I can see why people come here and never leave.
The Andes are stunningly beautiful – a gorgeous emerald green. It’s impossible to walk anywhere in the city and not see mountains, and I am humbled each time I look up at them. I wonder if the people who live here even notice the mountains anymore, or realize how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful corner of the world. While this is a relatively underdeveloped place, income from the thousands of tourists that stop here every year on their way to Macchu Picchu has allowed Ollanta to develop more than many of the other towns in the Sacred Valley. There is a large main square (la plaza de armas) with many cafes and shops that cater to the town’s western visitors, and the town is very well kept – most of the public spaces are incredibly clean, and it just has a certain natural charm. The city was built around the original Inca settlement here, so some newer buildings incorporate the Incan architecture within them and others just sprung up around that old part of town until the city reached the river. The streets the Incas built are all cobblestone, and although they are pretty narrow by modern standards, they are really beautiful. The Incas also built tiny connecting waterways throughout the entire city – basically 1 – 2 foot-wide channels in the cobblestone that took water from the river to irrigate the crops. Not only are they a feat of engineering, the channels are great because no matter where you are in the city, you hear the soothing sound of flowing water.
This place makes me laugh a lot, because back home in the states, there are so many city rules and official things that just don’t exist here, and the funny part is that it really doesn’t matter. For example, I have not seen one address since I’ve been here – not on any house or store or municipal building. Even the official “address” of the Awamaki office just states the neighborhood (Pilco Wasi) and city (Ollanta). There is one post office in town where all the mail is delivered, and if you are expecting a letter, you go there and tell the post lady your name, and she will sort through a giant pile of mail to find it. Also, while the streets do have official names, most of these names are not publicly displayed (especially not in the old part of town). There might be one street sign along the entire length of the road, if you’re lucky, but since the town isn’t very big it’s easy to find your way around. And people don’t seem to be very creative when it comes to naming them, either – Ollanta’s train station is located at the end of the street where I live, and so my street is just called Av Ferrocarril (aka Railroad Street).
Here is a map of Ollanta. The blue circle is my house on Av Ferrocarril (this is where we sleep), and the red circle is my house in the old part of town, where we eat. My house on Av Ferrocarril is awesome for several reasons – first, I am on the top floor, which is basically an open terrace, so right outside my bedroom I have a clear view of the mountains (which I stare at thoughtfully pretty often), and second, Av Ferrocarril runs right next to the Rio Patacancha (small stream that runs through town and empties into the Urubamba), so I can constantly hear water flowing and birds chirping and wind rustling through the trees. It’s pretty freaking awesome. The only downside is the roosters who live on the roof right next to me. Right now, it’s about 3 in the afternoon, and they are sleeping, no doubtedly resting up so that they can wake me up at 5 am tomorrow morning.
The Awamaki office is the green circle, where we hold our english and computer classes, and Yachay Wasi isn’t on this map, but it’s east of the Awamaki office. This is the preschool where I will be working. Right now it’s the Peruvian summer, but Yachay Wasi has a small, informal summer school program, and we currently have about 8 students, but we are hoping to recruit a few more. The kids are mostly around 2 years old, and they are freaking adorable, yet I can’t understand a word of what they say. John and I are volunteering there, and we just started, so until now we’ve basically just been playing with the little kiddies, but soon we’ll plan some fun games for them so that they can learn while they play.