Nestled in the stunning Sacred Valley of the Incas, Ollantaytambo is often called the living Inca city – the only city where the original Inca architecture is still inhabited and used in daily life. The sacred valley itself was carved from the Andes by the Urubamba river, which flows north-northwest from its source high in the mountains to join the Ucayali river, one of the main headwaters of the Amazon, and eventually out to the Atlantic Ocean. Ollanta is situated at the far end of the valley – in fact the last town you can visit before the Urubamba plunges through the steep gorges that line the way to Macchu Picchu. This is by far the most remote and distant place I will have ever travelled in my 28 years. Surprisingly, though, I’m not at all nervous – especially considering the fact that worrying is wired into my brain by all those generations of crazy Italians. At this point the excitement has far outweighed any fear I might have – but, alas, there are still five days to go, and I’m not totally convinced that I won’t have a full-blown anxiety attack on the plane ride down there. But for now, I’m super excited, and just hoping that my Spanish is at least good enough to keep me from sounding like a complete idiot.
Here is a map of Peru and of the Sacred Valley. You can see Ollantaytambo situated on the Urubamba (Rio Vilcanota), about a 20-minute drive to the town of Urubamba and about an hour and a half from Cusco.
I have absolutely no idea what to expect upon my arrival in Ollanta. All I know is that someone from Awamaki will be picking me up from the airport in Cusco and taking me to the volunteer office in the center of town. What will happen after that? Who knows. And so the adventure begins!!