Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Ollantaytambo, a small town 60 miles outside Cuzco, deep in the mountains of the Andes with two of my friends. We were super worked to check out the 15th century Incan ruins surrounding the town.
We got there mid afternoon and hurried to the ruins, hoping the rain would hold out for us as we ran around on the terraces. Not so much, as we hurried up to the storage houses for some shelter.
Ok, it wasn’t that bad, as the rain holds nothing compared to what we encountered in the rainforest, so eventually we were all smiles.
Anyhow, the ruins were amazing. There are several sections to the whole area including terracing they used for growing food, storage buildings to store everything they grew, and temples. Let’s start with the food terraces shall we?
The Incans knew how to use the environment to their advantage when it came to growing a variety of foods in Ollantaytambo. These terraces were built at various levels in order to take advantage of the altitudinal gradient to grow products that wouldn’t normally be available. They built walls along the sides in order to block out the wind and rain, but also absorb solar radiation for heat, which was released at nighttime, creating a micro climate 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer. How cool is that?!
They even had stairs that led between the levels that made it look like we were floating. I had fun taking pictures of my friends doing so! Floating people!
In an effort to conserve the food they grew on the terraces they built huge store houses along the mountain sides even higher up and more exposed to the wind. They created what scientists think is a ventilation system to keep the products inside cool and away from decaying with the sun.
Do you see the buildings on that mountain side? That is where they kept all their food. They even had some of them dedicated to grain, acting like a dispenser in which all new grain went in one end and the older stuff out to be used at that time. So cool!
The South and East side of the area was where the temples were being built. When I say were it’s because they were never finished, as something interrupted them, quite possibly a war of some sort. But they also believe they were being renovated, so who knows!
The rock walls were amazing to say the least. The way they fit into each other perfectly, like a jigsaw puzzle, was just breathtaking. I couldn’t get over how articulate they were and how much time it must have taken them to work on each individual rock. I’m sure weathering over time has made them as smooth as they are and fit when better, but still, fantastic!
The North part of the ruins is the funerary, which to us looked like a bunch of outlined buildings, but with some great falcons in the area! Yeah for birds!
I’m simply amazed are this place and how it has stayed preserved over the years. The things and way of life here over 500 years ago must have been amazing. When it was first built, or rebuilt I should say, since Emperor Pachacuti hazed it then built new buildings and areas, it was to be a royal estate for him outside of Cuzco. It was built along a road that eventually leads up to Machu Piccu further into the mountains.
I really enjoyed my visit here and my friends and I had a blast. I’ll recap some of the food we ate in town, which was quite delicious, and even one as a supporter of aiding impoverished Andean communities and children!