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The train ride from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is magnificent. It descends along the Urubamba River and with its large windows one can enjoy amazing views of the valley, small villages and farms as well as glimpses of several mountains in the majestic Andes. The waiters serve drinks and snacks and offer to sell a range of Machu Picchu related souvenirs. The journey passes in a heartbeat as you scramble from one side of the train in order not to miss the ever changing scenes of horses drinking in the river, farmers tending crops, children waving, hydro dams, Inca terraces and snow capped wonders.
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL TOWN! I could live here…… Ollyantaytambo is a picturesque town lying at 2800m above sea level, on the Patakancha River, near where it joins the Urumbamba River. It is known for its:
- magnificent archaeological Inca sites
- extensive agricultural terraces on the mountains either side of the valley, all the way down to the river
- the Inca storehouses for grain, with their unique ventilation systems
- quarries of rose rhyolite used for the buildings
- several chullpas: small stone towers used as burial sites in Pre-Hispanic times
- some of the oldest continuously occupied dwellings in South America
- the starting point for the Inca trail
- the train to Machu Picchu
We only spent a couple of hours here but one could spend weeks exploring the various sites.
My birthday was incredible!
Firstly I went on the trek up into the mountains with the second group of students, who were fitter and did not moan every few steps. The day was beautifully clear so we had magnificent views of the mountain range, all the way. We arrived much earlier and being far more acclimatized, once the students were settled in the camp, I ventured further with Baldir, one of the guides. Baldir was keen to investigate an interesting rock face he had spotted so we headed off at a cracking speed. Sadly we had to make the responsible decision to turn back before we reached the glacier, as we did not want to risk it being too dark on our return. However the walk we did was spectacular, even if we did not reach the glacier.
In the morning the guides sang happy birthday to me and we headed back down the valley. Unfortunately a small group of girls were exceptionally slow and I got lumbered with being at the rear of the group. When we finally stumbled into Copa Grande, a surprise awaited me!!
On Saturday morning August 11th I met a large group of grade 8 Markham students at 4:45 am! Not my favourite time of the day! We travelled together to the beautiful mountainous region of Huaraz for an outdoor education adventure (or should I say adventureS). We arrived at a hotel nestled in a valley between the glaciers covered mountains of the Cordillera Blanca and the mountains of Cordillera Negre (the White and Black mountain ranges). The trip there took 8 hours through some striking and diverse scenery. Ranging from lush green sugar cane fields to dry, barren hills, multi-coloured squares of drying chillis, vast open plains with white capped mountains towering in the distance.
The outdoor education trip was a 5 day event and I stayed for two of these (with an overlap of one day). That meant I had the great fortune of doing each activity twice, with two different groups of students. The activities included the following:
- Service work (trip 1: river clean up, trip 2 painting a school & tree planting)
- Abseiling in a canyon, including a descent through a waterfall
- A long trek to about 3800m and an overnight camp
- Rock climbing
- White water rafting down the beautiful River Santa
- Mountain biking
Everywhere the scenery was stunning. Many of the “white” mountains are over 6000m and most days we had a clear view of Huascaran, Peru’s highest peak at 6750m.
Below are pictures of the drive ….. plus our stop to buy fruit, followed by the activities with group 1.