Monday, July 9, 2012

A Journey of a Lifetime ( Part 3 ) Urubamba and Ollantaytambo ruins

After breakfast the next day --- we checked out of our hotel and headed out for the airport with the tour group. We flew to Cusco ( 2 hour flight ) and then took an hour bus ride to Urubamba. It was a pleasant day --- the weather was sunny and the temperature was not cold. Jesus advised us to bring our jackets ---- just in case the temperature dropped when we get to Urubamba. Traveling during the winter months in Cusco ( June till end of August ) can be very unpredictable. You can have perfect weather in the morning then the temperature starts to cool down around 4:00 pm. It gets very cold in the evenings --- you will need to turn on the heater in your hotel room.

Urubamba is the largest town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.  It is regarded as a good location to go to in order to acclimate yourself to the elevation to prevent altitude sickness. The altitude of Urubamba is approximately 9000 feet above sea level.

While on the bus, Jesus, our tour leader explained to us that since Cusco is 11,000 feet above sea level, we might experience altitude sickness. The symptoms of altitude sickness are: fatigue, severe headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea. He advised us to acclimatize ourselves  by drinking lots of water, walking slowly and when we feel we are out of breath -- we should stop and breathe deeply. 

There are some remedies for altitude sickness which helped Lulu and me throughout this trip. They are:

1. COCA TEA -  this tea is commonly seen in the Andes region. Coca tea acts as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, headache, hunger, and thirst. It is considered particularly effective against altitude sickness. 

Jesus warned us that we should not take Coca Tea after 4 pm because it contains high level of caffeine which will cause insomnia, and it also acts as a diuretic which may cause problems when we go on long bus rides. The maximum intake of Coca tea should be 4 cups a day. 

2. AGUA FLORIDA - I personally prefer this remedy than drinking coca tea. Put a few drops on your palms and rub them together. Put your nose between your palms and inhale deeply ... one whiff of this relieves you of your headache immediately!!

3. COCA LEAVES steeped in hot water for 10 minutes and  drink as tea. You need 2 - 3 pieces of coca leaves per cup of hot water.

We were booked at San Agustin Hotel. I was surprised to find out that our hotel, San Agustin, was formerly a monastery that was transformed into a hotel. I liked it! It was a very nice, homey looking hotel at the foot of the mountains. As we entered the hotel lobby --- we had our first taste of  Coca Tea. 

In the morning, we saw a great view of the surrounding mountains. The grounds are picturesque and had beautiful flowers which decorated the pathways to the dining area. They were filling up the pool when we arrived but it was a bit too cold when we arrived so I never saw anyone use it.

The lobby was spacious and they had  endless servings of coca tea  most of the time which I found very helpful for people who suffered from altitude sickness.  I would recommend Hotel San Agustin as an ideal place to stay between Cusco and Machu Picchu.

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy ) 

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy )

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy ) 

After checking in our hotel -- the group, together with our tour leader, went to Ollantaytambo to visit the Inca ruins. 

Ollantaytambo is an Inca archaeological site which has an altitude of 9,160 feet above sea level -- (it is higher than Machu Picchu and lower than Cusco). It is a massive citadel which served as both a temple and a fortress located in the Sacred Valley. It looked like it was carved along the sides of the mountain. The citadel of Ollantaytambo was the first of the ruins that we visited and it’s one of the only Inca settlements that is still inhabited. The current village is built right on top of the original stone foundations and it’s really amazing to see how well everything is still preserved. 

As we entered the complex a lot of questions entered my head... "How were such titanic blocks of stone brought to the top of the mountain from the quarries many miles away? How were they able to cut and fit the stones together? How were they raised and put in place?  It was hardly imaginable that all of this should have been done by pure manual work alone." No one knows, no one can even guess.

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy )

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy )

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy )

Inside the Ollantaytambo ruins you will be able to admire the unbelievable construction. Its irrigation systems and aqueducts ( that are still functioning ), huge stone blocks that are perfectly carved and put together thus forming solid walls... and agricultural terraces are seen around the citadel...

We were not able to climb up the citadel due to time constraints and there were a lot of people trying to reach the top. Lulu and I decided to look at the souvenir shops.

Instead of going on an optional tour that night, Lulu and I decided to just stay and have dinner at the hotel and energize ourselves for our hectic schedule the next day... we were visiting the Inca ruins in  Moray and the salt mines of Maras.

Good night.... see you all tomorrow!!!!

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