down via stones jutting out of the wall and to this day you can still use these steps to get up and down the terraces. It’s a cool place to just hang out as a group of gringo hippies in various states of meditation proved. And it’s a good place to play volleyball as a group Peruvians down in the bowl showed us. I honestly think it’d make an awesome place for a rave, put the DJ in the middle and have the partiers play on the terraces. It’d be sweeeeet.

Moray agricultural terraces. For scale, there are tiny humans to the left of the photo sat in the rectangle. You can also see the stones jutting out of the side of the terrace walls which are used as steps.

So once again the rain started to move in and I didn’t fancy getting caught in it. I also really couldn’t be arsed to go check out Chinchero ay. I just wanted to get back to Cusco and hang out, make sure I had everything sorted for Monday, do my usual pack, unpack, pack, unpack thing. After blagging a lift back to Moras with an American couple who had a private guide I headed home thinking about trek that lay ahead with one thought sticking in my mind: If Ollantaytambo and scrambling about the terraces at Moray winded me, fucking hell, the Inca Trail was going to actually kill me!

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np

Cusco, Peru
Stayed at: Yamanyá Backpackers (2019 Update: According to Google this place is permanantly closed)

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