Another summer has come, and I have just realised how quickly time has passed! I have no plans yet for this summer but to go back to Indonesia for a few weeks. It will be another summer of sun before getting back to Glasgow’s autumn air. Last summer I was in Perú with National Geographic doing Archaeology stuff: having fun in the ruins, doing illustrations and getting a proper tan (if not sun burn). I feel like I owe the internet my photos, I know I’m supposed to do this like months ago, but laziness.
Perú was not all about Macchu Picchu, even though it has been given the title a ‘trip of a lifetime’ by many, or Cuzco, the city of gold. In fact, I fell at home in a dusty tiny town. So I flew from Solo to Jakarta, Amsterdam, Panama City, Lima, and Cuzco, then took a bus ride to this little town called Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo wasn’t all that pretty, buildings with grey stone walls dominated Ollantaytambo town centre and the dust flying in the dry air made a grim first impression to me. Although I arrived mid winter, it’s nowhere near cold to me and the sun was toasting the bus, and as I stepped my feet on the cobbled stone road of Ollantaytambo I inhaled dust.
Although I arrived mid winter, it was nowhere near cold to me and the sun was toasting the bus. As I stepped my feet on the cobbled stone road of Ollantaytambo I inhaled dust.
Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru some 60 kilometers northwest of the city of Cusco. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 meters above sea level, and I had to get used to getting out of breath even after a light hike as the oxygen is thinner in that altitude. The town of Ollantaytambo was an old Incan settlement and a royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, which explained why most of the buildings looked so grim with grey stone walls. Today’s Ollantaytambo was built over the ancient Incan stonework foundations. The town itself is retaining most of the ancient Incan town layout, from the town square, houses, and even the farms. The town is a perfect playground to any Archaeology geeks out there, but it has that subtle charm that appealed to my wandering eyes; its humble simplicity.
At that time, my Spanish was very limited to basic phrases and broken sentences and awkward gesticulation, but my attempts to communicate with them were reciprocated with warm welcoming gestures. The locals wore tattered clothes with faces stained with dust, living in their simple houses and smiling at you as you walked past their doors; and so I fell in love with their simplicity. Ollantaytambo is so grey and so simple, but I saw colours so vibrant and warm when you look closer.
Life was so slow in Ollantaytambo, the sun was the timekeeper. He would tell you when to wake up in the morning, and in the afternoon he would cast his golden rays to the grey alleys of Ollantaytambo. You’d walk down the streets and see no one rushing their way, so you’ll feel silly for walking that fast. You’d stop, look at the warm afternoon sunlight reflected on the cobbled street and understand why people live their life here so slowly, because the sun has promised to keep their time.
I spent most of my time in Perú roaming the streets of Ollantaytambo, doing Archaeological researches and making sketches (you’ll need an artist even in an Archaeology project, and that’d be me!), talking to the locals and bargaining for ‘baby alpaca’ sweaters. I began the trip looking as pale as I could be (that’s what you’ll get from the English weather).
I was super tanned a few weeks later, and me in this photo was not even close to how tanned I was by the end of the trip. I went darker from this and my skin was at the severely burnt stage where the skin on my face actually peeled off.
I love how the time seemed to stop still against Ollantaytambo’s historic town setting, but the group has to continue the journey to Macchu Picchu and Cuzco before the final exhibition of our Archaeological and Photography project.
So I bagged a nice tan and a pair of badass boots home (and a long story to tell as well). I’ve also made a film about my trip, and it’s on YouTube if you fancy listening to me talking for 90 seconds.
Oh, and because no blog posts about Peru is complete without a classic Macchu Picchu shot 🙂