|For one month, Awamaki was lucky to host 15 students from Lakeside High School in Seattle, Washington to come down and volunteer with us over the course of three weeks. A team of them, as well as their supervisors, were able to create some blog articles for us about various aspects of their experiences, this is one of their finished products!
By Glen Young, Trip Leader
Upon entering Ollantaytambo for the first time I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the surrounding peaks. These mountains dwarf the town, giving context to the local belief that mountains are Apus, or deities that preside over important seasonal events. High above the intricate Inca stonework of Ollanta’s city walls the craggy mountain Apu called Pinkuylluna rises skyward. On rocky buttresses and ridges stretching away from the flagged summit cling ancient ruins. These ruins are reminders of the not-so-distant past, when Incan subjects filled warehouses with potatoes, quinoa, weapons, and fabrics to be used during times of scarcity and warfare. The warehouses, positioned high above the valley floor, helped to preserve their contents by using an ingenious system of windows and holes that allowed air to flow through the structures and keep their contents “high and dry.”
It is possible to visit the ruins of Pinkuylluna between the hours of 7am and 4:30pm by hiking a short distance from the central plaza in Ollanta. There is no entrance fee, and no guide is required (as of April, 2018). To reach the ruins walk northeast from the plaza to reach Lares Calle a few hundred feet away. Alternatively, you can stand in the center of the plaza and face the large terraces that can easily be seen above the rooftops in the plaza. These terraces are not part of the ruins you are aiming for, but Pinkuylluna will be the mountain to your right with roofless structures dotting its ridges. Face Pinkuylluna and find the street that will take you close to the base of the peak (Lares Calle). Walk down Lares Calle away from the plaza until you see a sign for Pinkuylluna on the right with a set of stone stairs beyond.
The hike is entirely uphill, and because Ollanta is situated at an elevation of over nine-thousand-feet it is a good idea to spend a few days acclimatizing before attempting to ascend the winding trail. After entering through a wooden gate, the trail ascends a series of stone steps and along a thin dirt trail. Visitors can choose a left fork that travels up past several well-constructed buildings with high windows overlooking the town, or turn right at the junction to visit several smaller storehouses with slightly different views. The left fork will take you higher along the ridge.
Several trails have been closed and are marked with red tape due to dangerous drop-offs and washouts from the rainy season. Stay on the main trail and look for white arrows as confirmation that you are heading the right way. It may take a bit of looking around near the ruins to locate the trail that continues above, but it should be found without too much difficulty.
Throughout the hike, there are fantastic views over the red rooftops of town with the main ruins of Ollantaytambo beyond. The huge rocks for the temples of the sun and moon in the main ruins were harvested from a massive cliff that can easily be seen in the distance at the top of a large grassy slope more than six kilometers away. Most archaeologists believe that the rocks were transported down a road lined with logs that worked like rollers while hundreds of people dragged the rocks using fiber ropes. The massive stones were dragged across rounded stones through the Urubamba river, and up a constructed slope on the other side before finding their final resting place at the top of a hill with impressive views over the surrounding valleys and peaks.
To return from Pinkuylluna, simply reverse your steps back down the trail. Remember to take the proper fork to reach the bottom or you will find yourself re-ascending the opposite side of the ruins. Return to town for a well-deserved treat at a coffee shop in the plaza and enjoy a new perspective on the Incan history of Ollantaytambo.