Monthly Archives: February 2017

Back in Ollantaytambo

We left La Falda a month ago today, taking the reverse of the journey described here, with the difference that we spent a night on the bus, a night in Humahuaca (in northern Argentina), then a night on the train followed by a bus to La Paz from Oruro.

It was a bit surreal to be back in La Paz as tourists after having lived there for five months last year. We stayed at the Adventure Brew Hostel, where we had stayed for 10 days back in 2012, in part to see the city from a different center point. We did the things we needed to: stopping by the university for last logistics, dropping off a borrowed phone and saying thanks and so long for now to the good folks at the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund who helped us settle in and find a place for Anna and Zeke at the Los Amigos school. We didn’t manage to have api and bunuelo or say hello to Dona Marcela at our neighborhood store or ride the teleferico one more time. But we think we will be back in La Paz.

After two days, we headed for Copacabana and the Peruvian border.

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Duck boat at Copacabana on Lake Titicaca

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Lake Titicaca

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Walking into Peru

It was a familiar journey, having done the reverse in 2012. It is rarely bad for a bus to arrive early, but our overnight bus got into Cusco at 4:30am, an hour before we were told it would. We had just resigned ourselves to waiting at least for daylight before finding a taxi when a woman came up and told us about a hostel for 80 soles (about $25) a night. Now I wouldn’t normally recommend getting a hostel from a stranger in a bus station, but we didn’t commit to taking it, and she said we could go there and check in now, at 4:30am. So we did, and the Hostal Milenio was a bit rundown, but clean enough and it felt good to sleep horizontally for a few hours.

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Zeke with Wawa at Casa de Wow

We spent two nights there before heading to Ollantaytambo and the Casa de Wow, a sweet hostel we spend a few weeks at in 2012. Three and a half weeks later (with a 2-day gap), we are still here, and we think we will make it our base for the next few months. Ollantaytambo is known as the “Living Inca City”; on this street are many houses with the famous slanted doorways; inside, instead of a museum or shop, there is laundry hanging and chickens in the courtyard. In 2012 I wrote hereOllantaytambo is charmed; we still think so. We realize that in February 2012 we were still recovering from the car accident in January, and we didn’t explore outside of town all that much. This time around, we are. There are the famous Inca structures just above town (that cost lots of money to get into) but there are free things with hardly anyone else around all over. These last photos are from a recent hike to ruins above the famous ruins.

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A run from Ollantaytambo

Five years ago I wrote a post with this title, describing one of my first runs at altitude. Here’s another one; same town, different run.

At 7 this morning it was still cloudy and a cool-for-summer 60 degrees or so. I walked the block from our house to the creek, stretching my sleepy legs. I headed south, turned right, took, the one lane bridge across the creek, and wound past the school, the soccer field, and west out of town. A few dogs lifted their heads as I went by, and there was some barking, but none chased me this morning. Just before the little village west of town, I turned left on the dirt road and headed toward the river, but before reaching it I went left again along another dirt road, the one that parallels the railroad tracks. I had to wait for a short train at the crossing, but went on past the train station to where the road is squeezed between the hill and tracks on the left and the river on the right. The cars and trucks passing me threw up roostertails of dust, but thankfully there weren’t many this early. I passed another one-lane bridge, this one crossing the river, and continued east to where the dirt road along the river meets the main road. I crossed the tracks, a little ahead of another train, and made a hard left to take the main road back into town. Running a little past the house to warm down, I ran into my friend Ben and talked and walked back the other way with him for a few minutes before coming home. 4.3 miles, 39 minutes.

As I reread this, it seems like it could take place in rural Indiana, but we’re in Ollantaytambo, Peru, in the sacred valley between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo was the town where Inka nobles and priests live, and unlike Machu Picchu and other places, people still live here. You can see the famous Inka stonework in slanted doorways, with chickens in the courtyard inside. The house is the Casa de Wow, one of the sweetest hostels we found on our 2012 trip. The run out of town passes beneath the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, which is swarming with tourists most days. Along the road are a few piedras cansadas – tired stones, ones that didn’t make it to the site before the Spanish conquest. The train that goes by is the crazy-expensive tourist train to Machu Picchu. Several pass each day; oddly, their horns make me think of Shoals, the town in southern Indiana where my parents live.

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