Camping in Ollantaytambo

Our Big Bout of Food Poisoning put a dent in our plans to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, so we did the next best thing – took the train to ruins, and then camped in picturesque Ollantaytambo, a quaint town in the Sacred Valley near the starting point of the trail with its own set of impressive Inca ruins. At 9,160 feet above sea level, it can get chilly at night, but thanks to our 20° Enlightened Equipment quilts (which wrap around one’s camping mat and snap together underneath), we were perfectly cozy. To Elise’s delight, a lamb nibbled in the field around our tent and even dared to eat a few blossoms out of her hand.

Our stay coincided with Ollantaytambo’s multi-day anniversary festival, which featured a parade and live music in the town square. The men dressed up in black suits and white shirts and the women in embroidered skirts and shawls. From our snug tent, we could hear the live music into the wee hours of the night. To my amazement, one of the acts had vocals that reminded me of one of my favorite bands, Amadou & Mariam.

The town itself is a backpacker’s paradise, with dozens of hostels and eateries, as well as shops selling jewelry, Inca-style figurines, alpaca wool hats, blankets, shawls and other embroidered goods.  Elise begged me for some soles so that she could do some Christmas shopping at Arte Conaky, which sold handmade jewelry. In hindsight, I think we should have gotten everyone in our family funky Peruvian winter hats like the artist was wearing. 😉