Angry farmers unite!
Excited at the reality of the Inca Trail being only a day away, I went with the group on a tour of the Sacred Valley today, which is a beautiful mountainous area surrounding Cuzco. Our tour guide was none other than the guide we would be getting for the Inca Trail, a lovely little Peruvian guy called Henry, and it was immediately apparent that he has a total passion for helping people understand his country; he explained everything about the towns and Inca sites we passed through in lots of detail and he got a bit disappointed with us when we couldn’t remember things later!
We visited the two biggest towns in the Sacred Valley, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. I found Pisac oppressively touristy, with a huge market selling yet more handicrafts and souvenirs for the masses, but Ollantaytambo was much nicer. I think it’s one of the few towns in Peru whose structure has been largely unaltered since Inca times; it was fascinating to wander through the narrow, cobbled streets and admire the shallow trenches alongside them, in which water could flow around the town. I really got a sense of what it must have been like in Inca times, even with all the restaurants and internet cafes on every corner!
Once the tour was over, Henry left for Cuzco while the rest of us went to a gorgeous little country hostel just outside Ollantaytambo to stay the night… or so we thought. I had just begun to feel overawed at how lovely the place was when Ysabel got a phone call telling her that the farmers around Cuzco were planning a road blockade, and if we didn’t leave the hostel soon we might not make it to the start of the Inca Trail in time. That served me right for daring to believe that things would go smoothly for the trail! It’s South America, after all. A quick shower, a nap and a mad packing dash later, we all jumped into our bus (which the poor driver had taken us around in all day) and made our way back to Ollantaytambo to pick up Henry. What a shame, he must have only just gotten back to Cuzco when he was told to turn around and go back again!
I dozed on and off in the bus, but woke up with a jolt when I heard lots of angry farmers outside refusing to let us through one part of the road! The driver argued but to no avail, so he had to reverse along this narrow road in the pitch dark for what felt like miles, before finally stopping next to a field. This was where we were going to sleep! It was actually pretty exciting having to be evacuated to a random field in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night.
It was here that I got my first glimpse of what angels our porters for the Inca Trail were. Our tents were up within minutes of the bus stopping, and all we had to do was fall into our sleeping bags and wait to see what would happen in the morning…