Where Mor­tals Feared to Tread

Let's Travel - - BEYOND | PERU -

Ol­lan­tay­tambo, in the Sa­cred Val­ley of the In­cas, is one of those Peru­vian towns you im­me­di­ately recog­nise as hav­ing good vibes. It hap­pened as our group crossed the busy, colour­ful square and sin­gle-lane rick­ety bridge to find our ac­com­mo­da­tion. How­ever, as much as the town in­trigued me, I was by now se­ri­ously trou­bled with stom­ach cramps and di­ar­rhea that had started as we de­parted Cusco, leav­ing me weak and with a hot and cold fever. In the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon I went to bed and stayed there un­til the next day – a full 17 hours.

Ear­lier our group had stopped in the town of Shio on the way to Ol­lan­tay­tambo, where we were in­vited into the court­yard of a lo­cal house where all the women weave and dye llama and sheep wool. The demon­stra­tion was pre­sented by one of two teenage sis­ters whose English was ex­tremely good; she even cracked a few (in)ap­pro­pri­ate sheep jokes. As she ex­plained, all the tra­di­tional de­signs and tech­niques are passed down from mother to daugh­ter – and if you’re won­der­ing – they were all of a sim­i­lar short stature and looked alike. Tra­di­tions are strong, and like all be­fore them, their pat­terns are com­mit­ted to mem­ory, with dyes sourced from noth­ing but plants, leaves, seeds, cac­tus bee­tles and black corn.

In Ol­lan­tay­tambo, in the early light of a Peru­vian morn­ing I slipped out of the Ho­tel Tika Wasi alone, still feel­ing del­i­cate and with slight stom­ach cramps, and into a side en­trance of the town’s nearby Inca ru­ins. It was al­most de­serted as I wan­dered alone through pre-Inca and Inca ru­ins dat­ing back more than 500 years. As the Inca Em­pire ex­panded it be­came nor­mal for the In­cas to build ad­ja­cent to or on the foun­da­tions of pre-Inca build­ings.

Af­ter break­fast our as­sem­bled group headed off on a steep, rub­ble strewn trail hik­ing up to the roof­less

Machu Pic­chu

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