Announcing the First Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice Gladiator Games
On Sunday, the three of us woke up determined to explore Ollantaybamo, and the Sacred Valley around it. From our hotel, we could see Ollantaytambo’s most famous ruins, a fortress that hosted the Inca’s “Last Stand” against the Spanish Conquistadors (Cindy and I couldn’t agree on whether the battle qualified as a Last Stand, but I think it did, so that’s how it will be referred to from now on). If you recall from the previous blog post Happy Father’s Day from Peru, Francisco Pizarro was able to easily decimate the Inca by capturing their emperor, Atahualpa, and executing him. Pizarro then instituted Atahualpa’s half brother, Manco, as a puppet ruler. Unfortunately for Pizarro, Manco proved to be a less than compliant puppet ruler, and became the leader of the Inca rebellion. After losing a major battle at the fortress of Sacsayhuaman outside Cuzco (more on this in a later blog post), Manco retreated to the fortress at Ollantaytambo.
Pizarro sent his brother and a troop of 70 conquistadors (flanked with anti-Inca locals) to Ollantaytambo to capture Manco. As they approached the fortress stronghold, Manco and his men rained arrows on them from above. Then, Manco’s men flooded the plains below the fortress using a series of pre-made channels, trapping the Spanish horses. Pizarro’s brother (and his army) fled, chased the whole way by Macho’s victorious soldiers. Unfortunately for the Inca, the Spanish were able to rally, and returned to Ollantaytambo with more men, horses, and weapons. Manco fled to his final refuge of Vilcabamba (the lost city of the Incas which Hiram Bingham was searching for when he discovered Machu Picchu instead). Although the Incas continued to harass the Spanish, I believe the battle at Ollantaytambo was the last time they managed an organized resistance, which is why I consider it their last stand.
The Spanish could not scale those really steep terraces.
Moving on, we walked to Ollantaytambo’s Plaza de Armas, where we boarded a local bus for Urubamba, which would eventually get us all the way up to Chinchero, one of the last truly indigenous villages in the area. Known to the locals as the birthplace of the rainbow, Chinchero is a beautiful little village with an awesome Sunday market. We spent several happy hours there, haggling with the locals and doing a ridiculous amount of shopping. By that point, it was mid-afternoon, and time for us to head off to our last stop of the day.
Moray is a remote site in the middle of nowhere. On the bright side, that meant that we were three of about seven tourists visiting the place, so we had most of it to ourselves. No one quite knows what Moray is or why it was built. From above, it looks like a series of phenomenally huge crop circles. We thought these circles would make the perfect location for a staged gladiator fight (preferably with the prize involving various freshly squeezed fruit juices. We’re all going to miss the juice). Pictures will be more useful than words here to give you an idea of what it looks like, and how large it really is:
The view from the visitor’s center at the entrance to Moray.
See? Huge crop circles.
And we mean HUGE. That is Lauren standing in the middle of the set of circles from the photo above.
How did we get from terrace to terrace, you ask? Good question, since each terrace is 4 to 5 ft tall. Every level has these stone steps jutting out from the rock at regular intervals – they’re thankfully much sturdier than they look.
Once we were done at Moray, we decided to go back to Ollantaytambo for the evening, where we ate a great dinner and attempted to make friends with the hotel’s spoiled cat. Tomorrow, we will be heading back up to Cuzco for our last day in the area, before returning to Lima on Tuesday. Until tomorrow!