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Fri: Ollantaytambo (continued)

Ollantaytambo is a nice place to arrive at. The ruins on the hillsides are breathtaking, and the tourists gape in amazement that anyone should appear from nowhere by bike. We arrived around lunchtime and checked into the new and comfortable Hotel Pakaritampu.

We spent the afternoon wandering around town.

Sat: Machu Picchu

We made the obligatory trip on the tourist train.
The Sacred Valley Railway now runs from Urubamba and we’d expended a lot of effort trying to get tickets. They weren’t sold by the tour operators in Cusco, and the office there isn’t open to the public. We’d tried at Urubamba and found the station unmanned (and finding the station was an epic in itself). When we arrived in Ollantaytambo we tried to buy tickets and were told to come back on the day of travel. We did so – early – and got the last 2 seats.

The train ride is very enjoyable and Machu Picchu worth seeing. Aguas Calientes is a bit of a dump. The bus to the site climbs the Peruvian equivalent of the Alpe d’Huez. (Frédéric Ferchaux has a photo.)

Sun: Ollantaytambo – Huilloc – Yucay (65 km, 1500 m of ascent)

Market day
at Huilloc

There’s a dirt track up the beautiful valley north of Ollantaytambo which we used for a morning’s excursion. The route is fairly obvious. It crosses to the true right bank of the stream early on and back to the left. About 5 km from Ollantaytambo a bad track to the left climbs to the Inca ruins at Pumamarca: we left it for the return journey. First we continued up the valley to Huilloc which was enjoying its Sunday market, an unselfconscious and picturesque affair. We rode on further, decided we had seen all we were going to see, and freewheeled back down. Colin took a nasty fall.

The track to Pumamarca is steep and tiring. The site itself is reasonably interesting but by no means stunning.

We returned to Ollantaytambo for a late lunch and some repairs to Colin. Then we picked up our bags and sped along the Sacred Valley to Yucay.

Mon: Yucay – Pisac (59 km, 650 m (including trip to ruins))

The dirt track on the south side of the Sacred Valley provides an alternative to the main road. Peter Frost calls it pleasant but it’s vile. We bailed out at Coya.

The main square of Pisac is attractive, with a market in the middle and hotels and restaurants facing in. We stayed at the Royal Inka a little out of town: the old parts are nice but the rooms are drab.

For the afternoon we cycled up to the ruins which are extensive and spectacular. Tracey devoured a family-sized pizza in the Hotel Pisac in the evening. This was a PB.




Hotel Pisac


Royal Inka

Tues: Shopping expedition to Cusco (70 km, 1350 m)

The surfaced road to Cusco is hugely enjoyable. An invigorating climb takes you through Corao to the Puerto San Martin, and Tambo Machay is only a couple of km further on.

Best of all is the helter-skelter descent on the return trip. As we whizzed through Corao we saw a couple of mountain bikers coming the other way. We stopped to talk and Tracey instantly recognised one of them as Ésteban Cortez, a colleague of Omar’s whose mug graces his book.

Weds: Rest day

We sat around Pisac.

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