Ollantaytambo is a pleasant town situated in the Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley) of the Rio Urubamba. Although its only 15km north of Cuzco, it took us about 3 hours to get there - 1 hour waiting for 2 more people to share a taxi and the next two zig-zagging up one side of the valley and down the other!
Although the main attraction is the huge Inca fortress that overlooks the town, we took our time exploring the narrow cobblestone streets that have been inhabited since the 13th century. The time was well spent because we came away with a few bargains ... some tapestries and a small painting direct from a street artist. We were glad that we didn't rush into making any purchases in Cuzco because here everything was a lot cheaper. To top it off, we had a 'menu del dia' in a small restaurant packed to the brim with locals and it was the best meal we had since arriving in Peru!
We spent the rest of the day exploring the steep terraced Inca citadel which had a dual purpose as a fort and a temple. It is one of the few places where the Spanish lost a mayor battle when the Incas showered the invading intruders with rocks and flooded the plains below. As for the temple, there is a large finely crafted stone ceremonial area at the top of the terraces. How the Incas got the massive stones up there is mind boggling. The stone was quarried from the mountainside 6km away on the opposide side of the river valley and then transported to the site for shaping and construction. The surviving examples of Inca architecture are just as amazing as the transportation feat! Inca stonework is so precise that stones fit together like pieces of a puzzle making mortar unnecessary. The lack of mortar allows stones to move independently during an earthquake. Not only that, but the stones were irregularly shaped with many angles so that they would fall back into their proper place once an earthquake subsided. Kinda makes you wonder what modern day architects spend their time doing!
Next stop was the eagerly awaited Machu Pichhu, so it was off to the train station for the scenic journey up to Aguas Calientes.