Lima to Cusco to Ollantaytambo
Wednesday October 30, 2013
By John, edited by Lois
Wednesday morning we got up at 5 AM to pack and hopefully get some breakfast at our hotel. Turns out all we could get was a cup of tea to wash down one of our granola bars. Lois got a tangerine. The guide picked us up at 6:30 and we made it to the airport before 7:30 for our 9:30 flight. Unfortunately the plane was so over sold we were booked on the next flight which left at 9:50 AM. This gave us time for a breakfast sandwich at a small café in the Lima airport. The flight left on time and we landed in Cusco about 11 AM. Cusco is at 11,000 feet, so I was happy we were not staying there. We drove out over a small pass and descended into the Sacred Valley, elevation 8500 feet.
Along the way we stopped to see some Inca ruins at Pisac, which gave us a chance to walk around a bit and test our lungs. Because we have a private guide, we could walk at our pace which was great. Our guide Max, immediately let us know that we could do what we wanted at the pace we wanted. Our car is a large minivan so there plenty of room for our stuff, the guide and the driver Marco. What we are learning on this trip is that there were significant civilizations before the Incas, and that there are many more Inca sites than just Machu Picchu. After another hour in the van, we stopped at Urubamba at El Hucatay restaurant.
Since it was about 2:30 PM, we were hungry. I ordered alpaca in some unusual sauce, and Lois ordered chicken with apples and pears, plus risotto. Little did we know that the main courses would come after four other courses plus soup! First came some fresh bread with a tomato spread and an herb spread, then empenadas stuffed with vegetables (maybe pumpkin) with a vegetable pasta and a yummy yellow sauce. Next came some thinly sliced roasted alpaca, that was pretty rare (it tasted like rare beef). It was heavily seasoned, and served with rye toast wedges. Next came some potato dumplings filled with cheese, and a scoop of tomato gelato which was sensational! After that we had a two cup serving of quinoa soup that contained a whole egg and vegetables. At this point the three of us had had more than enough to eat. But the main courses then arrived! They were great, but I couldn't eat more than a third of mine. Finally they brought dessert. Each of us had something different and delicious, but it was too much. Today at lunch we told Max that next time they should just skip the main course.
From Urubamba we drove to our hotel in Ollantaytambo. This is Max's home town, so he knows everyone. This came in handy when Lois needed a repair done on the seam of one of her pairs of pants. He knew just where to go – cost US $1.50.
We are doing pretty well with the altitude. We get out of breath climbing more than 10 stairs, but that is to be expected. A few days of acclimatization and some pills and coca tea cannot be expected to undo 50 years of the aging process. On Friday we go to Machu Picchu which is about 1,000 feet lower than Ollantaytambo, so I expect we will not have too much difficulty there.