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Ollantaytambo: An invaluable experience

25 June 2013

When I first visited the ruins of Ollantaytambo, I saw the Inca store houses up on the other side of the valley across the town. There’s no way I could have climbed up there back then, I was just too exhausted. I figured I’d visit them “next time”, whenever that would be. A couple of years passed, and “next time” finally came.

I found the way up by walking through the town to where it is said the plaza used to be in Inca times. Behind the back of a house is a rocky path leading up on the steep climb. There are a few other people who make the effort to come up here, but not very many. I suppose they are like me, wanting to explore everything, especially the places few others go.

The way up was guarded by a pack of dogs. The black one was clearly the leader, his intelligence backed up by his huge protector of a side-kick. The rough furry small one on the right was the “wise guy” while the one at the back was the hyped up nervous one. I stopped when I saw them, and snapped a photo. On taking a step forward, they cleared a path and let me through.

Quite soon you get to a point where the path splits in two. To the left you go up to the store houses, to the right you go to the buildings that overlook today’s plaza. I kept going up.

Although they no longer had any roofs, the air felt different when I stepped inside, like a different level of air pressure. With a sense of wonder, I sat down in one of the buildings built into a steep cliff face high above the valley.

It felt safe and welcoming, and I must have stayed for quite some time before I decided to head on further up to the outlines of bricks high above.

The path wasn’t very wide, but I made it up. I took a couple of photos, and a video, before something a little strange happened.

You know that feeling where all eyes are upon you? Like when you turn the corner into a bad neighbourhood and people turn to – at best watch you, at worst who knows?

That’s how I felt. I don’t believe or disbelieve anything I can’t prove or disprove. Whether the place was haunted or my subconscious just convinced me of it out of the blue, I felt a wave of panic come over me. I wanted to run back down the path, but should I trip it would be me doing the haunting.

Perhaps embarrassingly I whispered “por favor” into the wind. I wished I knew how to say please in Quechua. The menacing feeling got stronger, so I turned and began my controlled jog down the thin rocky path, forcing myself not to go any faster. I reached the store houses in about a 10th of the time it took me to climb up from them. The feeling was gone, but I had no wish to stick around. I continued my descent into the land of the living.

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