Ollantaytambo, Peru

April 6 – 9, 2019

Originally, when planning this Refresh trip, we were going to stay in Buenos Aires for a couple of months with 1 or 2 side trips during that time. Pedja was unsure about moving too much with 3 kids, and he insisted we experience one place in South America in a bit more depth. However, after one dinner out with friends and Pedja’s conversation with my lovely Ginny, he softened up a bit, just enough for me to feel like I have his agreement to squeeze in a few more things in our South American itinerary.

Starting with our original plan of staying in 1-3 places during the first 2 months of our travel, we ended up staying in 13 different beds and, in the second month, moved 9 times through 4 different countries:
1 – Uruguay
2 – Peru: Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley), Aguas Caliantes (Machu Picchu) and Cusco,
3 – Ecuador: historical Quito, Galapagos (Island of Santa Cruz) , Mindo, north Quito, and;
4 – Colombia: Bogota.

That is Pedja’s main complaint about me – I overdo whatever I do, I try to squeeze in as much as possible from whatever we agree on. I stay within our agreement but gosh darn it, I maximize the heck out of it.

This past month has been busy but we both agree it has been a lot more energizing than exhausting. Even though we have not stayed a lot of days in many places, we feel that we got a good feel of the places we’ve seen. Even though, we would have certainly liked to stay a lot longer in each place (except Quito), we both feel that this was planned out perfectly well for our family. Kids were amazing and had no issues with moving around every few days. We are packed well so it’s easy to keep track of our things and pack quickly to move from one location to another. We were also lucky that in many places we could utilize laundry service where we would drop of a bag of clothes and, within a few hours, we would get everything back washed and nicely folded, usually costing us $5-10 per a large batch of clothes. Overall, we’ve had some great days and some exhausting, not productive times.

I am seriously feeling sad that our South American tour is coming to an end in the next few days. It has been a lot warmer (emotionally) and inviting than I expected. I will miss great food, fresh squeezed fruits, happy people, perfect weather, the excitement of being in some of the most amazing world wonders. I loved hearing – and super slowly learning – Spanish for the past 2 months. I now wish to that we could spend half of our year down here some place. Our Refresh year is going by so quickly. The first 2 (out of 18) months are already behind us!!!

When I sat down to write this post, it was supposed to be just about Peru. But then, it’s me, I don’t know how to say anything with only a few words, so you got an intro equivalent to a transcript of my thought process.
To get back to my original intent, this is a post about Peru – Part 1.
We experienced Peru in 3 parts – first spending 3 days in Ollantaytambo, then 2 nights in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) and then 3 more days in Cusco.
Planning our stay in Peru turned out to be more mind boggling than I expected.

There is so much information out on the Internet but it was all overwhelming for me and it did not make a lot of sense. I’m the planner in this family and I have been the one that got us all the tickets, made all the reservations, picked the locations, looked into local activities, etc. I gotta say that planning our time in Peru was the most confusing of all. We were really lucky that I planned it as well as I did.

This is the gist of it.

Our focus of our time in Peru was Machu Picchu. We knew that we wouldn’t have time to have a longer stop over in Lima. I wish we did but c’est la vie. In order to get to Machu Picchu, we flew into Cusco, Peru. Since most folks are not used to such a high altitude, it is recommended to spend the first few days in Sacred Valley (lower altitude than Cusco). Sacred Valley is a large enough area that we could have chosen one of 4+ smaller towns in that area.

After seeing that area for a few days, both Pedja and I were in agreement that we lucked out by choosing to stay in Ollantaytambo.

Our time in Ollantaytambo included:

1 – Visit to theOllantaytambo ruins. To entice Nikola to climb up the long stairs up the ruins, he and I counted every step up we covered. By the end of our visit, we climbed up/down over 660 steps. That’s a big accomplishment for him, especially considering the high altitude.

2 – Petra, Pedja, Maksim and I did another hike up a steep hill on the opposite side from the ruins. We met a dog along the way that followed us for the whole challenging hike up to the ruins.

3 – A day trip that included a drive through the Sacred Valley seeing salt mines and another archeological site called Moray. Nina temporarily passed out at the salt mines (from the altitude). He warned me by saying ‘My legs are twitching’ and then I could see in his eyes that he was passing out. It didn’t last long, 10+ seconds and by that time we had an American missionary working in Peru jumping up to help us, offering Nina a chair, some water, local chocolate. All ended well.

4 – Petra and I decided to climb via ferrata (protected climbing route) in Ollantaytambo that was 1000 ft/300 m high. I am usually not afraid of heights so I thought I would be fine doing this climb. Boy was I challenged by keeping my fears in check and completing this probably most daring activity I’ve ever done. Petra, on the other hand, she was the leader of our group, she encouraged me to not think about how high we were above ground (only attached to the mountain with 2 ropes and nothing under us), to just keep going and find it within me to enjoy our accomplishment. To give you some perspective, Eifel tower is 300 meters high, Space Needle is half as tall. 1000 feet/300 meters – that’s freaking high, especially when there is NOTHING under you. We could hardly see people, they seemed smaller than ants. In the past, I’ve seen adventure travel photos on Instagram of some Airpods (hotel rooms on the side of the mountain) but never really thought I would see them in real life, let alone climb right above them with a guide that left us for a bit to go replenish supplies for the guests staying in them. And as an inspiration for this adventure, we gotta thank my lovely sister Dragana who did a much more challenging via ferrata in Switzerland last year. She motivated us to try this, thinking “it can’t be that bad, we will be connected to the mountain at all times”. Yeah right! I was definitely way out of my comfort zone, experiencing fear of heights I didn’t’ think I had. Petra was my rock!!!

5 – We tried new fruits in Peru and Petra was, once again, our leader in this quest. She would go to the market to find new (to us) types of fruits and then we would all have to try it. Her favorite was granadillas.

From Ollantaytambo, we took a train to Aguas Calientes. When I planned this part of our travel, I am not sure why it was so hard to figure out the typical way of travel between these locations. I couldn’t figure out if we could hire a car/van, if we should take a train (that in comparison to other prices in Peru seemed outrageously expensive), or if we could possibly hike it (even with kids). All in all, we took the train to Aquas Caliente (car/van is not an option) and we were again lucky to choose Inka Rail instead of Peru Rail because it was a high-class experience. I’ll end this post with this and dedicate the next one to Machu Picchu itself.

We highly recommend staying in Ollantaytambo as a first stop when visiting Machu Picchu and our simple but nice accommodations were just fine and inexpensive. We didn’t experience much of altitude sickness. Pedja felt some headaches and was lightheaded so he took the meds but the rest of us were fine, except that one short episode with Nina.

All in all, the first part of our Peru trip was more than we expected, challenging my comfort zone, with the via ferrata climb, but mostly feeling blessed to be experiencing things at all the wonderful sites/foods/people that we only dreamed of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s