Read part one of Brad’s trip to Peru – Trip Preparation: To Plan or Not to Plan?
One morning we woke up in Peru with nothing planned. I offered the idea of horseback riding. It sounded so idyllic, and Shannon sort of knew how to ride horses. She took riding lessons when she was a child, but I’d never been on a horse. I’d seen people doing it though, and it didn’t look that hard.
After a wonderful morning walk and two cups of coffee, we found ourselves outside of a business that had an adventurous-looking sign above its door. A woman said hello and handed us a piece of paper with their options on it. They offered rafting, climbing, horseback riding, and ATV tours. I wanted to ask “Can we take the horseback trip to Pumamarca?” but my Spanish is only slightly better than a 2 year old native speaker. So I cleared my throat and said in my best Spanish “We go in the horses of the mountain?”
The nice woman smiled at me, laughed, and responded in rapid-fire Spanish. I understood one or two words, but not enough to respond to her, so I said “No Se” and just pointed at the picture of the tour we wanted to do.
She made a phone call and asked us to sit down. I understood “2 Horses,” “2 people,” and “one hour.” She hung up the phone and told us to come back an hour later. The stroll back to the hotel was gorgeous. The weather was brisk and sunny, and it doesn’t hurt that Ollantaytambo (Oy-yahn-tai-tahm-bo) is an unbelievably beautiful town. There are jagged, towering mountains on every side, and a river cuts it in half. It’s also framed by two impressive Incan ruins.
On one side is the massive Ollantaytambo fortress. On the other side, several hundred feet above the town sits the smaller Pinkuylluna (pink-ah-yoona). While military and government officials stayed in the fortress, Pinkuylluna probably housed civilians. Like many small towns in Peru, Ollantaytambo was built around its Plaza de Armas. The old part of town is small – only eight blocks or so. The roads are cobblestone and the majority of the businesses and homes have foundations that date back to the Incas. The city was gorgeous, but our destination was two hours northwest.
After a quick stop at the market and our hotel, we headed back to the adventure shop. Our guide, David, knew three words in English: “Left,” “Right,” and “Easy.” That was all of the instruction we received before we were hoisted up onto our horses. We were assured that Torredo and Desplantes were muy tranquillo. We trusted David, strapped on our helmets, and began the two-hour ride to Pumamarca.
The ride was beautiful. The Andes have a way of making you feel insignificant (in a wonderful way). The sheer cliffs and snowcapped peaks were just breathtaking. After two hours of scenic views, Torredo and I arrived at the base of the Pumamarca ruins. I’m not a small man, so I pet Torredo on his neck and thanked him for his strength and bravery. David told us that we’d need to head back in half an hour, so we had a quick snack and started hiking to the top.
There were only a couple of people at the top. We poked around a little, inspecting the precision stonework that the Incas are famous for. The entire complex is about the size of a city block, so it didn’t take us long to soak it all in. After a couple of photos, we hiked back down and got ready for the descent. The ride back was just as stunning, and we were sad to see it. We dismounted and wobbled back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. Sadly, our time in Ollanta was coming to an end. The next day, we packed up and took a two hour taxi to Cusco.
Back to Top
What temple in Thailand is considered the area’s first public university, teaching students everything from religion and science to art and literature?
Click here for the answer to last week’s question: What Mexican university dance program arose from its founder’s love of sculpture and art?
Back to Top
I’m your classic American in love with Paris. In love with the light, the food, the people, the art. I’ve lived there several times and often get asked for my recommendations on what to see and where to go. I love putting these lists together – a bit of the expected and unexpected, the known and unknown. So, dear readers, if I only had one day in Paris, here’s my top 10 list:
1) Visit the Champs Elysees at 7am in the morning when there is no one around. You can look up the avenue from Place de la Porte Maillot to the Arc de Triomphe in the quiet and really soak it in. It’s even better if it’s around Bastille Day (July 14) and they have the huge French flag hanging from it.
2) Walk up the steps of the Metro Opera and turn to see the glorious façade of the Opera Garnier. If you have extra time during your stay, get a box seat to a show mainly so you can stare up at the Chagall ceiling.
3) Have a panoramic lunch at Georges. It’s on the terrace of the Centre Pompidou so you get a quick tour of that on your way to a lazy, beautiful meal.
4) Wander through the ancient Marais district for window shopping and a little time in a dc. Its tiny, winding streets feel much different than a lot of Paris. Read “Haussmann’s Renovation of Paris” for more on this.
5) Visit the Aile Denon at the Louvre. Wander through the Italian Gallery (including Mona Lisa), the large French paintings (read: Delacroix, Gericault) and the stunning Winged Victory of Samothrace at the entrance. The gift shop is definitely worth it.
6) Stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens and people watch. You’ll see small Parisian kids sailing boats in the basin, Sorbonne students sunbathing and you might even catch artists displaying their works.
7) Take a late afternoon walk on the Pont Alexandre III – the most elegant bridge in Paris. You’ll get a wonderful view of the gold dome of Invalides where Napoleon is buried.
8) Drink in the sunset with a dinnertime picnic on the west side of Ile de la Cite. You have to climb under ropes and down steps to get to the unofficial patio, but it’s worth it.
9) Once it’s dark, grab a taxi and make sure it careens wildly through the glittering Place de la Concorde towards the Eiffel Tower.
10) At the end of the night, recline on the Champ de Mars, in front of the Eiffel Tower, and dream of the next time you’ll be back.
~ Julie Rutherford, Blog Contributor
Back to Top